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There is a tractor trailer fire being reported in Newtown.  State Police say the incident is between exits 10 and 9 westbound on Interstate 84.  Witnesses report the cab of the truck is completely engulfed in flames. 

 

Police say the highway is subject to closure, with just the shoulder getting by. 

 

Police are advising motorists to leave extra time and to take local roads to bypass the truck fire. 

 

The smoke from the fire could be seen billowing above the tree line on state Department of Transportation traffic cameras.

 

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Bethel Police believe a former resident intentionally set fire to his home in order to defraud the insurance company.  The Danbury man has been charged with arson for the fire two years ago. 

 

Bethel Police served a warrant on 61-year old William Waller yesterday morning.  He was also charged with insurance fraud for the January 2014 fire at his Putnam Park Road home.  A joint investigation was conducted by Bethel Police, the Bethel Fire Marshal's Office and the Connecticut State Police and Fire Explosion Unit. 

 

Waller was arraigned yesterday at Danbury Superior Court.

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A local lawmaker says State Police Troopers are not scheduled to police Squantz Pond State Park in New Fairfield this Memorial Day Weekend.  State Senator Mike McLachlan has written to State Police at the Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection saying that if this is true, it's unacceptable. 

 

With the unofficial start of the summer season, it's one of the busiest times at Squantz Pond and it can fill to capacity very quickly. 

 

McLachlan says State Police need to ensure the safety of all beach goers and swimmers.  If there is no law enforcement present, McLachlan says the park should be closed.  If the park remains open with none, he says the local 911 system will be clogged whenever there is a security issue.

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NEW YORK (AP) Power has been restored to nearly all of the customers who were left in the dark following a fire at a substation in upstate New York.

NYSEG says nearly 60,000 people lost power Thursday night.

The bulk of the outages were in Putnam County, where more than 35,000 customers lost power. Another 14,000 customers were without power in Westchester County. Dutchess County had more than 9,000 without power.

The fire broke out at a substation in Carmel, which affected other substations.

A spokesman for the utility says they conducted switching operations to bypass the substations.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A U.S. Justice Department report prompted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre urges police chiefs around the country to put mental health programs in place in to help officers cope with on-the-job trauma, including the aftermath of mass shootings.

 

The report, offered as a best practices guide, was prepared with help from officials including retired Newtown police chief Michael Kehoe, who led the response to the 2012 school shooting and worried over the following weeks that some of his officers might kill themselves.

 

Most police departments train to respond to mass shootings, but few prepare officers for the psychological fallout, says the report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

 

The 140-page report emphasizes how to prepare for mass shootings, but it says taking steps such as choosing trusted mental health service providers, creating peer support programs, and designating mental health incident commanders also will help officers cope with more common events such as car crashes, suicides and domestic violence.

 

Law enforcement experts say it has been a struggle to create conditions in which officers feel comfortable coming forward for help.

 

"Are we there yet? No. That's why this report is so significant because it raises awareness," said Jim Baker, director of advocacy for the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Alexandria, Virginia.

 

Kehoe wrote in the report that many chiefs are unaware of the impact that mass casualty events will have on their communities and officers. In Newtown, a gunman fatally shot 20 first-graders and six educators inside Sandy Hook Elementary before killing himself as police arrived on Dec. 14, 2012.

 

Kehoe's wife, Lori Kehoe, a former hospice nurse, said that a few weeks after the school shooting, her normally cool, calm and collected husband became unnerved worrying that some of his officers would kill themselves, which didn't happen.

 

The suicide rate for police officers is higher than the general public's, according to The Badge of Life, a group of current and retired officers working to prevent police suicides. Studies show there are about 125 to 150 officer suicides a year and more than 200,000 officers are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or some other form of emotional stress, the group says.

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The bid process for the planned Bethel Police Station is complete, an architect and construction manager have been hired.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the companies are mobilized and ready to go as soon as the contracts are signed.  As soon as the Town Attorney signs off on the contract, in a week or so, other town officials will be able to sign it.

 

The first phase is engineering drawings, which the town expects to start soon. 

 

Bethel officials proposed the new police station in 2004, but then the project sat dormant until 2013.  Knickerbocker says this has been a long haul to get the plans off the drawing board and toward reality.

 

It's anticipated that an 18 month construction process will be needed from ground breaking to completion.  Bethel is aiming for a ribbon cutting in the Spring of 2018.

 

Officials have described the current police station as cramped and overcrowded, providing less than a third of the space the department needs.  The firing range can't be used as intended because it's currently being used for storage.

 

The current building was designed and constructed in the 1960 when the requirements and mission of police agencies was different than it is today in a post-9/11 world.  There are new departments that must be supported that didn't exist in the 1960s.  The building can't be renovated and expanded because it sits on a flood plain.  They've had problems with sewage backups that have occurred due to the flooding.  

