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Eversource to conduct inspections in New Fairfield via drone

Eversource Energy will be using drones to inspect equipment in New Fairfield over the next few weeks.  The inspection is being done to evaluate the condition of the electric structures and wires. 

 

Crews will be using aerial devices, about 2 feet across, equipped with a camera, and manned by the drone operator. The operator and an inspector will be on the ground or in streets near the power lines.  All drone operators have received FAA license approvals.  All contractors and field representatives carry proper identification. 

 

Two or more inspectors, traveling with a vehicle, will have flaggers to help with traffic control.  Crews will be taking high-resolution images of lines, hardware and vegetation with a drone, which will be used only at or near poles and other structures. The drone will not fly beneath the wires. 

 

Work hours are 7am to 7pm, Monday through Sunday, weather permitting.


Political newcomer seeks to unseat 30-year incumbent in Danbury

Danbury state Representative Bob Godfrey has been in office for 30 years and is seeking another term in office.  He is being challenged in the 110th district by Republican Erin Domenech.  She volunteers with the Elks Lodge, an organization helping children and veterans. 

Domenech does not support tolling.  She compared it to the idea of opening liquor stores on Sundays, which was thought to bring in millions of dollars.  But she says no one took into account overhead and the fact that people would just spread out their shopping and not shop more.  On tolls, she says Connecticut may be liable, retroactively, for extra federal funding that the state receives.  She doesn’t think the state will take in as much as Connecticut would have to lay out.

Godfrey opposes tolling.  But he acknowledged that the state will need significant funding over the next 30 years to make infrastructure improvements.  He wants to look into moving the car tax from municipalities to the Special Transportation Fund, though he wants to do more research on the proposal.  Godfrey was critical of electric car owners not paying as much into the fund because the revenue in it mostly comes from the gas tax.  He wants to try as much as possible to stay on the principle that users of transportation provided the revenue. 

As for train service, Godfrey says there have been some expensive upgrades in recent years on the Danbury branch while has increased ridership nearly two-fold.  He says unfortunately it’s up to the federal government to restore electricity to the line and to make safety improvements like positive train control technology mandates.  He notes that there is new equipment on the connecting New Haven line, which hasn’t filtered down yet to the branch lines.  He wants to continue to work on punctuality and safety issues.

Domenech hasn’t spoken in detail with people about improving Metro North services, but believes having more reliable and faster service would take more cars off the road.  She supports adding sidewalks to make getting to the train station easier, but questioned whether the state could fund that.

As for improving the DMV, Godfrey says the new computer system was a huge waste of money.  He says it forces customers and employees to waste time, noting that the employees are spending too much time not servicing a people and too much time waiting.  Godfrey wants to look into cleaning up that mess and go back to a better days.  He noted that technology isn't necessarily the answer to everything, trained people are.  Domenech says moving services like getting a handicap permit or a license to a kiosk off-site, that would help.  When she registered a vehicle from out of state, she didn’t have all of the proper documents and suggested having more call centers.

Domenech says there is Off Track Betting in Brewster and doesn’t see why the state shouldn’t move forward with regulating sports betting.  As for taxing it, she says residents already pay so many other taxes Domenech questioned taxing the winnings as it is done at the casinos.  Godfrey noted that Connecticut is going to be surrounded by states that do it so the legislature should put in place some of the basic legal requirements.  He says the challenge is the compact with the Mashantucket Pequots and with the Mohegans leaves an open question on who can actually provide for sports betting. 

Domenech agrees with legalizing recreational marijuana.  She compared it to selling alcohol in the state.  She also supports the medical marijuana program, saying it has helped people transition from opioid medicines to medical marijuana.  On ways to address the opioid epidemic, Godfrey says the state has made some moves in constraining doctors from over-prescribing by only allowing them to prescribe a relatively small amount like a week's worth at a time.  He wants to see more research on alternatives, which Godfrey says his colleagues pushing for legalized recreational marijuana would be interested in.  He notes that Connecticut has decriminalized small amounts of pot and with neighboring states moving toward legalization, it’s something to address.  But Godfrey says they have to wrestle with the cultural, the criminal and the societal views on marijuana.

