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UPDATED: Tractor trailer hits house in Danbury, driver gets warning

A verbal warning has been issued to a truck driver who crashed into a house in Danbury overnight.  The tractor trailers slid down Wilson Street around 5:30 this morning and hit the front corner of a house on Grand Street. 

 

The driver, 48-year old Devron Sargent of Pennsylvania was uninjured.  The verbal warning was for speed too fast for conditions.  There was structural damage to the house.  The residents and the building department were notified. 

 

There was no one inside the home at the time.

 

 

(Photos: Twitter, @IAFF801)



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Danbury Mayor Declares Level One Snow Emergency

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton has announced a Level 1 snow emergency as of 10 a.m. today  calling for all cars to be removed from the streets.



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Two men sentenced for scheme to bribe FBI agent

Two Greater Danbury area men have been sentenced for a bribery scheme to get confidential information form a former FBI Special Agent in White Plains.  51-year old Johannes Thaler of New Fairfield was friends with Special Agent Robert Lustyik, and an acquaintance of 36-year old Rizve Ahmed of Danbury. 

 

In pleading guilty, Thaler admitted that he and the FBI agent solicited money from Ahmed in exchange for the internal law enforcement documents. 

 

Ahmed, a native of Bangladesh, wanted information about a prominent citizen of his home country who was affiliated with a political party opposing Ahmed’s views.  He wanted to locate and harm his political rival and others associated with the intended victim. 

 

Ahmed has been sentenced to 42 months in prison while Thaler must serve 30 months.  Lustyik pleaded guilty to all five counts against him in the indictment and he is scheduled to be sentenced April 30th.

 

As part of the scheme, Lustyik and Thaler exchanged text messages about how to pressure Ahmed to pay them additional money in exchange for confidential information.  For example, in text messages, Lustyik told Thaler, “we need to push [Ahmed] for this meeting and get that 40 gs quick . . . .  I will talk us into getting the cash . . . .  I will work my magic . . . .  We r sooooooo close.”  Thaler responded, “I know.  It’s all right there in front of us.  Pretty soon we’ll be having lunch in our oceanfront restaurant . . . .”

 

Lustyik learned that Ahmed was considering using a different source to obtain confidential information.  In response, Lustyik sent a text message to Thaler stating, “I want to kill C [Ahmed] . . . .  I hung my ass out the window n we got nothing? . . . .  Tell [Ahmed], I’ve got [the victim’s] number and I’m pissed. . . .  I will put a wire on n get [Ahmed and his associates] to admit they want [a Bangladeshi political figure] offed n we sell it to [the victim].”  Lustyik further stated, “So bottom line.  I need ten gs asap.  We gotta squeeze C.”



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New Milford house sustains significant damage in afternoon fire

Firefighters have put out a blaze in New Milford that's left a family homeless.  The fire on Grove Street was reported shortly before noon and caused serious damage.  Water Witch Hose Company Number 2 responded to reports of heavy smoke, and put out the fire in less than half an hour.  Volunteer firefighters from three other companies responded with mutual aid.  The Red Cross is helping the two adults and five children with temporary housing, food and warm winter clothing.



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Congresswoman introduces bill to close background check loopholes

New legislation has been introduced by 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty that would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.  Esty notes that she's been pressing for gun control legislation since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

She says the background check legislation closes loopholes of allowing people to purchase weapons at gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad with no questions asked.  The bill provides exceptions for family and friend transfers. 

 

It also strengthens the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by incentivizing states to improve reporting of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill and by directing future grant funds toward better record-sharing systems.  The bill will reduce federal funds to states that do not comply. 

 

Esty says it's time for Congress to listen to the voices of over 90 percent of Americans, including the majority of gun owners, and expand background checks to cover every commercial gun sale.

 

Esty quoted studies showing that every day where background checks are used, the system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun. However, she says there's no system in place to prevent these same prohibited purchasers from going online or to gun shows.

 

The bill, officially known as the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015, was also touted Wednesday by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, co-founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions.



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Municipal advocate agency spots flaw in state aid formula in new budget

Governor Malloy's overall proposed budget holds towns harmless, but The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities says there's a shift in some grant distributions that could cause 70 municipalities to get less state aide.  CCM spokesman Kevin Maloney says this is an issue for both small and large towns.  Newtown could lose about $45,000.  Redding stands to lose $11,000 while Sherman could miss out on $1,200 the town receives in the current formula.  CCM is calling on state lawmakers to address the issue.



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Feds approve Spectra pipeline expansion

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a natural gas pipeline expansion project in the region.  Spectra Energy received approval Tuesday and opponents have a month to file an appeal. 

 

Spectra plans to replace a pipeline segment with a larger one, starting at the Southeast Compressor Station and extending into Danbury near the Still River and Mill Plain Road.  It would end at an existing Algonquin site located east of Clapboard Ridge Road. 

 

The proposed construction work area would be located within 50 feet of 337 residential structures and 95 non-residential structure.

