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A public hearing has been held about Danbury's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. 

 

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is proposing a $237.7 million budget with a tax increase of 2.4 percent.  Sewer and water rates would remain the same.  The municipal side of the budget is heavy on infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges and school roof improvements. 

 

The City Council committee studying the education portion of the proposed budget is meeting at 6pm tomorrow in City Hall about the plan. 

 

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 has proposed creating 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.

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Bethel residents are at the polls today for the budget referendum.  Combined, the municipal and education budget proposal is about $70.9 million and represents a 1.13 percent tax increase.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the budget process is starting earlier this year because of Charter changes.  Last budget process took four votes to gain approval.

 

The proposed municipal budget is $27.6 million.  The proposed education spending is $43.28 million.

 

One of the 14 capital items, making up about half of the $2 million proposal, is road reconstruction. 

 

The capital items are as follows:

$50,000 for the 2017 revaluation work

$30,000 for a new air compressor for the Bethel Fire Department

$52,000 in structural repairs to the Highway Garage

$285,000 for an emergency generator for Bethel High School

$35,000 for a Building Department vehicle replacement

$20,000 for a fuel maintenance system

$118,000 for a backhoe/loader replacement

$170,000 for a Highway Department vehicle replacement

$15,000 for two funnel plows

$12,000 for a trailer for the Parks and Recreation Department

$18,000 for a top dresser for the Parks and Recreation Department

$30,000 for construction of Rubino Property Fields

$50,000 toward the 2017 Plan of Conservation and Development

$1 million in road reconstruction

 

Polls are up until 8pm.

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs has released nearly $700,000 to Connecticut public housing agencies to provide rental assistance for 76 homeless Connecticut veterans.  Case management and clinical services will also be provided. 

 

Senator Chris Murphy says every time Connecticut wins new housing vouchers from homeless veterans, they go to different parts of the state.  Danbury has received the vouchers in the past, but this round is going to Norwalk, Hartford and West Haven. 

 

Murphy commended Vet House 1 and Vet House 2 in Danbury, calling the effort innovative.  He says Danbury's tremendous effort to get veterans off the street is a great example of the community and government coming together.  He says Danbury will continue to get its fair share of vouchers.

 

Murphy says one homeless vet is too many, and given all they have done to serve this country, they must be provided with the support they need.

 

In 2008, Murphy assembled a working group to secure more HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers for the state.  Since then, the assistance has increased by more than 300 percent, and has helped more than 700 Connecticut veterans move off the streets and into homes of their own.  In 2010, Murphy visited Army Sgt. Shellyann Burke of Waterbury – a nine-year veteran who had been living with her 3-year old daughter out of their car – at the new 2-bedroom apartment they had been able to move into because of the increased number of HUD-VASH vouchers made available to Connecticut veterans.

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A Danbury man driving well below the speed limit on the highway drew the attention of New York State Police early Sunday morning.  Troopers patrolling Interstate 84 in East Fishkill saw a driver going under 40 miles an hour in a 55 zone. 

 

Police stopped the car and determined that the driver was intoxicated. 

 

27-year old Jose Ramirez of Danbury provided a the name and date of birth of someone else.  He was arraigned at Southeast Town Court and released.  But Troopers determined that he gave the last name Rodriguez to avoid arrest.  He was located nearby and charged again, this time being held in Dutchess County Jail on $10,000 bond. 

 

Ramirez was charged with felony Forgery, felony Falsifying Business Records, and False Personation.  He will be in Southeast Town Court on May 23rd on the DWI charge.

 

 

Ramirez is due in court Tuesday.

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STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) A teenager has acknowledged his role in the 2008 death of a 13-year-old motorcyclist who was killed when his neck struck a rope that had been strung across a dirt-bike trail in Wilton.

John ``Tully'' Knight's prepared statement in court Friday was part of a settlement of a civil lawsuit filed over the death of Nicholas Parisot.

David Golub, an attorney for the Parisot family, says Knight was 11-years-old when he ``set a trap'' for Parisot by stringing a rope between two trees across the trail. Parisot suffered a broken neck when he struck the rope on June 13, 2008.

Knight told the court ``his conduct'' was responsible for Parisot's death.

The settlement also includes payments of $5,000 from John Knight and $51,500 from his parents to the Parisot family.

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) A lawyer for former Republican Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland has outlined an appeal strategy over his client's conviction in a political consulting scheme.

Attorney Andrew Fish argues in court papers filed Friday that Rowland has a good chance of having his conviction overturned and doesn't pose a flight risk. He wants his client to remain free while the appeal makes its way through the federal courts.

Rowland was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on charges that include conspiring to hide payments for work he did on the 2012 congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley.

Fish argues that prosecutors failed tell the defense that Wilson-Foley said she believed Rowland was hired to do legitimate consulting work for her husband's health care company.

The government hasn't responded to the filing.