Domenech wants to focus on tax relief, especially for young people coming out of college and for seniors trying to retire here.  She wants to work on getting more jobs into Connecticut, giving people a reason to stay. 

One of the biggest concerns he has heard consistently over the last 30 years was the lack of affordable housing.  With median prices, Godfrey says people have to make at least $25 an hour to be able to afford a regular two-bedroom rental in Danbury.  He called it concerning that there are 4 to 6 last names listed on two family homes.  He wants to eliminate the conveyance tax on buying and selling a home and create more opportunity for denser housing developments.  Godfrey suggested creating incentives for both developers and for municipalities to build housing that people who work in their towns can afford.

On how to get more education aid from the state to Danbury, Domenech wants to further study the growth rate of Danbury school population and get ahead of the funding situation.  She wants to find ways to fill in the gaps. 

Domenech is not opposed to ghost guns, as long as someone has a federal manufacturing license to do so and the receiver is stamped with a traceable number.

Godfrey says his approach to legislating has changed over the years and is now focused on long-term reforms.  One of his biggest concerns in the last session was helping ALICE households.  Those are Asset Limited, Income Constrained Employed households.  Godfrey wants to implement changes to benefit the middle class and help working families, in line with work that the United Way is doing.  The United Way found that in Connecticut, 10% of the people live in poverty and 30% are struggling.  In Danbury, that total was found to be 50%.  According to the report, a family of four needs to earn $77,832 a year to meet regular expenses.  Godfrey called for raising the minimum wage, incorporating technology training into basic public education and removing barriers to employment.  He also called for making benefits portable, reduce risks for small businesses and making Connecticut more friendly to working families.


Walk through tomorrow of Newtown Community Center site

The last walk through this month of the Newtown Community Center construction site will take place tomorrow.  Center Director Matt Ariniello will lead the walk and talk events to go over construction, programming, and membership.  Registration is requested and can be done through e-mail at matt.ariniello@newtown-ct.gov.  The community center will include  an arts and crafts room; six multipurpose activity rooms; a commercial kitchen; a banquet room; a six-lane, 25-yard pool; a zero-entry activity pool; and outdoor connections to the Fairfield Hills campus. A separate senior center is also under construction at the site.


Prescription drug takeback day set for this weekend

A Prescription Drug Take Back Day is being held this weekend.  Danbury Police will be accepting unused, unwanted and expired medications from 10am to 2pm Saturday at police headquarters on Main Street.  Police warn that these medicines left in the house are a leading cause of accidental poisoning and contribute to drug abuse.  Medications flushed or thrown away can pollute waterways. During the national take back day, police will not be collecting needles and syringes, chemotherapeutic drugs, or radiopharmaceuticals and tracers.


Ridgefield officials sign off on lease for part of Venus Municipal Building

The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen has signed off on a lease for the second floor of the Venus Municipal Building.  Chef's Warehouse will pay, on average, $500,000 a year for five years.  The lease includes three, five-year renewal options for the company.  Rent increases would be based on the consumer price index.  The 29,000 square foot space does not include the wing with the Town Hall Annex.  Chef's Warehouse plans to renovate the building and the lease calls for some rental reduction to compensate for construction costs.  Ridgefield added some high netting to the nearby baseball field to prevent cars parked at the Venus Building from getting hit by foul balls.


Kids in Crisis TeenTalk pilot program coming to NHS

The Newtown Board of Education has approved a pilot program for the high school.  A Kids in Crisis TeenTalk program costs $85,000, but will be prorated since the school year is already underway.  Funding for the pilot program was secured through the Newtown Parent Connection.  Kids in Crisis will hire a counselor, with input from the school district, to direct students to specialists and support systems outside of the school.  Its TeenTalk program features specially-trained counselors to identify and help students navigate difficult personal, family, and school-related issues. They would bolster school staff by providing individual, group, and family counseling.


Ability Beyond marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  Bethel-based Ability Beyond has been awarded a $50,000 grant to help break employment barriers for people with disabilities.  PriceWaterCooperhouse Foundation funding will help Ability Beyond bridge the gap between jobseekers with disabilities and companies that are looking to hire. 

