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A seven-year local property tax abatement, a one-year sewer and water fee abatement and a land lease for an airport hangar were not enough to sway Amazon to locate its second headquarters in Danbury.  Amazon is narrowing the list of cities under consideration to 20, with the largest concentration in the Northeast. 

 

Amazon, based in Seattle, plans to invest $5 billion in the new headquarters and could employ as many as 50,000 people in and around the city it chooses.

 

Danbury paid a local printer $426 to print 13 copies of the application and for graphic design work. Another Danbury company was paid $750 for a video shoot and edit. A Vernon web development company was paid $1,500 for online advertising.  The City's application included a map of the region highlighting the Matrix Center - and its proximity to sites such as Candlewood Lake, the Danbury Municipal Airport, Interstate 84, Western Connecticut State University campuses, the New York state line and the Brewster train station.

 

The list released on Thursday by Amazon of the finalists includes Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Montgomery County in Maryland, Nashville, Newark, New York City, Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Toronto and Washington D.C.

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There are potential fundraising scams cropping up as a result of the ice jam on the Housatonic River in Kent, which has closed part of Route 7 for almost a week.  State Representative Brian Ohler is reminding residents to be vigilant when asked to donate to recently created fundraisers on sites like GoFundMe. While many are legitimate, there are many instances where it's not the case.  Ohler says unfortunately there are people out there who are eager to exploit these types of situations for their own financial gain.  The Kent Chamber of Commerce noted yesterday that Kent is open for business. While it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings, they say the ice jam shouldn’t scare people away from the center of town.

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DOT crews have been attempting to dislodged massive ice blocks that have been covering Route 7 in Kent for the past five days.  State Representative Brian Ohler says the clean up process will continue for the coming days. Once the thawing process is complete and the clean up is over, DOT officials must then inspect the roadway for its strength and integrity. 

 

5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty connected with Kent officials yesterday for an update on the damage from floods and ice jams on the Housatonic River. She put them in touch with a federal ice expert from the National Weather Service, who delivered a brief presentation to local officials at a meeting in Kent last night.  Esty commended the elected officials and schools leaders for their efforts in the face of an unprecedented situation.

 

52 individuals, representing local and statewide emergency management personnel, law enforcement officers, fire/ems officers, state and federal elected officials, school administrators, and a National Weather Service analyst attended the briefing last night.  Freezing temperatures over the past four days have held this ice jam in the same position that it has been since Saturday. 

 

The Kent Volunteer Fire Department has been receiving numerous phone calls about volunteer opportunities.  While they say the offers are appreciated, at this time they are not in need of volunteers.

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Senator Richard Blumenthal says a report by the Violence Policy Center that ranked Connecticut as one of the lowest states in the nation for gun deaths in 2016 proves strong gun laws save lives.  But he says guns continue to cross state lines seamlessly, and gun violence knows no state boundaries. Connecticut was among a handful of states that are seeing a decline in the rate of gun deaths.  Legislation was adopted after the shootings at Sandy Hook School banning some types of guns and limiting magazine capacity.

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Ice jam observers were deployed yesterday to Kent to evaluate depth markers that have been placed in various positions along the Housatonic River. It was been determined that since Saturday afternoon, peak-flooding time, the water has receded approximately 30 inches.  DOT crews have been removing ice from Route 7. 

 

Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams says there's been speculation and concern about the strength and integrity of the Route 341 Bridge.  While there is a large amount of ice surrounding the pillars, he says a DOT Inspector concluded that it was not compromised.  Kent received 7 inches of snow yesterday, but there is a warm up coming, with rain possible Monday, and Adams hopes this will increase the volume of water in the river to a level that is necessary to break up the ice jam.

 

Kent Center School reopened today.  The Kent School remains evacuated. Their campus is still encompassed by a large amount of water and ice.  The Incident Command team has been in constant contact with administrators from Kent Center, which sits at a much higher elevation than their Kent School neighbor.  There are contingency plans in place if and when Kent Center School ever needs to evacuate.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut's Supreme Court has rejected a claim by a coalition of municipalities, parents and students that the state's educational funding formula is unconstitutional.

A divided court overturned a lower-court judge who had ordered state officials to develop plans for an overhaul of the state's public education system, citing a huge gap in test scores between students in rich and poor towns.

The high court, in a ruling released Wednesday, found that while there is an educational achievement gap between poorer students and "their more fortunate peers," that gap alone does not violate the equal protection provisions of the Connecticut Constitution.