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A Norwalk man has been arrested in Wilton for allegedly adding gift cards to customers bills without their knowledge.  Wilton Police say a manager at Stop and Shop in the River Road Shopping Center collected evidence that 20-year old Jabari Dear added a $25 gift card to the end of customer's transactions. 

 

Police say the customer would pay their bill and the cashier would allegedly keep the card for himself.  It's not clear who often this was done, but police are continuing their investigation. 

 

Dear was charged earlier this month with larceny and illegal use of a credit card.  While being processed, police found a small amount of marijuana in his sock.  Dear was also charged with possession. 

 

He was released on a written promise to appear in court tomorrow.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposal to cut state grants to community mental health and substance abuse providers is prompting an outcry from advocates and some families of Newtown massacre victims in Connecticut.

Advocates say the Democratic governor's spending plan for next fiscal year reduces the grants by $25.5 million.

That money is used by private agencies to help cover patients without medical insurance and the gap between how much it costs to provide mental health services and the state's reimbursement for Medicaid patients. They're predicting layoffs and program closures.

One Newtown parent wrote a letter to Malloy and legislators, asking if the deaths ``mean nothing'' to them now.

Despite the proposed reduction, Malloy's budget still spends more on the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services than last year.

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Nearly a dozen items are up for discussion in Danbury tonight at a Public Hearing. 

 

The main items are the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, Capital Item bonds and a Danbury High School renovation project.  The City Council is also calling on residents to attend the public hearing if they want to weigh in on a proposed Dog Park off Miry Brook Road, Tax Deferral Assessments and adding two members to the Board of Assessment Appeals.  The other three items on the agenda are changes to Governmental Entities, changes to liquor permit renewals and the 2015 Neighborhood Assistance Act.

 

The Tax Deferral Assessment ordinance revision is to comply with changes at the state level.  Currently Danbury can offer a 50-percent deferral for projects up to $25,000 for three years.  The state has changed the threshold to projects up to $10,000.

 

There are end dates set for several Commissions, Authorities and Agencies in the Governmental Entities code of ordinance.

 

The liquor permit renewals ordinance would bring Danbury into compliance of a new state law that requires the Chief of Police to be notified of and comment on renewal applications by establishments with on premises liquor permits.

 

The 2015 Neighborhood Assistance Act program, run by the state, allows businesses to sponsor approved community programs and receive tax credits for their contributions. No City funding is used for the credits.

 

Tonight's Public Hearing is at 7pm in Council Chambers of City Hall.

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A Wilton woman accused of kicking a police officer while being arrested is due in court today. 

 

Wilton police received a phone call on the evening of April 10th that a tire fell off a woman's car and that she appeared intoxicated when he tried to help her.  Police say another person called to say the woman, later determined to be 38-year old Elizabeth Blum, hit his car with her fist and yelled at him when he tried to help. 

 

When officers arrived, the woman was uncooperative.  Police say Blum kicked an officer and tried to close her car door on another.  She refused to take a breathalyser test and was later charged with driving under the influence and disorderly conduct. 

 

Blum is due in court today.

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A local lawmaker is speaking out against a bill making its way through the legislative process. 

 

New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith says he's disappointed the Judiciary Committee narrowly approved a bill to shrink drug-free school zones and all felony drug possession charges to misdemeanors.  Smith, a practicing attorney, says he voted against the measure in the Judiciary Committee because of the potential long-lasting affects it will have.  The group voted 22 to 20 in the early morning hours of the final day for sending bills out of Committee.

 

The drug-free school zone would be reduced from the current 1,500 feet to the immediate school property.

 

The legislation is a core piece of Governor Malloy's proposed Second Chance Society program.  Smith says the bill would allow anyone to possess up to a kilogram of narcotics without being charged with a felony.

 

Proponents claim its intent is to give drug offenders a second chance at turning their life around by making drug possession a simple misdemeanor, barring them from a mandatory jail sentence.   Smith says there would be no limit on the quantity or type of the possessed drug, nor is there an enhanced penalty for multiple offenses.

 

Smith says he would rather see the person addicted to drugs get treatment as opposed to sitting in a jail cell, but that this bill does not provide for that.

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5pm came and went Friday and the Danbury Whalers had not moved out of the Danbury Ice Arena.  Eagle Ice Sports, which owns the Arena, sent the Whalers owners a letter earlier this month saying that it would not be renewing their second five-year term of a lease signed 5 years ago.  Among the complaints listed in the letter was the team paying invoices for rent and other expenses  late.  The arena also cited the team allowing customers to bring in outside food, drinks and alcoholic beverages.  The Whalers CEO claims the Arena owes the team money.  Negotiations are reportedly still under way.

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Danbury officials are looking to increase revenue to the City through regionalization.  During his budget address, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton suggested leasing 10 jail cells a night. 

 

When asked who would rent the cells, he gave the example of Bethel.  The neighboring town is planning to build a new police station with a lock up and dispatch center.  Bethel residents rejected a $14 million proposed police station in December.  A slightly scaled back proposal is now being considered.