 

The organization will use the grant money to produce free webinars for each group to give them the skills and knowledge to meet each other’s needs. The webinars will be designed by Disability Solutions, a national disability employment initiative developed by Ability Beyond five years ago. 

 

The webinars for jobseekers with disabilities, including veterans, will prepare them for the workplace. Topics include resume and interview preparation, communication, and developing post-hiring skills and experience. The trainees will learn how to connect with participating employers through Disability Solutions’ Career Center that offers free jobseeker profiles and participation in an anonymous talent database. 

 

Webinars aimed at prospective employers and talent recruiters will improve their understanding of disability talent, hiring,


Danbury teachers go to Hawaii to study volcanoes, Pearl Harbor and bring lessons back to students

Two Rogers Park Middle School teachers traveled this summer to Hawaii to be able to add more depth to classroom discussions.  The 8th grade teachers viewed an active volcano in Hawaii and toured the solemn site where the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. 

 

Science teacher Patricia Tracey's $10,000 grant was a joint grant with husband, a Danbury High School physics and chemistry teacher.  They were joined by 13 other teachers from the U-S and Australia.  The travel grant was from The Fund for Teachers.  They worked with a geologist to study volcano activity. 

 

English teacher Dana Ketterl, whose students are studying “Unbroken,” a World War II hero and prisoner of war, and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which deals with ignorance and racism, said that she was able to find reprints of local newspapers in Hawaii the day after Pearl Harbor.


Bethel Registrars to hold extended hours on registration deadline day

The Bethel Registrar of Voters Office will be open for in-person Registration on October 30th from 9am to 8pm.  All Voter Registration must be completed by this date in order to cast ballots on November 6th.  Those turning 18 between October 31 and November 5th, in the military or discharged in the past year may register in-person by 5pm on November 5th.  Voter Registration applications can be obtained from the Registrar of Voters during the during regular Municipal Center hours on Monday through Friday. Applications can be filled out and accepted by the Registrars or the Town Clerk. There is a self-service Voter Registration desk in Veterans Hall of the Municipal Center, opposite the Registrars of Voters Office.


Truck crashed into highway sign pole, closed I-684 for hours Sunday

Interstate 684 southbound was closed for most of the day yesterday due to a crash early Sunday morning.  A pickup truck hit a support for an overhead highway sign. The closure was in the area of Croton Falls and Katonah, but traffic backed up to the Interstate 84 interchange in Brewster throughout the afternoon.  The truck was not moved in order to prevent a collapse.  A crane had to be brought in for the repair.


Danbury Police Explorer Cadets place 2nd for SWAT Challenge Team overall

Danbury Police are touting the accomplishments of Police Explorer Cadets during a recent SWAT Challenge.  11 cadets of the Danbury Police Explorer program participated in the event consisting of tactical challenge stations.  The Danbury contingent placed in all but two events and won many medals, with the team placing as the 2nd Place Cadet SWAT Challenge Team overall. The cadets were trained by their advisors, Sergeant John Krupinsky, former SWAT member of the Danbury Police Emergency Services Unit, and Special Agent Brianna McNally of the US Diplomatic Security Services, New York Field Office.  They were assisted by Associate Civilian Advisor Henry Peralta and Post Advisor, Danbury Lieutenant Matt McNally.


UPDATED: Man dies in boat accident on Candlewood Lake

State Environmental Conservation Police have released the identities of the two men involved in a fatal boating accident on Candlewood Lake yesterday.  DEEP officials say 48-year old Gary Hayes of East Hartford was located in the water, and transported to Danbury Hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.  DEEP officials say 29-year old Joseph Miranda of Manchester swam to shore and refused medical treatment.EnCon Police Officers responded to Candlewood Lake in Brookfield for a report of a capsized motorboat yesterday.  The accident remains under investigation.


22-year old challenging state Senator in office as many years

The race for a state Senate district which includes Ridgefield and part of Bethel features a woman who has served in the legislature for 22-years being challenged by a 22-year old.  Republican incumbent Senator Toni Boucher is seeking another term in office.  Democrat Will Haskell is looking to unseat her.