 

The $13.49 million project for the corner of Judd Avenue and Dodgingtown Road went through some changes after an initial vote last year failed.  Material for the building, and a smaller parking lot are among the changes in the final plan.  The land is not in the educational park, and was set aside decades ago for future town use

Knickerbocker says the facility will blend with the neighborhood and will be barely visible from the road.  He notes that it will not impact the education park, but police would be next door to provide additional security if needed.

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Before the Newtown budget was sent to residents for a vote in April, the Legislative Council cut the municipal spending plan for the coming fiscal year by approximately $100,000.  They identified $40,000 in cuts, but then left the balance up to the First Selectman and Finance Director. 

 

During a Board of Selectmen meeting this month, the cuts were outlined.  First Selectman Pat Llodra says there were 20 small reductions made across the board to come up with the $61,000 cut needed. 

 

Selectman Herb Rosenthal, a former First Selectman, said by not detailing the cuts themselves, the Legislative Council violated the town's Charter.  Llodra said it was a process issues, but that the intent was likely respectful.  She then asked all department heads to identify areas where there could be savings so that something that's more burdensome was not imposed.

 

Among the reductions are small amounts from the town clerk, emergency management, library, health district and other line items.  The largest reduction was $15,000 taken from the town repair and maintenance services budget.  A $3,000 reduction from the Fire Commission came from savings in heating oil costs.

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A Florida couple has been arrested by Wilton Police for stealing debit cards from mailboxes.  Wilton Police say 26-year old Evens Rosemond and 31-year old Valencia Gamble of Miami, Florida were found stealing debit cards and then using them to withdraw funds. 

 

The cards were delivered after a person called the bank impersonating customers and requesting new cards. 

 

Rosemond and Gamble were charged with larceny and identity theft.  They were released after each posted $5,000 bond.  The pair is due in court on June 2nd.  United States Postal Inspectors assisted with the investigation.

 

 

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A Newtown psychiatrist has agreed to a $422,641 joint federal-state settlement to resolve allegations that he submitted false claims for payments to Connecticut's Medicaid program and to Medicare. 

 

Dr. Naimentulla Syed will also enter into a compliance program.

 

State Attorney General George Jepsen said that while enrolled as a behavioral health and psychiatric services provider in the Connecticut Medical Assistance Program Syed knowingly submitted "upcoded" claims to the state Department of Social Services.

 

The practice of "upcoding" occurs when a provider knowingly uses a higher-paying code on the claim form to reflect the use of a more expensive service, procedure or device than was actually used or was medically necessary.

 

The state alleged that, from July 2009 through December 2013, Syed submitted upcoded claims indicating that he provided Medicaid and Medicare patients with 45 minutes or more of face-to-face psychotherapy and a medical evaluation and management service when, in fact, he had provided 30 minutes or less of therapy and no evaluation and management service.

 

Syed did not admit liability, but has agreed to a cash payment of $401,865 to the state and federal governments and will forfeit an additional $20,775 in funds the state withheld paying during the pendency of its investigation.

 

The action is part of a larger effort by the State of Connecticut's Interagency Fraud Task Force, which was created in July 2013 to wage a coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute healthcare fraud directed at state healthcare and human service programs. The Task Force includes a number of Connecticut agencies and works with federal counterparts in the U. S. Attorney's Office and the U.S. Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General – Office of Investigations. For more information about the Task Force, please visit www.fightfraud.ct.gov.

 

Anyone with knowledge of suspected fraud or abuse in the public healthcare system is asked to contact the Attorney General’s Antitrust and Government Program Fraud Department at 860-808-5040 or by email at ag.fraud@ct.gov; the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney at 860-258-5986 or by email at conndcj@ct.gov; or the Department of Social Services fraud reporting hotline at 1-800-842-2155, online at www.ct.gov/dss/reportingfraud or by email at providerfraud.dss@ct.gov.

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An identity theft case in the Town of Southeast is under investigation. 

 

New York State Police say the unidentified suspect or suspects used fake identification to obtain a new debit card from Chase Bank in April.  The suspect then made over $9,000 in fraudulent purchases at Rite Aid.  State Police are seeking the public's help in identifying the suspects who are wanted for questioning.

 

Anyone with information regarding the identity of the subjects is asked to contact Inv. Marrero at (845) 279-8656 or at (845) 677-7300. Refer to BCI Case No 16-89.

 

 

 

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The newest member of the Putnam County Sheriff's Office is being credited with finding a lost hiker.  18-month old K9 Chase and his handler went out on their first successful track Tuesday.  The Bloodhound recently completed training and was immediately putt o use. 

 

Chase, along with New York State Police Troopers responded to a wooded conservation area in Patterson.  The 59-year old hiker called 911  shortly before 9pm after realizing she was lost. 