 



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Partial roof collapse reported in Bethel

There was a partial roof collapse this afternoon in Bethel at the Clarke Industrial Park off Route 53.  A man was on the roof attempting to clear snow when the structure gave way.  He declined medical attention.  The collapse happened shortly after noon.

 

According to White Pages, Gymnastics Revolution, Handyman Connection and Contractor Services are also among the businesses at that address.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says it was over a business that houses a moving and storage area and there was some equipment damaged.

 

Everyone was safely evacuated from the building.  Structural engineers must certify the building to be safe before people are allowed back in.

 

(Photo Courtsey: Matt Knickerbocker, Twitter)



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Danbury Public Works asks for more money for snow response

The Danbury City Council is set to act on an emergency appropriation request by the Public Works Department.  Mayor Boughton says the City is racking up overtime in snow response because of the timing and duration of the storms.  The Department needs $160,000 from the contingency account.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says the storms have taken a toll on vehicles, completely depleting several vehicle maintenance line items. 

 

Additional funds that are required for snow and ice related line items will come out of a state of Connecticut road grant.  Boughton says the below zero temperatures followed by above freezing has caused a lot of  ice control materials to be used.

 

Boughton adds that the timing of the storms has not been good.  Most of the snow has been on weekends and overnights. 

 

A balance of more than $280,000 would be left in the Contingency Fund after this appropriation.

 

Iadarola says because of the bitter cold, the schools and public buildings HVAC equipment has been impacted, $45,000 of the request would go toward that.  $90,000 of the request will be to maintain and repair snow removal equipment, $13,000 is for tires, $10,000 for lubrication and $2,000 for equipment communication.



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Danbury City Council considers nomination of new member

The Danbury City Council is considering a nomination for an at-large Council member.  The position was vacated by Republican Colleen Stanley who is moving out of the City and therefore no longer able to serve. 

 

The Danbury Republican Town Committee has nominated Christine Chieffalo to fill the vacancy.  She is currently a member of the Zoning Commission, a brand manager at Boehringer Ingelheim and holds a Bachelors of Business Administration from Western Connecticut State University. 

 

The City Council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 tonight.



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Regulators to police: Issue more tickets at rail crossings

Spurred by fatal accidents last month in Valhalla and in California, the Federal Railroad Administration is starting a safety campaign and asking police departments to issue more tickets to drivers who ignore warnings at crossings.  The Federal Railroad Administration says it's the first step in a safety campaign, though it is not providing any new funding. 

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal previously called for more information from the National Transportation Safety Board about the Metro North Valhalla crash, which killed 6 people including a Danbury man.   The train was on the Harlem Line headed to Brewster.  These types of grade crossings are also along the Danbury branch.

 

The FRA is also calling for greater police presence at grade crossings. 

 

FRA spokesman Kevin Thompson said his agency will provide materials to groups to pass on to their members.  They include the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

 

The MTA, which oversees Metro North, issued fines to two drivers in as many days this week to drivers who were injured in collisions with Long Island Rail Road trains.  One motorist drove onto the grade crossing while warning lights were flashing and bells were ringing.  The other drove around a downed crossing gate.



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Newtown lawmaker hopes to add highway signs to quiet trucks

A bill is being considered by the state legislature that would allow the Department of Transportation to install signs along portions of the highway in an effort to alleviate a noise and vibration problems.  Newtown Representative Mitch Bolinsky introduced the bill on behalf of a neighborhood with no sound barriers.

 

Bolinsky says two bridges in the last three years were recently replaced in the Riverside section of Sandy Hook creating loud construction noise.  He's also been trying to put sound barriers in that area for years, but there's no state or federal program right now to do that.

 

Bolinsky's bill would give the DOT the authority to place yellow warning signs in downhill stretches of the highway that display a message such as “Residential Area - Do Not Engine Brake".  "Jake-Braking” is a common transportation term for the use of a supplemental brake retarder which Bolinsky says can be quite loud and accompanied by heavy compression-wave vibrations.  

 

Bolinsky called it a quality of life issue.

 

"Jake Brake" is a genericized trademark of Jacobs Vehicle Systems, used to describe many such truck braking systems.

 

DOT Commissioner James Redecker testified that the company has told him the noise often associated with so-called Jake Braking results when trucks have modified and often illegal exhaust systems.  He expressed concerns with a ban and suggested better enforcement of existing state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and state Department of Motor Vehicles regulations.



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Natural gas leak reported at Danbury business

Workers at Honeywell Incorporated in Danbury were briefly evacuated Tuesday afternoon because of a natural gas leak reported in the boiler room of their Eagle Road facility.  Some employees reported feeling ill from the odor.  Eversource Energy, formerly Yankee Gas, sent a mechanic to the scene.  Members of the Danbury Fire Department also responded.



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Family of 4 helped by Red Cross after Monroe house fire

The American Red Cross is helping a family of four after a fire Monday in Monroe.  The Red Cross is providing help to two adults and two children with emergency food, clothing and household needs to the Settlers Farm Road family.  They were able to make alternate arrangements for housing.  There were no injuries in yesterday's fire.  More than 40 firefighters responded to the second floor blaze.  Residents reportedly dug out two nearby fire hydrants as firefighters arrived.