Haskell was an intern in Connecticut and Washington, D.C. for 4th District Congressman Jim Himes and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy.  Haskell grew up in Westport and started knocking on doors to hear from residents about their concerns.  He heard from people frustrated that their train commute to Manhattan takes longer now than it did in the 1950s because Connecticut isn't making long term investments in infrastructure.  He also heard from young people had to choose between advancing their career and starting a family because Connecticut doesn't have Paid Family Leave.  He also heard from students who were worried about school shootings.


Boucher says there was a lot accomplished last session, specifically the bipartisan budget.  Boucher says it made structural changes to help address the budget deficit.  It also included a constitutional spending cap and a bonding cap.  It took out taxes on cell phones, tires and second homes, while returning money to local schools.  Boucher praised maintaining the Medicare Savings Program for 130,000 seniors.  She also touted her bill requiring high schools teach about the Holocaust and other genocides.  Boucher introduced the bill in response to swastika graffiti and other anti-Semitic incidents in the district.


Boucher says the conversation was changed in the Senate because of the 18-18 tie, something that hasn't happened in 100 years.  She says this was critical when it comes to the education cost sharing formula.  Reforms were put in place last session and she wants to continue to improve the system, if reelected.  Boucher says a good educational system attracts businesses and produces an excellent workforce, allowing people to climb the economic ladder.


Education funding reforms are also a priority for Haskell.  His parents are divorced and he was able to go to school in Westport, which had various technology and extra-curricular activities.  But he says it could have been different if he lived with his father in Bridgeport, where students walk through metal detectors every day.  He called it a moral failing of the state that students receive less funding just 15 minutes from their peers.  Haskell says there's so much wasted potential and an economic catastrophe by not investing in the next generation.  He wants a funding formula that's transparent and predictable.  Haskell says schools don't count on a lot of state aid, but they do count on Connecticut delivering what it promises.


Boucher also wants to continue to reform tax policy.  Haskell says the next generation of taxpayers is being burdened by yesterday's mistakes, with $36 billion in unfunded pension obligations.  Promises made in the 90s and money wasn't put into the pension fund, holding the state back today.  He says irresponsible behavior needs to be balanced through creative revenue options.


Transportation is a top priority for Boucher.  She called for more improvements along Metro North rail lines.  When it comes to tolls, she fought against proposals in the last two years.  Boucher says tolls are commonly used, but it's a bad thing for Connecticut because of the high gas tax.  Until that is reduced or eliminated, she doesn't want to entertain the idea.   Boucher says Connecticut has many more taxes than other states, and the income tax has a high bracket.  She says states that have an income tax and tolls allow residents to deduct for various things like medical care.  She says Connecticut's effective rate is higher.  She is also skeptical of a transportation funding lockbox.  Boucher says the language is not perfect, but a move in the right direction. 


Haskell says making sure bridges are safe, rebuilding roads and improving service on rail lines is crucial for Connecticut's economic vitality.  Transportation is the number one thing he heard from residents in the district.  He supports a transportation funding lockbox.  Every dollar taxed for transportation should go toward transportation improvements, according to Haskell.  He says it doesn't seem like a controversial idea, but politics is getting in the way of common sense and decried money being taken out of the fund for other purposes.  Haskell believes more revenue is needed, however because the improvements that have to be made are so great.  He would support toll implementation, if it's done in a way that won't overburden Connecticut commuters.  Right now, he notes that state residents are footing the entire bill for improvements.


Boucher wants to use bonding capacity to pay for infrastructure improvements.  She says bonding should be for priorities, not as a slush fund for special interest projects like tennis tournaments and parking garages.  Boucher called for rail modernization, bridge replacements and school construction projects.


Boucher opposes gambling and illicit drugs as a way to raise revenue.  She would rather renegotiate state labor contracts to make them more in line with municipal employee contracts.  Boucher says balancing the budget through vices, is not something Connecticut should get into, opposing legalization of recreational marijuana and regulation of sports betting.  She would prefer to solve the state's fiscal woes through better state agency management and streamlining services.