 

Chase, with his handler, located the hiker's vehicle and picked up her scent.  A little more than a mile track through the woods, hampered by the rain, darkness and an errant black bear, led to the woman.  Chase ultimately returned the woman unharmed to her car.

 

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There is a special town meeting in Brookfield tonight.  Residents are being called on to attend and vote on appropriating $1 million to fund the streetscape improvements in the Four Corners area.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says the town wants to apply for a $500,000 grant, but matching municipal funds are needed, bringing the request to $1 million.

 

The project includes building sidewalks, installing streetlights, and creating turn lanes at the intersection of Federal and Station roads.  Town officials are looking into the cost of burying utility lines.  Eversource Energy has not yet provided an estimate to Brookfield on what the cost would be to not have above-ground wires.

 

The Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant requires $250,000 in local dollars.  A second STEAP grant of $500,000 was also awarded to Brookfield.  Nearly $800,000 from the Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program could be bolstered by $95,000 in additional LOCIP funding.

 

Residents can also discuss a $2.8 million dollar bond request for town and school improvements detailed in the town's Capital Improvement Program.  Dunn says they are looking to send that resolution to a referendum vote on July 19th. 

 

Tonight's special town meeting is at 5pm at Brookfield Town Hall.

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A couple of construction projects are planned by the state Department of Transportation. 

 

Route 53 in Redding will be closed for a bridge replacement project starting in mid-June.  Route 53 will be closed at Umpawaug Road from June 13th through the end of August. 

 

The DOT is also developing plans for lighting replacement along Route 7 in Danbury and Brookfield as well as Interstate-84 in Danbury and Bethel.  The project involves replacement of existing light poles, foundations, and underground circuitry.  The project is aimed at improving the operation and reduce the maintenance requirements of the roadway lighting systems.  Final design plans are expected to be completed by October. 

 

Federal funding will pay for 80-percent of the project.

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Work is moving quickly in Bethel on the Plumtrees Road bridge replacement, now that it’s underway.  The $2.4 million project is being paid for mainly with federal funding.  The busy and narrow intersection is being turned into an “x” shape where it meets Walnut Hill Road and Whittlesey Drive.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says dedicated right and left turn arrows to help move traffic along.

 

Brush and tree cutting started in March and ground was broken last month.  The current bridge will remain open during construction because a bypass is being built.  The north bridge abutment and culvert system is currently under construction, part of a temporary bypass so that later in the summer the old bridge can be demolished and replaced.  There have been no weather delays so Knickerbocker says the work is a little ahead of schedule.  But he says it’s early in the process and they can’t count on it staying that way.

 

Plans call for adding sidewalks to Plumtrees Road for students who walk to the Educational Park. 

 

A number of state and federal agencies had to weigh in on the design plans because of ecological concerns in the area, which added significant time to the planned redesign.  The box turtle, which has delayed several other road projects in the region, meant that Bethel had to change the slope of the design. 

 

When the bridge replacement is finished, Knickerbocker says the realigned intersection will be less congested, safer for pedestrian crossings and wide enough for trucks and school buses to make turns without taking up both lanes.

 

The project is slated for completion in October 2017.

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The Secretary of the State came under fire last week from a local lawmaker over an agreement with the Department of Motor Vehicles to streamline the state’s motor-voter registration system, even though a similar bill was not voted on by the legislature this session.  State Senators are now proposing an alternate plan.  But Secretary of the State Denise Merrill says the functions set out in the Memorandum Of Understanding are administrative.

 

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires the DMV to give people the opportunity to register to vote simultaneously when they carry out a transaction with the agency. The state is also required to send the voter registration to the appropriate official at the local level.  The federal government monitors compliance and Connecticut’s DMV has ranked near the bottom.

 

To comply with federal motor voter laws, Senate Republicans proposed an alternate plan to 'automatic motor-voter' registration, which they say will not add burdens on the DMV.  They are instead suggesting that the DMV and Secretary of the State work together to enforce the current motor voter registration system with new protocols.

 

Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan says the DMV is required to offer a voter registration form to everyone and send these forms to town registrars, but this does not always happen. He says often times the applications get filled out and sit in a bin at the DMV instead of getting mailed to the town registrar.

 

They are calling for the DMV to mail all completed voter registration applications to the Secretary of the State’s office directly. The Secretary’s office could then input the information into the Secretary’s online system, which will remove the burden from the DMV.  They say this puts the onus on the Secretary of the State’s Office, which is the more appropriate agency to manage compliance with national motor voter laws.

 

Merrill argued that the paper option would increase wait times at the DMV and cost the public more money for printing, postage and labor. 

 

Merrill said in a written statement that it is important that everyone understand the facts before reacting prematurely to a proposal that will modernize voter registration but is still two years away from being operational.  She also issued a FAQ sheet about motor-voter registration.