"The plaintiffs have not shown that this gap is the result of the state's unlawful discrimination against poor and needy students in its provision of educational resources as opposed to the complex web of disadvantaging societal conditions over which the schools have no control," Chief Justice Chase Rogers wrote for the court.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2005 against the state by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, a nonprofit group that includes cities, towns, local boards of education, parent groups and public school students. More than 50 parents and students also were named as plaintiffs.

 

Danbury is a lead plaintiff in the case.

The coalition argued during a months-long trial that the state isn't providing adequate education funding to cities and towns and isn't meeting its constitutional obligation to provide all students with adequate educations. It cited the vast differences in test results, graduation rates and other factors between rich and poor towns as proof that the funding system isn't fair.

The ruling overturns Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher, who had ordered the state to submit proposed reforms to the court to revamp its formula for providing education aid to cities and towns, develop a statewide high school graduation standard such as a test, make eighth-graders show they have acquired the skills to move on to high school, and replace what he called a weak statewide system of teacher evaluation and compensation.

"Courts simply are not in a position to determine whether schools in poorer districts would be better off expending scarce additional resources on more teachers, more computers, more books, more technical staff, more meals, more guidance counselors, more health care, more English instruction, greater preschool availability, or some other resource," Rogers wrote.

In a statement Wednesday night, the coalition said it was disappointed with the ruling and that it would "pursue all legal remedies" to have the decision in the case "reconsidered and overturned."

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the decision ends the landmark case regarding education funding, but not the need to distribute more educational dollars where there is the greatest need.

"We continue to believe that the state is obligated to ensure that funding is distributed in a rational manner based on student need, reflecting student poverty and demographic shifts in our communities," he said, adding how not enough progress has been made to improve the state's major education funding distribution formula.

Three of the seven justices involved issued a partial dissent, saying they would have ordered a new trial in the case, rather than simply ruling in the state's favor.

 

CCJEF is expressing "deep disappointment" with the decision.  The Coalition says it will "pursue all legal remedies" to have the decision overturned.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Federal prison officials say former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland has been transferred from a Pennsylvania prison to a halfway house to finish his sentence for campaign fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

The 60-year-old Republican was expected to be released May 27, nearly a year early from his 30-month sentence.

The Bureau of Prisons announced Wednesday that Rowland was released from the minimum-security federal prison camp in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Officials declined to release the location of the halfway house, citing privacy reasons.

Rowland was previously convicted in a public corruption scandal that forced him to resign from the governorship in 2004 and sent him to prison for 10 months.

Rowland was convicted in 2014 of plotting to hide political consulting roles through sham contracts in two failed 5th congressional district campaigns.

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A Netflix email scam is circulating in Putnam County.  Sheriff Robert Langley says several residents have reported receiving well-designed emails that attempt to fool Netflix customers into turning over their credit card details. 

 

 

The message claims that there is a billing issue that needs to be resolved and contains an “Update Payment” button.  It links to a malicious site that looks like a legitimate Netflix page. 

 

 

If you receive such an email, Langley says not to click on the link and go to the source, straight from your browser.  If there is a billing issue, it can be found there.  If you think you have been a victim if this scam or any other internet phishing attempt, contact the Sheriff's Office at 845 225-4300.

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Some people have ignored the No Trespassing signs and caution tape at the Redding Ice Rink.  People went on the ice Sunday, causing surface damage.  The rink remained closed during the Martin Luther King holiday Monday.  A coat of water was put on the rink, which is now open under limited conditions.  Parks and Rec officials are cautioning that there are some issues with the side boards inside plastic panels.  Due to extreme warm conditions and then freezing, they popped out and are frozen in place and can't be returned to their proper position.

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The situation in Kent overall is calm and coordinated, according to emergency response officials as the town center remains flooded due to an ice jam on the Housatonic River. There is no immediate threat to life or property. 

 

Warmer temperatures are expected this weekend and Kent officials are hoping that the ice jam on the Housatonic River will thaw gradually, over many days.  They say, ideally, a slow thaw combined with a small amount of precipitation should be enough to nudge the jam south.  State Representative Brian Ohler says time and cold temperatures are helping them to gauge the overall severity and predictability of this ice jam.  

 

The Connecticut Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security are providing assistance to the town.  An incident command system is now in place for Planning and Logistics.  

 

Bringing in a Coast Guard icebreaker is not an option on the Housatonic River in Kent as a massive ice jam persists.  There had been speculation over mechanical intervention, but the river is narrow and there are other obstacles that don't make it likely. 

 

Ohler says logistical support and equipment allocations are ongoing.

