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Newtown children are back in school today.  This is the first time in more than three years that Sandy Hook School is holding classes in Newtown.  First Selectman Pat Llodra says there is a lot of excitement and the school community is happy to be home.  During an open house, Llodra said they're pleased to have their own beautiful space, design to speak to the hearts of young people.

 

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Erardi said that the children's excitement, laughter and desire to return to school is amazing. 

 

Sandy Hook School Principal Dr. Kathy Gombos says there's always anxiety on the first day of school, but they're also excited.  She says the kids are in awe of the space.  Gombos called it a touching moment for them to return to the site after all this time.

 

Gombos also praised the teachers.  She says they're strong and resilient, and have always put the kids first.  But Gombos noted that it's been a difficult transition back to Newtown, emotionally.  She says they spent a lot of time last year focusing on that.  The teachers spent a lot of time in the last few weeks in their classrooms to prepare for the start of the year.

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A pilot program is in place in two Danbury elementary schools for the new school year.  A World Language experience at Shelter Rock and South Street elementary schools is being tested.  Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sal Pascarella says they've tried to expand parent choice in the district with two magnet schools. 

 

He says they've been struggling with how they can offer world languages at other schools, but they may have figured it out.  A partnership with Rosetta Stone has worked well in other districts, so they are starting a pilot program here.  The struggle has been with limited resources.  Pascarella says the two schools will pilot a program during the day using Rosetta Stone. 

 

After-school programs will also be in place at various elementary schools.  Pitney Bowes like the idea and is sponsoring part of the program.  A grant covers eight schools and 225 students.

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1,500 new students are joining other Western Connecticut State University students for the start of classes today.  University spokesman Paul Steinmetz says the new president, John Clarke, has been at the helm for a year.  He spent the first year meeting the university community.  He's done a lot to increase the offerings for students who have entrepreneurial leaning, not just in the Business School, but across the schools.

 

Drivers in Danbury are being reminded about the increase in pedestrian traffic on White Street now that classes are back in session.  The westside campus is also bustling.  It's been two years since the new arts center opened, to great acclaim. 

 

The theater department won a national award last year for best college play with its presentation of Parade.  It was the highest honor a college theater program can get.  Steinmetz says they've always had great theater, music and arts professors--and now they have a building to match the talent.  It's helped to attract a lot of students, those areas all have full programs.

 

Steinmetz says Clarke has also concentrated on making sure that services are available from the time they enroll to when they are employed after graduation.

 

Steinmetz says if it happens when they graduate that's great, but if it takes longer the university will continue to advise former students and give them resources.  There's been a push to make sure students understand what they need to do to prepare themselves for the workforce, and to let them know that WCSU will be with them through the time they get their first job.  He says West Conn recognizes how important it is to the student, their families and the region's economy to move students from the classroom into the workforce.

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A board of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities has approved a pilot program which would allow Western Connecticut State University to charge students from certain parts of New York in-state tuition.  The full Board of Regents must approve the plan. 

 

If it does, beginning next fall, students from seven New York counties could pay in-state tuition at West Conn.  The pilot program was proposed as the four state colleges and 12 community colleges face declining enrollment. 

 

West Conn officials say enrollment has dropped at the Danbury institution over the last five years, a decline seen in grade schools across Connecticut.  West Conn enrollment was down 15 percent, but the incoming class is a 15 percent increase over last year's freshman class.

 

Out of state tuition and fees for two semesters is about $24,000.  In-state tuition and fees costs about $12,000.  Housing is a separate fee. 

 

The Connecticut Mirror reports that West Conn has 200 empty dorm rooms.

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The Connecticut General Assembly passed a law this past session requiring health insurers to cover 3-D mammograms if a woman asks for one, but they can charge a co-pay.  The Courant reports that Cigna is the the first national insurer to cover the 3-D breast cancer screening. 

 

Traditional mammograms are free under the Affordable Care Act for women 40 and older. 

 

Cigna's announcement comes on the heels of a recommendation from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of major hospitals' cancer centers.  Part of the alliance, Yale Cancer Center, participated in clinical trials testing the machines.  The technology is manufactured by Danbury-based Hologic. 

 

The company funded the Yale study which, according to the Courant, found that for every 1,000 women screened, the combined tests found 4.1 cancers, compared to 2.9 with a traditional mammogram a year earlier.

