Redding residents have approved $47.79 million budget, including the town's share of the Region 9 school budget. The vote was 980 to 589. Redding portion of Region 9's $23.1 million budget was approved 1,022 to 548 by residents. The school budget was approved by Easton voters on a 537 to 285 vote. Easton's share is $10.8 million, Redding's is $12.3 million.
$1.95 million allocated for repairs and improvements at Redding Elementary and John Read Middle schools was approved by a vote of 1,136 to 431. There will be parking lot paving and curb replacement, and HVAC system engineering designs at each school. Upgraded electrical service in two wings of the elementary school, an added security entrance and new sidewalks and steps would also be done there. At the middle school, bleachers would be replaced, the gym floor refinished and wall padding replaced.
$123,000 to replace the police Communications Tower was approved by a vote of 870 to 681.
The last question appropriating a little more than $1 million to replace the roof at Joel Barlow High School gained approval. Redding residents approved the measure 1,146 to 424. Easton residents voted 546 to 276. Redding's share is about $566,000, Easton's is $477,000. The 54-percent shouldered by Redding and 46-percent by Easton is based on enrollment in the school by each town.
The question about $660,000 for converting Redding Community Center Field #2 to turf failed. The vote was 517 in favor, 1,050 opposed. Also being defeated was $47,000 for a pavilion at the Redding Community Center Fields. The vote was 671 in favor, 885 opposed.
The majority of the City Council has approved a budget for the coming fiscal year. The plan was opposed by the six Democrats on the Council. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton proposed a $237.7 million budget with a tax increase of 2.4 percent. Sewer and water rates remain the same.
The municipal side of the budget is heavy on infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges and school roof improvements. Boughton says the last few winters have taken a toll on Danbury's infrastructure. It's about 30 million dollars in work that will be done around the City this summer and fall.
Boughton says spending up 6% from last year, but if it wasn't for the increase to the schools the mill rate could have been reduced. Part of the increase is due to higher enrollment and more costs to accommodate more students.
Boughton also issued a so-called Playbook of steps to take over the next five to 10 years to streamline City government and save taxpayers money. He wants to create a Project Management Office. Other cities that have done this and Boughton says they've seen a 30 percent decrease in failed projects and 25 percent increase in projects delivered under budget.
The education portion of the budget is lower than what the Board of Education requested. The Board sought $127.5 million, but the Mayor recommended $124 million. That smaller number is still a 2.3 percent increase in spending over the current year.
Superintendent of Schools Dr Sal Pascarella says full day kindergarten, a new middle school and increased security are leading to some of the increase. Special education is a major cost driver in this budget. Danbury is looking to create a a so-called building brace program to keep kids in the district rather than outplace a student. Part of the outplacement cost is transportation.
Pascarella says the state has flat funded Education Cost Sharing grants to Danbury since 2008, even though the City has seen consistent enrollment increases.
Pascarella says if there are more budget cutbacks there will have to be fewer teachers, less supplies and consolidated administrators.
There are two new initiatives included in the budget this year. The 311 info line is going to become a 24/7 operation. Starting on July 1st, residents will get a live operator on the phone at all times to discuss a concern, a pothole or something that needs to be fixed.
The other initiative is a pilot program with Savings Bank of Danbury. Residents will be able to go to any of the 5 branches in the City as of July 1st to pay their property taxes with a teller. Boughton says this will take some of the pressure off City Hall, but also allows Danbury to offer services to residents 6 days a week.
$3 million dollars in bonding was unanimously approved by the City Council. $1.7 million of that will go to road and drainage improvements throughout Danbury. The balance is for other projects that should last the City 20 years.
The showers expected today will only briefly dampen the forest fire danger. The warning level is expected to remain high throughout the end of this month. State forester Chris Martin says all brush fires in Connecticut are man-made. In late April there was a brush fire on Sanfordtown Road in Redding. An open burn was done by a resident without a permit. There was also an illegal burn on Indian Head Road in Danbury that got out of control as well. On Saturday, 11 acres in Kent burned in a brush fire.
The annual town and budget meeting in Ridgefield has been held. The Ridgefield Boards of Selectmen, Education and Financemade presentations and then took questions from residents.
Several capital items, under $100,000, were approved. They include interior locks at the schools, tree replacement, and building repairs and improvements at Yannity Gym and the Venus building.
