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Danbury Public Works asks for more money for snow response

The Danbury City Council is set to act on an emergency appropriation request by the Public Works Department.  Mayor Boughton says the City is racking up overtime in snow response because of the timing and duration of the storms.  The Department needs $160,000 from the contingency account.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says the storms have taken a toll on vehicles, completely depleting several vehicle maintenance line items. 


Additional funds that are required for snow and ice related line items will come out of a state of Connecticut road grant.  Boughton says the below zero temperatures followed by above freezing has caused a lot of  ice control materials to be used.


Boughton adds that the timing of the storms has not been good.  Most of the snow has been on weekends and overnights. 


A balance of more than $280,000 would be left in the Contingency Fund after this appropriation.


Iadarola says because of the bitter cold, the schools and public buildings HVAC equipment has been impacted, $45,000 of the request would go toward that.  $90,000 of the request will be to maintain and repair snow removal equipment, $13,000 is for tires, $10,000 for lubrication and $2,000 for equipment communication.

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Danbury City Council considers nomination of new member

The Danbury City Council is considering a nomination for an at-large Council member.  The position was vacated by Republican Colleen Stanley who is moving out of the City and therefore no longer able to serve. 


The Danbury Republican Town Committee has nominated Christine Chieffalo to fill the vacancy.  She is currently a member of the Zoning Commission, a brand manager at Boehringer Ingelheim and holds a Bachelors of Business Administration from Western Connecticut State University. 


The City Council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 tonight.

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Regulators to police: Issue more tickets at rail crossings

Spurred by fatal accidents last month in Valhalla and in California, the Federal Railroad Administration is starting a safety campaign and asking police departments to issue more tickets to drivers who ignore warnings at crossings.  The Federal Railroad Administration says it's the first step in a safety campaign, though it is not providing any new funding. 


Senator Richard Blumenthal previously called for more information from the National Transportation Safety Board about the Metro North Valhalla crash, which killed 6 people including a Danbury man.   The train was on the Harlem Line headed to Brewster.  These types of grade crossings are also along the Danbury branch.


The FRA is also calling for greater police presence at grade crossings. 


FRA spokesman Kevin Thompson said his agency will provide materials to groups to pass on to their members.  They include the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.


The MTA, which oversees Metro North, issued fines to two drivers in as many days this week to drivers who were injured in collisions with Long Island Rail Road trains.  One motorist drove onto the grade crossing while warning lights were flashing and bells were ringing.  The other drove around a downed crossing gate.

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Newtown lawmaker hopes to add highway signs to quiet trucks

A bill is being considered by the state legislature that would allow the Department of Transportation to install signs along portions of the highway in an effort to alleviate a noise and vibration problems.  Newtown Representative Mitch Bolinsky introduced the bill on behalf of a neighborhood with no sound barriers.


Bolinsky says two bridges in the last three years were recently replaced in the Riverside section of Sandy Hook creating loud construction noise.  He's also been trying to put sound barriers in that area for years, but there's no state or federal program right now to do that.


Bolinsky's bill would give the DOT the authority to place yellow warning signs in downhill stretches of the highway that display a message such as “Residential Area - Do Not Engine Brake".  "Jake-Braking” is a common transportation term for the use of a supplemental brake retarder which Bolinsky says can be quite loud and accompanied by heavy compression-wave vibrations.  


Bolinsky called it a quality of life issue.


"Jake Brake" is a genericized trademark of Jacobs Vehicle Systems, used to describe many such truck braking systems.


DOT Commissioner James Redecker testified that the company has told him the noise often associated with so-called Jake Braking results when trucks have modified and often illegal exhaust systems.  He expressed concerns with a ban and suggested better enforcement of existing state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and state Department of Motor Vehicles regulations.

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Natural gas leak reported at Danbury business

Workers at Honeywell Incorporated in Danbury were briefly evacuated Tuesday afternoon because of a natural gas leak reported in the boiler room of their Eagle Road facility.  Some employees reported feeling ill from the odor.  Eversource Energy, formerly Yankee Gas, sent a mechanic to the scene.  Members of the Danbury Fire Department also responded.

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Family of 4 helped by Red Cross after Monroe house fire

The American Red Cross is helping a family of four after a fire Monday in Monroe.  The Red Cross is providing help to two adults and two children with emergency food, clothing and household needs to the Settlers Farm Road family.  They were able to make alternate arrangements for housing.  There were no injuries in yesterday's fire.  More than 40 firefighters responded to the second floor blaze.  Residents reportedly dug out two nearby fire hydrants as firefighters arrived.

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New Milford man charged by Danbury Police with murder

A New Milford man has been arrested for criminal attempt/murder.  Danbury Police arrested 36-year old Johnny Cruz Sunday night at his New Milford home.  Bond was preset by a judge at $500,000.  Cruz was held at Danbury Police Headquarters for arraignment in Danbury Superior Court on Monday.  Members of the Bridgeport Police Detective Bureau assisted in the investigation.  The warrant is sealed and Danbury police say no further information is being made available.