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A private investigator arrested during an investigation into steroid manufacturing and distribution in the Greater Danbury area has been sentenced.  John Koch was ordered Friday to one year of probation.  He was also ordered to perform 120 hours community service and pay a $1,000 fine. 

 

A Hartford Police Officer since 1990, Koch was a member of the State Police Narcotics Task Force a Detective in the Federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and a Detective on the Vice and Narcotics Division. He retired from the Hartford Police Department in 2010 and became a private investigator.

 

Koch was one of several customers buying from Santucci for personal use and on behalf of "a few gym friends".  His conviction resulted in the loss of his private investigators license.  His attorney argued that Connecticut is home to the WWE, and that most citizens are numb to the discussion of steroids in baseball.

 

Koch has already started community service, speaking to high school sports teams about the perils of steroid abuse.

 

In one of the intercepted text message exchanges between Koch and an unknown person, the other person said they were nervous because police knew that an app was being used for communication.  Koch responded that something would have happened by now, "because I know how it works".  Authorities say the other person involved in the text conversation showed that Koch was not only buying steroids for himself, but was distributing to others.

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A man hiking the Appalachian Trail who called his mother saying he was shot, was apparently just intoxicated.  Connecticut State Police say a three hour search was launched in the Kent area on July 16th after the Topeka, Kansas man's mother called police to report the conversation with her son. 

 

31-year Joseph Stickle reportedly told his mother he was shot in the ribs and bleeding out.  Four state Troopers and two Environmental Conservation Police eventually found the man in a tent a couple of miles from where his cell phone pinged.  Police say Stickle told Troopers he never told his mother he had been shot. 

 

Stickle was in court this week.  Two misdemeanors were reduced to one--creating a public disturbance.  He is due back in Bantam Superior Court on September 13th.

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Back to school should not be a pain in the back for your child.  Beyond Urgent Care in Bethel is issuing some reminders for parents about selecting a backpack for carrying books and other items.  Spokesman Sam Yates says with a little proper planning, you can make sure your child’s backpack does the job it’s supposed to do without creating pain or other health issues.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a lightweight pack that doesn't add a lot of weight to your child's load.  Yates gave the example that even though leather packs look cool, they weigh more than traditional canvas backpacks.

 

Two wide, padded shoulder straps; a padded back; and a waist belt, which helps to distribute the weight more evenly across the body, are recommended.  Multiple compartments can help distribute the weight more evenly.

 

Yates says because children are in the process of forming and building bones, it is very important to prevent spinal alignment problems.  Experts say it is a good idea to make sure your child never carries a backpack that is 15% of their body weight or heavier.

 

Yates is reminding parents that a backpack with wheels might seem light a good idea, but says they're extremely difficult to pull up stairs and to roll through snow.  Some schools also don't allow wheeled backpacks because they can pose a tripping hazard in the hallways.

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About 60 people turned out to the Danbury Zoning Board of Appeals meeting last night to hear their decision about whether a cease and desist order issued to the Dorothy Day homeless shelter at 11 Spring Street would be upheld.  The meetings have been tense, and there were several police officers on hand last night as the Board announced that the order would remain in place. 

 

Attorney Sharon Dornfeld, providing a requested opinion to the Board, said the question was narrow: whether the Zoning Enforcement Officer erred in issuing the order on the basis that there is no current zoning permit. 

 

She said the question is not about whether the comfort and aid provided is a worthwhile activity, whether the City supports providing assistance to the needy, whether the neighbors are being reasonable in posing the appeal, or if whether the Zoning Enforcement Officer was acting at the behest of a local developer.  She said all involved; Dorothy Day supporters, neighbors and City officials; must be given the benefit of the doubt that they are acting in good faith.

 

There has been some speculation by Dorothy Day supports and others that the decades old issue came up now because luxury apartments are opening around the corner. Kennedy Flats is a 5 minute walk from the 11 Spring Street facility.

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Students who attend Naugatuck Valley Community College at the Danbury branch will start classes at the 183 Main Street location on Monday.  Classes will then move to their new, 190 Main Street location in mid- September. 

 

The college is undergoing a major renovation of a vacant downtown building, leasing about 20,000 square feet at the corner of West Street.  The building features classrooms, computer labs, science labs, a library and lecture space. 