 

Boughton says the prisoners end up going to the Danbury Court house anyway, so Danbury could transport them there as well.  He claims by other municipalities contracting out those services to save money, Danbury could generate $700,000 a year in revenue.

 

He also suggested consolidating area police dispatchers into the new Center that's now up and running.

 

Last summer Newtown was considering the future of dispatching services for their police department.  A 2011 regionalization effort with Danbury and other towns was not successful, in part because Danbury had not yet consolidated its 911 call center operations.

 

A public hearing on the budget is being held Monday at 7pm at City Hall.

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Residents in Western Connecticut who are looking to host an international exchange student are being sought as host families for the Council on Educational Travel USA.  Local coordinator Nancy Hershatter says the program is for high school students aged 15 through 18 to attend an American high school for a semester or a year.  They have come to the U.S. from over 40 countries as diverse as Thailand and Finland, Denmark, Spain and China. 

 

The Council on Educational Travel USA also administers an outbound program. 

 

Hershatter says hosting an international exchange student is a great way to grow in a shrinking world.  She says the only requirement is that volunteers have a nurturing home and a family open to learning about another culture.

 

More information can be found on the organization's website or by emailing nancy.cetusa@gmail.org.  Hershatter will also be at Rumor's Cafe, 22 Mill Plain Road, between 3 and 5 PM on Saturday, April 18.

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A Monroe resident burning a small pile of sticks Wednesday called 911 when the fire quickly escalated.  It spread to two boats and trailers, a box truck, and a large section of woods off Webb Circle.  Firefighters from Monroe, Stevenson and Stepney volunteer departments responded around 1:30pm. 

 

Smoke could be seen from several miles away. 

 

Monroe Fire Marshal Bill Davin says the blaze was stopped fairly quickly despite the area not having fire hydrants.  Several tanker truckers were on scene.  No one was injured. 

 

 

(Photos: Monroe Volunteer Fire Department Facebook)

 

Burn permits are required through the Monroe Fire Marshal's Office and burning must be done away from wooded areas.

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Milling and paving work is being done next week on Federal Road in Brookfield between Candlewood Lake Road and the Danbury city line.  The work, weather permitting, will be done on Wednesday and Thursday.  There will be various lane closures. 

 

This stems from a project to extend a water line down Federal Road. 

 

Property owners along Federal Road are paying for the infrastructure work in the form of a benefit assessment.  But there was a mistake when the bonds were issued in 2010 and 2013.  They were done as tax free, and Brookfield now owes the IRS 289-thousand dollars.  The Newstimes reports that Brookfield must also spend 150-thousand dollars to swap out the bonds for taxable ones.

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The Danbury Police Officer of the Year Award has been presented to this year's honoree.  The Exchange Club of Danbury says Police Officer Joseph Pooler is a veteran officer with a genuine concern for the public and his fellow officers. 

 

He is a member of the SWAT Team, Crisis Negotiation Team and serves as Sniper Team Leader. 

 

The Exchange Club says Pooler's mindset is focused on the prevention of crime, and has a knack for putting victims at ease.  He was also selected as this year's Officer of the Year for a successful conclusion to cases through diligent investigations.  The Exchange Club says Officer Pooler's dedication to the Danbury Police Department and community, professionalism, pride and respect that he has for his job and fellow officers is highly commendable. 

 

The Exchange Club says Pooler was selected as this year's honoree because he demonstrates a consistent work ethic and professionalism.

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A Danbury woman has been arrested for threatening people with a box cutter.  Police were called to the bus station on Kennedy Avenue yesterday afternoon on a report of a woman carrying the box cutter and yelling at pedestrians.  When officers arrived, police say 43-year old Melissa Myers tried to hide the razor.  She was charged with breach of peace and possession of a dangerous weapon.  Myers is being held on $5,000 bond.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Tim McGraw is defending his decision to headline a Connecticut concert to benefit a Sandy Hook group, responding to critics who call it a ``gun control fundraiser.''

Gun rights advocates took to Facebook and Twitter, calling the country singer a hypocrite for appearing in the event that will benefit Sandy Hook Promise, which seeks to protect children from gun violence.

Opening act Billy Currington withdrew and said on his Facebook page he's ``never been one to take on controversial issues.''

McGraw said in a statement to The Washington Post Thursday he supports gun ownership, but it requires education and safety. He said the concert is intended to help the community.

McGraw will perform at the XFINITY Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 17.

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More progress is being made on construction of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.  In an updated post on the official project design and construction website, the contractor says the foundations for Wing A and the basement of Wing B have been excavated. 

 

 

(Photos: sandyhook2016.com)

 

The foundations and footings for those areas have also been installed.  Some utility work has started at the site as well.  Retaining walls along the new entry driveway and some drainage infrastructure has also begun. 

 

Construction officials said in their forecast of the work this month is that the Wing B foundations would continue to be installed.  The start of the Wing C foundations is set to begin. 

 

The school is slated to open in the fall of 2016.

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