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U.S. Senate honors cop who prevented Metro North tragedy on Danbury branch

The young Norwalk police officer who prevented a tragedy involving a Danbury branch Metro North train and a car caught between the crossing gates last week, has been presented with a citation from the U.S. Senate.  Officer Neil Robertson was recognized by Senator Richard Blumenthal on Sunday for rushing to cars stopped in traffic to have them move forward so the SUV could get off the tracks. 


Blumenthal says there are over 2,000 accidents at grade crossings each year, with over 200 people killed annually nationwide.


Following the fatal Metro-North collision at the Valhalla grade crossing last month, Blumenthal introduced the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015.  The legislation focuses on engineering, education and enforcement.  He says those are the factors that experts have identified as the most effective means of reducing such collisions.


Blumenthal says the bill provides new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration, states and communities to make critical engineering and safety upgrades at rail crossings, like installing new lights and signals, particularly at accident-prone crossings. It would also provide grant funding to strengthen education and public awareness of grade crossing dangers, and for law enforcement to reduce violations of traffic laws at crossings.

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Redding state lawmakers to hold town hall office hours

Redding state lawmakers are holding office hours in the district tonight.  The Town Hall meeting will feature Representatives John Shaban and Dan Carter along with state Senator Toni Boucher.  Carter says they often hear a variety of issues from residents during these get togethers.


Carter gave the example of a bill proposed by a Redding resident that's working its way through the committee process.  It would ban products with microbeads from the state to prevent the small pieces of plastic from ending up in streams and rivers. 


The office hours at Redding Town Hall are from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

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100,000 free books sent to Danbury children since 2008

100,000 free books have been mailed to Danbury children in the past 6 years.  The United Way of Western Connecticut's  Imagination Library program has sent out a new book per month to each enrolled child from birth to age five at no cost to families.  Program coordinator Monet Chartier says this gives families the opportunity to own children’s books, many for the first time.  She notes that this eliminates the financial barrier of book ownership that low-income families often face.


The United Way brought Imagination Library to the state in 2008.


There are now 10 towns in the Greater Danbury area that participate in the program, which has an overall enrollment of more than 8,600 children.  About 2,000 children receive a book each month in Danbury alone.  4,100 books are sent across Connecticut each month.  The additional communities are: Bethel, Bridgewater, Danbury, Kent, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Stamford, Warren, and Washington.


Connecticut has the widest education achievement gap in the country. Currently, 46% of children do not have the skills they need to start kindergarten.  Chartier says programs like Imagination Library can help fight the educational achievement gap before it starts by ensuring that children have access to quality reading materials and cultivate critical reading skills.


Although there is no cost to a family to enroll, every $33 donation sponsors an annual 12-volume set of high-quality, age-appropriate books delivered to each child by name.  A $165 gift sustains a child from birth until their fifth birthday. To enroll or sponsor a child, please visit  Children can also be enrolled at local libraries.

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Bethel man, 2 others arrested on prostitution related charges

A Bethel man is among three people arrested for an incident Wednesday in West Hartford involving a prostitute.  Bethel Patch reports that police were called by a resident about a suspicious vehicle parked in her driveway and found 30-year old John Erdman of Bethel.  He allegedly told police he was picking someone up, and 26-year old Raechelle Carmona of Cromwell approached the vehicle.  She is wanted on an outstanding warrant. 


Police say when pressed further, Erdman admitted that he drove the woman there to provide sexual acts to a certified nurse's aide, and that he would receive some of the money for driving.  The nurse's aid, 27-year old Richard Sarpong of East Hartford, was arrested for patronizing a prostitute, Carmona was charged with prostitution, and Erdman was charged with promoting prostitution. 


All three were held on bond.

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Drug sweep nets several arrests at Newtown High School

A planned drug sweep at Newtown High School has resulted in three students being arrested and a fourth being issued an infraction.  Parents were notified that there would be a stepped up police presence on Friday for the effort, which took about 40 minutes and was done in the building and the surrounding parking lots. 


Newtown High School's principal sent a letter to parents Saturday saying that five hits were made leading to various arrests and school disciplinary action. 


The Principal said that recent headlines of substance abuse at Wesleyan University has focused their attention on the issue of drug use in young adults.

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Car found on Metro North tracks in Danbury due to GPS directions

An empty car was found at the Triangle Street railroad crossing in Danbury.  Danbury police say a driver followed her GPS, turned the wrong way and ended up on the railroad tracks.  The woman's car got stuck and had to be towed.  There were no injuries reported.  The incident did cause delays of up to 45 minutes southbound on the Danbury branch of Metro North, which were resolved before 5:30pm.

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Newtown panel to finalize recommendations to Malloy, some parents upset

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The panel of experts reviewing the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown is officially wrapping up its work after two years.

Members of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission were scheduled to finalize their report to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Friday. The group of experts released a 256-page draft report in early February, calling for new gun control measures, detailed school building standards and a new approach to mental health care.

Malloy created the panel following the shooting, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead.

Malloy said he is unsure sure which recommendations might be considered this during this legislative session. The timing is awkward, considering the General Assembly has already been meeting for two months and the deadline to submit bills has passed.