 

There are about 1,300 students enrolled at the Danbury campus. 

 

Naugatuck Valley also has shuttle buses running between the satellite campus and their Waterbury location offering students a reduced rate.  There is also free unlimited HART bus access for students.

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Route 133 in Bridgewater is being closed again for advance work on a state Department of Transportation project.  Route 133 will be closed beginning September 6th through the 22nd. 

 

A detour is being put in place so utility work can continue.  The road was reopened just before the Bridgewater Fair. 

 

The utility work includes replacing some 3,000 feet of conduit and various utility vaults along with the installation of 25,000 feet of new fiber optic cable. 

 

The detour will route traffic along 133 to through New Milford.  Drivers can then take 202/7 south to Route 25 in Brookfield and back to Route 133. 

 

The DOT project planned for next year includes guide rail replacements in the area of the Lake Lillinonah Bridge.  3,000 feet of roadway will be fully reconstructed and the rest of the road will be milled and paved.

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An accident involving a motorcyclist and a garbage truck is still under investigation in Danbury.  The collision happened shortly after 8:30 this morning on White Street at the entrance to Winters Brothers Waste Systems. 

 

The motorcyclist, 45-year old Eric Ganser of Fairfield, was on a Harley Davidson behind a large tractor-trailer.  The truck obstructed the view of 40-year old Sean Scozzafava of New Milford, who was operating a Winters Brothers truck.  Scozzafava was turning left from White Street into the Winters Brothers facility when he struck Ganser. 

 

The motorcyclist was later transported to Danbury Hospital for injuries sustained in the collision.  A Danbury Hospital spokeswoman said that as of Friday afternoon the patient was still being evaluated.

 

Anyone who witnessed this collision or has information please contact Sgt. Rory DeRocco or Officer Keith Leggiadro at (203) 797-2157.

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Chants of “shame, shame” rang out from the crowd gathered at City Hall after the Danbury Zoning Board of Appeals upheld the cease and desist order issued to Dorothy Day’s homeless shelter.  The order was issued by Zoning Enforcement Officer Sean Hearty in an effort to bring the shelter into compliance.  He urged the operators to apply to the Planning Commission for a special exception use.  Asked if Dorothy Day is allowed to continue to operate until the issue is resolved, Hearty gave a simple answer: Yes.

 

Attorney Neil Marcus says Zoning Boards of Appeal never overturn the decision of their Zoning Enforcement Officers.  But he said the Board didn’t do what their attorney advised them to do.  Marcus acknowledged that the ZOE was charged with a job, and takes that job seriously.  But he says this is a complicated issue and a lot of things need to be taken into account.  Marcus said that in his experience in the region, Boards would rather have the courts say there was an error, which sometimes they do, than to rule against a City employee.

 

Marcus says the Planning Commission wants to subject Dorothy Day to criteria that is expensive and unnecessary.  One item he mentioned was a traffic study.  Marcus pointedly said that except for a few volunteers, the homeless are not adding to the car traffic on Spring Street.  Part of the process would also include an analysis of real estate values of the neighborhood.

 

Marcus questioned why after 33 years is the permit question an issue. 

 

He intends to appeal the decision made Thursday night based on what he says is a flaw in the analysis from the Commission’s attorney.  A 1989 Zoning Regulation amendment made it so homeless shelters did not need a special exception permit.  In 2014, it was changed back.  Marcus argues that once the 1989 amendment took effect the Dorothy Day operation was legal, and grandfathered in.

 

Marcus noted that the building and the site haven’t changed in 33 years.

 

Attorney Dan Casagrande previously told the Zoning Board of Appeals in his brief that the Zoning Enforcement Officer has been trying to work with Dorothy Day and doesn’t want to see them suddenly closed.  The Zoning Enforcement Officer has asked, several times, that Dorothy Day apply to the Planning Commission for a Special Exception Use to allow the emergency shelter to remain open under a valid permit.  Casagrande also said that the reason the City Shelter on New Street received a permit that didn’t have a time restriction was because zoning laws had been changed before it opened in 1991.  Had Dorothy Day applied for a new permit each year as required, he says they could have been grandfathered in.