$46.139 million is proposed for the municipal budget, the education plan is proposed at $86.078 million. Ridgefield residents have set the date for the budget referendum as Tuesday the 12th.
A Danbury man has been arrested on a felony charge of driving while intoxicated. The Putnam County Sheriff's office reported Monday that 46-year old Alvaro Bonilla was pulled over in Brewster for committing a traffic violation in the early morning hours last Wednesday. The Deputy determined that Bonilla was drunk. An investigation revealed that he was convicted of DWI last year. Bonilla was processed at Putnam County Correctional Facility and was held for arraignment. If found guilty, he could face up to four years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
VALHALLA, N.Y. (AP) The family of the SUV driver involved in a deadly collision with a Metro-North commuter train plans to sue the railroad.
Ellen Brody's family filed a notice of claim that names the railroad, the MTA, Westchester County, the town of Mount Pleasant and the state as defendants.
The 49-year-old mother of three was killed when a train struck her SUV on Feb. 3 at a grade crossing in Valhalla. The impact sparked an explosion and fire. Five train passengers, including a Danbury man, also were killed.
Brody's family says the collision was caused by a hazardous railroad crossing. Their attorney, Philip Russotti, says a badly designed railroad crossing and poor sight lines were to blame.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating a fatal weekend accident at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge construction site in New Haven.
Robert Kowalski, area director for OSHA's Bridgeport office, tells the New Haven Register that 61-year-old Arthur Hilario Jr. of New Milford died after falling from a crane Saturday.
Hilario was working on the on the west-side roadway that leads from the new southbound bridge when he fell at about 2 p.m., suffering a fatal head injury.
Hilario worked for O&G Industries of Torrington, which is working on the massive project that includes the bridge and rebuilding the interchange of Interstates 95 and 91 and Route 34 near New Haven Harbor.
Kowalkski says the investigation likely will take several weeks to complete.
The criminal investigation is now closed into a potential threat made against Newtown High School last month. Newtown Police conclude that no criminal activity occurred in connection with the threat reported on April 17th. The Newtown Bee reports there will be no arrests made.
6 minors, Newtown High School students, were interviewed by police.
The school's Principal said in a letter to parents on April 20th, that rumors about a potential safety threat over spring break were found to be unwarranted. When a group of students were overheard discussing issues that had the potential to impact school safety, concerned students made sure the information was reviewed by local authorities. The threat was learned of on the last weekday of Spring vacation.
There were extra police patrols at Newtown High School the following Monday.
Redding residents are voting on a budget today. There are seven questions on the ballot. One is the $47.79 million budget, including the town's share of the Region 9 school budget. The next is about Region 9's budget of $23.1 million. Easton's share is $10.8 million, Redding's is $12.3 million.
The other questions are about capital items.
$1.95 million allocated for repairs and improvements at Redding Elementary and John Read Middle schools is proposed. There would be parking lot paving and curb replacement, and HVAC system engineering designs at each school. Upgraded electrical service in two wings of the elementary school, an added security entrance and new sidewalks and steps would also be done there. At the middle school, bleachers would be replaced, the gym floor refinished and wall padding replaced.
The next question is about $660,000 for converting Redding Community Center Field #2 to turf.
Question 5 is a $123,000 to replace the police Communications Tower. Question 6 is about $47,000 for a pavilion at the Redding Community Center Fields.
The last question is about appropriating a little more than $1 million to replace the roof at Joel Barlow High School. Redding's share is about $566,000, Easton's is $477,000. The 54-percent shouldered by Redding and 46-percent by Easton is based on enrollment in the school by each town.
New Milford residents are at the polls today to vote on a budget. The New Milford Board of Finance has added money to the proposed municipal spending plan. The $38.1 million proposal includes $29,500 more than requested in order to send an additional $10,000 to the Candlewood Lake Authority, with the balance for capital items.
The $61.2 million education request was unchanged by the Board of Finance. The Board of Education added new programs to the coming school year as part of the John Pettitbone Elementary School closing plan. The combined $99.3 million proposal represents a 1.7 percent increase in taxes.
Polls are open until 8pm.
Several stops in the region are planned today for 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty. She is starting the afternoon in New Milford with Mayor Pat Murphy. Esty will attend the weekly New Milford Rotary Club meeting.