Haskell supports medicinal marijuana and doesn't think it's the job of legislators to stand in between doctors and their patients when deciding on cancer treatments or ways to ease PTSD.  As for recreational marijuana, Haskell says Connecticut can't afford to leave money on the table.  He would tax it at the same level as cigarettes and require a minimum age of 21 into any regulation that gets proposed.  Regulating sports betting is a more complex matter for Haskell.  He says the compact with the tribes makes it more difficult, but would like to find a way to bring in revenue from something that people are already doing.


Haskell's mother went back to work two weeks after he was born and doesn't think that's right.  He called for Paid Family and Medical Leave act financed by employee contributions, so that it doesn't unduly impact businesses.


Two teens sentenced on manslaughter charges in Danbury

Two teenagers who pleaded guilty to manslaughter have been sentenced for killing a Danbury teen last year.  Ronald Massagli and Lorenzo Santana were each sentenced Friday for the death of Gabriel Bardo.  The 18-year old was reportedly delivering a small amount of marijuana to a friend when he was jumped.  The two 17-year olds were accused of fatally punching Bardo, stealing his sneakers and rifling through his car.  Santana was sentenced to 15 years in prison, suspended after serving 12. Massagli was also sentenced to 15 years in prison, suspended after 10 years served.


Ridgefield Police caution people against 'booing' neighbors

The Ridgefield Police Department has received a number of calls from people about what Police are calling “booing.” To “boo” someone, involves sneaking onto their doorstep during the night and leave tricks and treats.  While Ridgefield Police say this is often done in the spirit of Halloween, some residents have called 911 believing that someone was trying to break into their vehicle.  Residents have been vigilant for suspicious activity due to the increase of motor vehicle larcenies that Ridgefield and the surrounding area has been experiencing.


Danbury man struck, killed by car in Brookfield

Brookfield Police have released more details about the pedestrian struck and killed by a car Friday morning.  Police say 58-year old Harold Trafton died at Danbury Hospital.  He was on the roadway helping a paving company off-load a piece of equipment from a trailer when the accident happened. A Brookfield woman, Linda Pendergast, moved into the northbound lane to go around the trailer.  But She struck the Danbury man in the attempt.  The crash remains under investigation. Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call Brookfield Police at 203-775-2575.


More than $100,000 expected left over in contingency funds from Bethel Police station project

When Bethel officials close out the Police Station project, likely by the end of the month, there will be between $115,000 to $120,000 in contingency funding left over.  Public Site and Building Committee chairman Jon Menti says some of the budgeted money wasn't used for special testing of materials.  The $50,000 budgeted item was completed with $2,000 or $3,000 which will go back into the account.  Some of the IT and telephone work came in under budget.  Menti hopes by November there will be a final accounting of actual expenditures and what actually remains.  Eversource did a site walk through, because the town applied for a rebate grant.  Menti believes the project meets all of the requirements for the heating and cooling system, energy conservation and insulation.  Bethel could get about $50,000 back from Eversource.


New Milford residents to weigh in on making road private

The New Milford Town Council will hold a meeting for residents to vote on whether or not a section of Great Brook Road should be made private.  Residents spoke out this week against the proposal claiming it could be used as an emergency exit from the cul-de-sac and if the change is made, could open the land up to development.  The section of roadway remains on maps, but is no longer used.  Two applicants would take control of the road if a discontinuance is granted.  The paved portion of Great Brook would remain a town road and continue to be maintained by New Milford.  The meeting is at 6:15pm.
 


Blight ordinance hearing in New Fairfield tonight

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen will hold a Public Hearing Monday to hear comments on the Draft Blight Ordinance currently under consideration. The draft ordnance addresses concerns that residents expressed about previous drafts presented at Town Meeting.  New Fairfield officials are looking for input and encourage all concerned about the issue of blight to attend. The hearing will be held in the community Room at the Senior Center at 7:15pm.


New Milford Mayor hosts coffee & chat event today

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass is hosting his monthly Coffee with the Mayor program today.  The open session for residents to bring up concerns, comments and input on any topic is held in the meeting room on the second floor of town hall.  The Coffee chat event is from 9:30am to 11am.


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