 

Spring Street residents are asking Danbury officials to relocate Dorothy Day to a non-residential area.  They, along with CityCenter advocates, are calling for Dorothy Day to work with the Continuum of Care and have police or private security monitor and control client behavior.  They say Dorothy Day has severely out-grown the location, as well as creating an out of control situation.

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The town of New Milford and the Library will be splitting the cost of needed repairs.  The Town Council voted unanimously on Monday to equally share the $70,000 allocation.  Mayor David Gronbach says the Library Board initially asked that the town cover the full cost to fix the elevator, which has been out of service.  But he says the Investment Trust Account, set up by the New Milford Charter, has $1.5 million.  Gronbach says no money has been spent to maintain the Library in recent memory from that account, including to fix a leak that was plaguing the basement.  The Library was looking to save money to invest in technology and to hold for a possible expansion.

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A Danbury man arrested less than a year ago for drug trafficking has been arrested again on drug related charges. 

 

Danbury Police responded to the Holiday Inn on Mill Plain Road yesterday afternoon to carry out a search warrant.  Police received word that 30-year old Aderito Mota was in a hotel room there and selling illegal drugs.  A woman, 24-year old Alexis Brown, and another person were also in the hotel room at the time. 

 

 

 

Both Mota and Brown were found with crack cocaine packaged for sale, drug records and drug paraphernalia.  Brown, who lists her address as city streets, and Mota were each charged with possession, possession with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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A former Newtown police sergeant who pleaded guilty to leading a steroid distribution ring has been sentenced to 16 months in prison.  Steven Santucci was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and serve two years of supervised release.  He must serve six months of home confinement and perform 120 hours of community service while on supervised release.  Santucci, who is released on a $100,000 bond, was ordered to report to prison on October 10.

 

Santucci said his drug abuse began nearly a decade ago when his efforts at the gym failed to give him the body-building results he desired.  He pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. 

 

12 people were arrested in the Drug Enforcement Agency investigation dubbed Operation Juicebox.

 

In his plea for leniency, Santucci's sentencing memo noted that since resigning from the police department, he devoted time to Habitat for Humanity where he has applied his newly learned trade as an electrician. 

 

The DEA received reports of users being infected with MERSA.

 

The Government's sentencing memo said that seriousness of Santucci’s conduct cannot be overstated, because while he was working to keep the people of Newtown safe, he single-handedly staffed a clandestine steroids laboratory and oversaw the distribution of steroids and counterfeit prescription pills. Authorities pointed out that Santucci used knowledge gained as a police officer to ensure that his operation remained clandestine. 

 

His attorney said there is no easy explanation for how an otherwise law abiding individual could get so deeply involved in the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs.  The blame was put on the certain level of steroid acceptance in the body building community.  Santucci got lulled into believing that selling steroids was "not that big a deal."  In retrospect, Santucci's attorney says the former Police Sergeant now realizes that he got lost to the point where he engaged in a persistent pattern of illegal conduct.

 

The investigation revealed that between June 2011 and September 2013, Santucci made Western Union transfers of approximately $103,000 to China. Santucci also made credit card purchases of over $28,000 from internet glassware suppliers, including E Bottles.com. Santucci used the purchases to bottle the final products and to label them.

 

Santucci was accused of providing co-defendant Jason Chickos with steroid orders in the Police Department itself.  Santucci and the former Newtown Police civilian dispatcher engaged in the following text message exchange:

Chickos added three bottles of Vanazolol, two bottles of Sustanon, a single bottle of Dianabol, and four bottles of Winstrol to his previous steroid order.

 

In addition to his salary deposits, Santucci made approximately $244,391.00 in cash deposits into his account with bank tellers, and deposited a further $46,514.00 into his bank account by ATM; these non-salary deposits were the proceeds of narcotic and counterfeit prescription drug sales.

 

From April 2011 through November 2014, Santucci charged approximately $310,648.92  on two credit cards. Included in his charges were international travel to Europe, South America and Africa along with stays at a Four Seasons Resort, Grand Hyatt and Ritz Carlton hotels.  Over $30,000 was for a single African safari for Santucci and his wife, and $25,818 spent on Celebrity Cruises.

 

An analysis of Santucci’s bank deposits shows that his net take-home salary actually decreased as the conspiracy progressed; relinquishing overtime work for the lavish vacations. 