Some Connecticut parents who home-school their children believe some recommendations from the Commission could infringe on their parental rights.

They're particularly worried about language that references individual education programs, or IEPs, for home-schooled kids.

The parents believe the proposal could lead to mandatory IEPs for all home-schooled children. But commission members said they're only recommending that such plans for students needing special education services be followed for home-schooled students if they previously had an IEP in public school.

Various parents' rights organizations recently joined forces to form the new Parental Rights Coalition. They oppose other measures, including proposals for mandatory mental health screenings of schoolchildren.

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Brookfield budget proposal holds taxes even

A proposed budget has been sent to the Brookfield Board of Finance from First Selectman Bill Tinsley.  The combined education and municipal budget is proposed at $61.3 million, a 1.8 percent increase in spending.  But Tinsley says the budget holds property tax rates at the current level. 


The $39.5 million for education, a year over year increase of 2.4 percent, takes into account a declining school-aged population.  The $21.98 million for municipal operations is a year over year increase of .75 percent.  Tinsley says the plan replenishing the fund balance for the 1-point-2 million dollars overspent by the Board of Education in 2012 and 2013.


There are still some questions on state funding.


Tinsley hopes that Capital projects can be voted on during the budget referendum.  There's funding for roads and reserves for fire/ambulance.  The four year proposal calls for replacing some Highway Department trucks, converting the Board of Education financial system to MUNIS, and a police vehicle replacement program.  The long term debt is for school roofs, the Town Hall roof, a library room and flood abatement fixes in the Meadowbrook Manor neighborhood.

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Two public hearings scheduled tongiht in Brookfield

The Brookfield Board of Selectmen is meeting tonight to set a date for the budget vote.  One of the items on the agenda tonight is to schedule a Town Meeting and referendum on the budget for the coming fiscal year. 


The Board has proposed holding a Special Town Meeting on April 1st in anticipation of the Board of Finance taking action on the 2015-2016 Capital Projects.  That meeting would be when a referendum date is set. 


Also on the agenda tonight in Brookfield is a public hearing about the 2015 Community Development Block Grant Program, and about creating a post-Employment Benefits Trust Ordinance.  The hearings start at 6:45pm with the Selectmen's meeting scheduled to start at 7:30.

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Workplace fight involving knife lands two under arrest

A workplace fight involving a knife has resulted in the arrests of two men.  The Putnam County Sheriff's office reported on Thursday that a Yonkers man and one from New Jersey were involved in an altercation at a Patterson business earlier in the month. 


Deputies responded to R and V Flooring on February 9th.  Two workers fought over how a truck was being unloaded and one man displayed a knife, both said they feared for their personal safety.  48-year old Garfield Barnett of Yonkers was charged with 2nd degree menacing for brandishing the knife.  47-year old Noel Rivera of New Jersey was charged with 3rd degree menacing. 


Each were processed at the Putnam County Correctional Facility and held pending arraignment.

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Driver without valid license causes crash in Patterson

A New York man driving without a valid license has caused an accident, and was charged.  The Putnam County Sheriff's office responded to a report of an accident, with property damage, at the intersection of Route 311 and Interstate 84 in Patterson on Wednesday afternoon. 


Deputies determined that 43-year old Arsenio Ortiz of Putnam Valley had a suspended license. 


He was charged for that misdemeanor, processed at the scene and released without bond for a future court appearance in Patterson.  If found guilty of the misdemeanor charge, Ortiz could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

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Civilians now in charge of 911 dispatching in Danbury

A group of civilians have moved into the Danbury Police station. 


Today is the first day that dispatching at the 911 center will be handled by someone who is not a police officer or firefighter.  Danbury Police spokesman Lt Christian Carroccio says the civilians have all been trained by the state of Connecticut Emergency Medical Dispatching, so there will be a smooth transition.  A certified dispatcher and certified police supervisor will be monitoring things for the first two weeks.


Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says civilian dispatching represents a $1 million-per-year increase of proactive policing for the community. He says residents will see quicker response times by police, more traffic enforcement, and a greater emphasis on quality-of-life enforcement.  Danbury Police foot patrols on Main Street are also making a comeback because of this change.


(Photo Courtesy: @MayorMark)


Financially, after an initial two-to three-year up-front investment, Boughton says taxpayers will see a significant savings.  That will be driven by a reduction in overtime, and a reduction of staffing through attrition.

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Arrest made for fatal 2014 ATV accident

An arrest has been made in the case of a fatal ATV crash last year in Monroe.  Randall Pippa has been charged with two counts of risk of injury to a minor and three counts of reckless endangerment.  Police spokesman Lt Brian McCauley told the Monroe Courier that the 36-year old allowed 29-year old John Compton of Bridgeport to drive his ATV with two children on board, and none of them wore helmets. 


Compton lost control of the ATV, struck a curb and it rolled over.  Compton died of his injuries, and it was later determined that he had an elevated blood alcohol level. 


Both children, one of whom is Pippa's daughter, were hospitalized. 


Pippa will be in court Wednesday.

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