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New Milford man charged by Danbury Police with murder

A New Milford man has been arrested for criminal attempt/murder.  Danbury Police arrested 36-year old Johnny Cruz Sunday night at his New Milford home.  Bond was preset by a judge at $500,000.  Cruz was held at Danbury Police Headquarters for arraignment in Danbury Superior Court on Monday.  Members of the Bridgeport Police Detective Bureau assisted in the investigation.  The warrant is sealed and Danbury police say no further information is being made available.



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U.S. Senate honors cop who prevented Metro North tragedy on Danbury branch

The young Norwalk police officer who prevented a tragedy involving a Danbury branch Metro North train and a car caught between the crossing gates last week, has been presented with a citation from the U.S. Senate.  Officer Neil Robertson was recognized by Senator Richard Blumenthal on Sunday for rushing to cars stopped in traffic to have them move forward so the SUV could get off the tracks. 

 

Blumenthal says there are over 2,000 accidents at grade crossings each year, with over 200 people killed annually nationwide.

 

Following the fatal Metro-North collision at the Valhalla grade crossing last month, Blumenthal introduced the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015.  The legislation focuses on engineering, education and enforcement.  He says those are the factors that experts have identified as the most effective means of reducing such collisions.

 

Blumenthal says the bill provides new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration, states and communities to make critical engineering and safety upgrades at rail crossings, like installing new lights and signals, particularly at accident-prone crossings. It would also provide grant funding to strengthen education and public awareness of grade crossing dangers, and for law enforcement to reduce violations of traffic laws at crossings.



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Redding state lawmakers to hold town hall office hours

Redding state lawmakers are holding office hours in the district tonight.  The Town Hall meeting will feature Representatives John Shaban and Dan Carter along with state Senator Toni Boucher.  Carter says they often hear a variety of issues from residents during these get togethers.

 

Carter gave the example of a bill proposed by a Redding resident that's working its way through the committee process.  It would ban products with microbeads from the state to prevent the small pieces of plastic from ending up in streams and rivers. 

 

The office hours at Redding Town Hall are from 6:30 to 8:30pm.



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100,000 free books sent to Danbury children since 2008

100,000 free books have been mailed to Danbury children in the past 6 years.  The United Way of Western Connecticut's  Imagination Library program has sent out a new book per month to each enrolled child from birth to age five at no cost to families.  Program coordinator Monet Chartier says this gives families the opportunity to own children’s books, many for the first time.  She notes that this eliminates the financial barrier of book ownership that low-income families often face.

 

The United Way brought Imagination Library to the state in 2008.

 

There are now 10 towns in the Greater Danbury area that participate in the program, which has an overall enrollment of more than 8,600 children.  About 2,000 children receive a book each month in Danbury alone.  4,100 books are sent across Connecticut each month.  The additional communities are: Bethel, Bridgewater, Danbury, Kent, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Stamford, Warren, and Washington.

 

Connecticut has the widest education achievement gap in the country. Currently, 46% of children do not have the skills they need to start kindergarten.  Chartier says programs like Imagination Library can help fight the educational achievement gap before it starts by ensuring that children have access to quality reading materials and cultivate critical reading skills.

 

Although there is no cost to a family to enroll, every $33 donation sponsors an annual 12-volume set of high-quality, age-appropriate books delivered to each child by name.  A $165 gift sustains a child from birth until their fifth birthday. To enroll or sponsor a child, please visit www.uwwesternct.org/ImaginationLibrary.  Children can also be enrolled at local libraries.



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Bethel man, 2 others arrested on prostitution related charges

A Bethel man is among three people arrested for an incident Wednesday in West Hartford involving a prostitute.  Bethel Patch reports that police were called by a resident about a suspicious vehicle parked in her driveway and found 30-year old John Erdman of Bethel.  He allegedly told police he was picking someone up, and 26-year old Raechelle Carmona of Cromwell approached the vehicle.  She is wanted on an outstanding warrant. 

 

Police say when pressed further, Erdman admitted that he drove the woman there to provide sexual acts to a certified nurse's aide, and that he would receive some of the money for driving.  The nurse's aid, 27-year old Richard Sarpong of East Hartford, was arrested for patronizing a prostitute, Carmona was charged with prostitution, and Erdman was charged with promoting prostitution. 

 

All three were held on bond.



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Drug sweep nets several arrests at Newtown High School

A planned drug sweep at Newtown High School has resulted in three students being arrested and a fourth being issued an infraction.  Parents were notified that there would be a stepped up police presence on Friday for the effort, which took about 40 minutes and was done in the building and the surrounding parking lots. 

 

Newtown High School's principal sent a letter to parents Saturday saying that five hits were made leading to various arrests and school disciplinary action. 

 

The Principal said that recent headlines of substance abuse at Wesleyan University has focused their attention on the issue of drug use in young adults.



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