 

Santucci, who was not the department's spokesman, was quoted in the media after the shootings at Sandy Hook School.  The Government's sentencing memo revealed that on December 14, 2012, Santucci was skiing.

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There is a Special Town Meeting in New Fairfield tonight.  Residents will be voting on three ordinances.  One is an update to the Code of Ethics

 

New Fairfield's Code of Ethics was crafted before the state had one and residents will be voting on minor changes to bring the town ordinance into compliance with state statute.  The law is not currently clear, but the proposal would make complaints confidential unless the ethics committee determines that there is a violation. 

 

Residents will also be voting on a stormwater ordinance.  The stormwater ordinance is being proposed because of previous safety concerns about icing and other damage to the roads. 

 

Several steps for remediation are outlined in the draft.  The first step is a citation providing written notice of the violation.  If the violation isn't fix within a reasonable amount of time, a fine of up to $250 can be issued.  If the violation isn't cleared up, the town will be allowed onto the property to make the corrections, at the homeowner's expense.  The ordinance also requires a homeowner looking to connect to the town's stormwater drainage system to get a permit. 

 

A blight ordinance is being proposed for the third time in New Fairfield.  The first two times, it failed because the language was overly broad.  First Selectman Susan Chapman says they receive a few complaints of blighted properties and right now town departments don't have the authority to force homeowners to clean up their properties. 

 

Examples included in the proposal include unsightly or excessive amounts of debris, refuse or excavated material, infestation by rodents or other pests, and excessively overgrown lawns or yards.  There is an exception for properties that are being regularly maintained such as a meadow or natural area. 

 

The Special Town Meeting tonight is 7 o'clock in the community room of the Senior Center.

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A Connecticut man is facing charges after authorities say he distributed heroin that led to an overdose death.

32-year-old James Hayes, of Waterbury, was arrested earlier Monday.  He's charged with possession with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin and conspiracy to distribute heroin.

U.S. Attorney spokesman Tom Carson says police responded to a home in Monroe on June 16th for a reported overdose. Officers found a 32-year-old woman unresponsive on her bedroom floor. She was later pronounced dead.

Investigators say Hayes distributed the heroin the victim consumed shortly before her death.

The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Haven Tactical Diversion Squad, Monroe Police Department and Waterbury Police Department.  The Task Force includes participants from the New Haven, Hamden, Greenwich, Shelton, Bristol, Vernon, Wilton, Milford, Monroe, Fairfield and Manchester Police Departments, and the Connecticut State Police.

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Senator Chris Murphy hosted a roundtable discussion in Danbury Wednesday on a new education law repealing No Child Left Behind.  Murphy helped author the Every Students Succeeds Act, which passed last year.  He says it will improve educational achievement, reform school disciplinary practices, and support underperforming schools. Murphy met with the Danbury educators to learn firsthand about their needs and concerns, and to hear feedback on what he can do to support teachers.

 

Murphy says the law gets the federal government out of the business of determining what a good school is, what performance measures should be and what to do to turn around bad schools.  He says it leaves the decisions up to the state.  He says there still needs to be some accountability to make sure kids are performing.  A good school isn't just going to be based on a test anymore.  He called it a more comprehensive way of thinking.

 

Teachers told Murphy that they are concerned with a subset of kids who've been through traumatic experiences, have learning disabilities and are just learning to speak English.  They want to make sure that the performance standard wasn't something these kids can't meet, but rather based around growth.  He says making progress every year is a good benchmark. 

 

Murphy says the new law recognizes that the rates of growth are going to be different because there are more non-English speakers than ever before.  One administrator talked about a teen entering Danbury High School who moved to the country and had never had formal schooling before.  22-percent of kids in Danbury speak a different language as their first language.

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The New Milford Town Council voted five to four to list the East Street building for sale.  It was a party line vote with Democrats voting in favor of the list and Republicans in opposition.  The Town Council received a report last week with two scenarios for the property. 

 

While there has been interest in the property for assisted living,  Mayor David Gronbach says he would like to see what other proposals are presented. 

 

He will be issuing a Request for Proposals for the East Street Property and will then present the Town Council with the most promising ones, and a recommendation.  

 

The Board of Education and Youth Agency, which currently use the East Street Building, could be moved to the former Pettibone School.

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