Esty has a visit planned to the Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut, which opened the Center for Comfort Care and Healing in late January. More than 1,000 patients, many of them children, are expected to come to the new, 36,000 square foot hospice center during the first year.
Esty will then lead a roundtable discussion at Western Connecticut State University on sexual assault in the military. A screening of the documentary called The Invisible War will be held in Route 201 of the midtown campus Student Center. The screening is at 4:45pm and open to the public.
Esty will wrap up the day with a visit to the supper program at Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School in Danbury with End Hunger Connecticut. The statewide organization works to eliminate hunger. According to a 2012 USDA study, 13.4% of CT residents are “food insecure.” Esty says providing supper to students in afterschool programs ensures all students have access to nutritious meals.
A Newtown police sergeant is among 8 people arrested on federal steroid and narcotics distribution charges. The long-term investigation was carried out by the FBI, DEA, and HSI, U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service as part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed “Operation Juice Box.”
A Newtown Police dispatcher and a Connecticut Judicial Marshal were also among those arrested as a result of the nearly two month long investigation of the alleged conspiracy to import steroids from China.
The eight were arrested on April 29 and 30 on a federal complaint charging them with conspiracy to distribute, and distribution of, various controlled substances including steroids and oxycodone.
The affidavit says 33-year old Mark Bertanza of Shelton was a steroid distributor who obtained his steroids from 28-year old Alex Kenyhercz of Ansonia. Wiretap interceptions of the pair, along with physical surveillance of various steroid sales, revealed that 38-year old Newtown Police Sergeant Steven Santucci, of Waterbury, was supplying steroids to Kenyhercz. Through the investigation, agents learned that Sgt. Santucci has been receiving shipments of steroids and related materials from China since 2011 and has been manufacturing and distributing wholesale quantities of steroids.
Sgt. Santucci frequently used an application called WhatsApp to communicate with his customers. 46-year old Jason Chickos of Bridgeport, a civilian dispatcher with the Newtown Police Department, 32-year old Michael Mase of Sherman and 54-year old Steven Fernandez of Southington were Sgt Santucci's steroid customers who, in turn, regularly distributed the steroids in smaller quantities to their own customers. Kenyhercz distributed quantities of steroids and prescription pills including Roxicodone, Oxycodone, Suboxone and Opana. 33-year old Jeffrey Gentile of Ansonia, a Judicial Marshal with the State of Connecticut is alleged to be a steroid distributor , and 53-year old Frank Pecora of Derby is alleged to be a prescription pill distributor.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers seized hundreds of vials of steroids, approximately 600 grams of raw testosterone powder, approximately 350 grams of powder cocaine, and four long guns.
Santucci, Kenyhercz, Bertanza, Chickos, Gentile, Fernandes and Mase have been released on bond. Pecora remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing on May 5, 2015.
Santucci, Bertanza, Chickos, Gentile, Fernandes and Mase are charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $500,000. Kenyhercz and and Pecora charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million.
Santucci resigned from the department following his arrest. He became an officer in 2000 and was prompted to Sgt in 2012. Dispatcher Jason Chickos was hired in 2002 and has been placed on leave by the town.
A Danbury man has been arrested for robbing someone at the Harambee Center for Youth on Thursday night. Danbury Police say 20-year old Jose Anthony Torrez walked up to the victim, and told him to empty his pockets. The man said he didn't have anything and Police say Torrez motioned that he had a weapon, and to give him everything he had or else.
The victim turned over $20 and called 911. Responding officers found Torrez still in the building, but he fled.
The foot pursuit led back into the Harambee Center where the man was found hiding. Torrez was charged with interfering with an officer, larceny, and felony robbery.
He remains held on $25,000 bond. Court records show Torrez pleaded not guilty, and is due back in Court on the 15th.
Sherman residents have approved a budget. During the referendum on Saturday, residents approved the $5.1 million municipal budget on a vote of 305 to 269. Voters decided 346 to 228 in favor of the $9.3 million education plan. The pair represent a 2.3 percent increase in spending over the current fiscal year. A question about $20,000, from cell tower revenue and farm rental income be appropriated for repairs at Happy Acre Farms. The vote was 414 in favor, 159 opposed. The proposed septic tank management ordinance was rejected 250 to 308.