 

Merrill says the U.S. Department of Justice recently threatened a lawsuit to improve performance.

 

Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says the DMV cannot even handle its own job currently.  At a time when their computer system is unfinished and the state’s budget is already strapped, Boucher said more technical burdens is not a smart move.  Boucher says there are ways to comply with the law and encourage voter registration utilizing available resources and not spending millions of dollars and years working on a new system that is likely to cause more problems.

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NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- Fire officials say a large blaze that gutted a vacant mansion in Newtown built more than a century ago appears to have been intentionally set.

 

A resident that lives near the Castle Hill Road home, which dates to 1908 and was appraised at $1.56 million, reported a possible brush fire around 1:50 a.m. Wednesday.

 

Firefighters dispatched to the blaze found the 12,000-square-foot mansion fully engulfed with flames burning through the roof. Assistant Fire Chief Jason Rivera says there was no way for crews to make entry because flames were coming from every window.

 

An excavator was brought in to help knock down walls to fight the fire. Four of Newtown's five fire companies responded.

 

The house had no electricity and was unoccupied. An investigation is ongoing.

 

The fire was mostly under control within two hours, though firefighters remained on scene to put out hot spots.  Portions of the road remained closed through the early morning rush hour.

 

Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Department provided mutual assistance.

 

(Photo: Stony Hill Fire)

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A new Police Chief has been appointed in Danbury.  Mayor Mark Boughton has selected Stratford Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour to take over for the retiring Danbury Chief Al Baker.  Ridenhour is a 28-year law enforcement veteran.  He started with the Waterbury Police Department before being hired as Deputy Chief in Stratford, where he was eventually promoted to Chief in 2012. 

 

Boughton says Chief Ridenhour has worked successfully to improve labor relations, increase staffing, rotate assignments, increase leadership training for supervisors, expand the department’s use of technology, and most importantly, increase police outreach to the community.

 

Boughton says Ridenhour shined throughout the rigorous hiring process.  He continued the announcement by saying it's his firm belief that as Chief Ridenhour takes the helm of one of the best departments in the country, Danbury will benefit from out-of-the-box thinking and continued great service from Danbury's finest.

 

The Mayor’s appointment is subject to City Council approval.

 

Chief Ridenhour holds a Certificate in Criminal Justice Education from the University of Virginia, a Bachelor’s Degree from Charter Oak State College, and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management and Leadership from Springfield College.  A graduate of both the FBI National Academy and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar (LEEDS) in Quantico, VA, he currently serves as the CPCA representative to the State of Connecticut’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System (REDCJS), and is also an Executive Board member of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).

 

“I am humbled and honored to be chosen as the next Chief of the Danbury Police Department. I would like to thank Mayor Boughton for this tremendous opportunity to serve such a growing and diverse community. I look forward to working with the mayor, the men and women of this great department, and the entire Danbury community,” said Ridenhour.

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New Milford voters will have to cast ballots a second time for a budget for the coming fiscal year.  There was low voter turnout yesterday, and the Board of Education portion of the spending plan was rejected by 18 votes.  Even though the municipal budget was approved, both have to be voted on again.  The Town Council will have to meet to discuss revisions. 

 

The proposal voted on yesterday included $62.2 million for the Board of Education, a $1 million increase over the current year. 

 

Mayor David Gronbach proposed a municipal budget with no spending increase, but the Board of Finance added $448,000, bringing the proposal to 36-point-6 million.  The state budget ended up sending about $500,000 less to New Milford than projected. 

 

The municipal budget, and $1.6 million for capital projects, gained approval by an approximate 200 vote margin.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man who spent 48 years on the lam after escaping from prison has been hospitalized.

An attorney said Tuesday that 71-year-old Robert Stackowitz is in a hospital for kidney failure.

Stackowitz was arrested May 9 at his home in rural Sherman after his Social Security application turned up a fugitive warrant. He escaped in 1968 from a prison work camp in Carrolton, Georgia.

Attorney Norman Pattis said at the time of Stackowitz's arrest he suffers from heart failure, bladder cancer and other ailments and sending him back to Georgia to serve the remainder of his sentence would amount to a death sentence.

Pattis has asked Georgia officials to commute Stackowitz's 17-year robbery sentence.

An extradition hearing was scheduled last week for June 6.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Environmental officials in Connecticut have determined that a black bear found dead last week in Roxbury had been shot.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said Tuesday its investigation revealed that the bear's carcass was likely dumped on the Roxbury Land Trust property. A necropsy confirmed the male adult bear was shot.

The bear was found adjacent to Upper County Road at about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

The DEEP says it is still trying to determine where the bear was shot and by whom.

In Connecticut, black bears are protected species, and bear hunting is illegal. Officials say a bear can only be killed if it's acting in a threatening manner or poses harm to a person.

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