A Danbury man has been arrested on a weapons charge following a routine traffic stop. New York State Police pulled over 30-year old Kerzell Barnes on Interstate 684 in Southeast early Saturday morning for having an inadequate plate lamp. Troopers could see a black handgun on the back seat . Barnes has a valid pistol permit from Connecticut, but not in New York. The Danbury man was charged with felony criminal possession of a firearm . Barnes was issued a ticket to appear in Southeast Town Court on the 14th.
BEDFORD, N.Y. (AP) Police have charged a man for driving 107 mph on a major highway in suburban New York.
State police say officers pulled 21-year-old Besim Ukaj of Brewster over on I-684 in Bedford on Saturday.
Police said he was intoxicated and had LSD, cocaine and marijuana in his possession.
He was arraigned on charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance, driving while intoxicated and speeding.
In March 2013, Ukaj was charged with DWI after crashing a car in North Salem. At the time, police said Ukaj had driven the car without the owner's permission.
A Newtown home collapsed after a fire this morning . Officials said two propane tanks outside made the fire tougher to fight and led to the collapse.
Firefighters were sent to 4 Aunt Park Lane in Newtown around 4 a.m.
Three or four adults were in the house when the fire broke out .No one was injured.
One of the neighbors said she woke up and heard screaming from the home that caught fire. The residents then ran to her home, where they called 911. The neighbor gave them clothes and blankets.
There isn't much left of the house and officials are waiting for an excavator so they can put out hot spots.
The road was closed as Bethel and Monroe firefighters helped Newtown bring in water using tankers . The fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.
A new executive director has been named for the Danbury Police Activities League. Maura Keenan has been named to the position. The Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut Vice President of Advancement has extensive experience in marketing, fundraising and organizational development.
She has also been a girls basketball coach, and worked at PAL in the 1990s to raise funds to build the current facility on Hayestown Road. Keenan will be tasked with helping to develop a strategic plan to move PAL forward and bring the next level of service to area children.
The PAL was founded in 1964 to provide a drug-free, violence-free environment for Greater Danbury area children.
The New Milford home of a widow who comes from a family of military veterans has been rehabilitated. Rebuilding Together Litchfield County led the effort at Debbie Marquardt's West Meetinghouse Road home. The organization provides low-income and military veteran homeowners with critical repairs.
New Milford state Representative Cecilia Buck-Taylor visited the site last week to see the work being done by volunteers. Rebuilding Executive Director Ceia Webb says they received the referral from the New Milford Senior Center.
The home had a broken furnace and a roof with three holes that leaked snow into the living room. The house was heated by a small wood stove this past winter.
There are 25 items on the checklist the group has for every home they take on. It includes things like installing smoke alarms, railings on stairs and a hard vent for the dryer. But Webb says what each house needs is completely individual. One bathroom was gutted and both floors of the home were insulated and sheet rocked.
During April, the roof was replaced, a new furnace was installed and pluming was fixed. There were a dozen contractors at the site and the project was estimated at $11,000. That includes donated supplies and equipment. Eight 30-yard dumpsters full of garbage were hauled away.
Rebuilding Together Litchfield County is also working on 8 other area houses.
A merger of the Charles Ives Authority and the Danbury Cultural Commission has been proposed.
The Cultural Commission in Danbury has been run for many years by a group of volunteers. Mayor Mark Boughton says they've used their budget to seed both performing and visual arts throughout the city. The Charles Ives Authority, created in partnership with Western Connecticut State University, has been promoting performing arts at the Ives Concert Park since 2007 as a way to strengthen the town-grown relationship between Danbury and the university.
The job of the Charles Ives Cultural Authority would be to promote arts and entertainment throughout the city, seed new cultural projects, manage the Ives Concert Park as well as engage the students at Westconn and the new performing arts center at Westconn’s campus in the teaching, appreciation, and promotion of the arts in Danbury.
In an effort to link the Downtown Green with the Ives Concert Park, the new Authority is being called on to host four ticketed events at the Green during the next several summers. Boughton says that will require an investment and work by the Public Works Department so the Green can accommodate the number of people those events will attract.
He says bringing new people to the downtown during the summer months is another way to enhance the economic vitality of the area.