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Registration for kindergarten in Danbury has started for the coming school year.  Any Danbury child who will be five years old by January 1st 2019, is eligible to attend kindergarten.  More information can be found no the school district's website. 

 

The Western Connecticut Academy for International Studies, Danbury's magnet elementary school, is now accepting applications from students in Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, and Redding. 

 

Applications will be accepted through Friday, with selection made through a lottery process.  The lottery will be held January 25th and families must confirm acceptance by February 15th. 

 

The kindergarten through fifth-grade school of global studies is located on Danbury's Westside.  AIS engages students in a curriculum and a structure that encourage them to develop and use a global perspective early in their education.

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The Ridgefield Planning and Zoning Commission will hold an extra meeting a month this year.  The last Tuesday of every month will be used to discuss planning issues.  Newly submitted zoning applications will not be discussed at these additional meetings and hearings will not be held.

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Caraluzzi's has submitted an application to the Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission for an expansion, and to construct a mixed use building nearby.  The Newstimes reports that the existing Food Mart would be expanded by 1,630 square feet.  The 18,000-square-foot new building on the corner of Greenwood Avenue, Chestnut Street and Nashville Road would have retail on the first floor and office and apartment space on the second floor.  The plans would require a special permit and zoning changes.  A public hearing will be held February 27th.  The plan would include parking, streetscape, and egress improvements.  3 homes on South Street would be demolished and rebuilt as part of the plan.

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A Danbury man has been nominated to serve as Commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.  Tom Saadi has been filling the role of Acting Commissioner since October.  He says it's been an honor to fulfill the mission of "Serving Those Who Served" and looks forward to continuing that work.

 

Saadi says there is a great team at the department, and it's been an honor to work with statewide veteran organizations, the DVA Board of Trustees, state and federal partners, and volunteers.  He wants to serve with compassion and professionalism.

 

Saadi is a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve serving with the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion.  He joined the DVA in May 2015, first as its General Counsel and then as Chief of Staff.  Immediately prior to that, he served as an Assistant Attorney General and Special Prosecutor, during which he was responsible for litigating numerous cases and supervising investigations to stop false and deceptive practices and recover funds for the State of Connecticut.

 

The 48-year old says he is humbled to serve, not because of the title, but because of the work he gets to do at the DVA.

The mission of DVA is to provide care for the approximately 200,000 veterans living in Connecticut and their dependents.

 

Prior to his current assignment as Chief Legal Officer of the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion, Saadi served in the 4th Legal Operations Detachment, providing legal support at active duty installations domestically and abroad.

 

Saadi's appointment still requires legislative confirmation.  He took over for former Commissioner Sean Connolly, who is seeking the Democratic Party's endorsement for governor.

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Governor Dannel Malloy says he is very familiar with the stretch of Route 7 in Kent currently shut down because of flooding and an ice jam on the Housatonic River.  He says the flooding is not unusual, the duration and extent of the issue is what's unusual.

 

Malloy says this portion of the river is more difficult to handle because it's more narrow at that point.  It's more adversely impacted because of the rapid drop in temperature.  The flood water froze in place, which makes the situation unusual.

 

Malloy says the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is on the scene and standing by.  He notes that they are keeping a closer eye on the issue today because of the snow storm.

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A New Fairfield man who got a last minute stay of deportation to his native Guatemala in August, has been told that he must now leave the country by the end of the month.  During a weekly meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on December 27th, Joel Colindres was told of the deportation order.  The 33-year old father of two is married to a U-S citizen.  He came to America in 2004 and a paperwork error prompted today's legal situation.  A rally is being held tomorrow for the Colindres family by CT Shoreline Indivisible and Action Together CT.  The rally in Hartford at the Abraham A. Ribicoff Federal Building will begin at 11am.

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Danbury Fire Department spokesman Jamie Gagliardo recently attended a ground and flight school drone operations course.  It was hosted by Fisch Internet Solutions and SkyFire Consulting. This 16 hour course trained participants on best practices of Public Safety Aircraft Operators and the use of drones in Public Safety. There was classroom training followed by a hands on flight training, which included advanced maneuvers such as dropping a life jacket to a stranded victim.

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The Bethel Metro North train station parking lot expansion project is nearly complete.  The $2.3 million project added 130 parking spaces.  Signs and a parking kiosk need to be installed.  Daily parking is free in the numbered spaces until the kiosk is set up.  Once the technology is installed, parking will be 25-cents an hour, the same as before the expansion project. 

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As the Ridgefield School District tackles a projected budget deficit, money they hoped to save on energy costs likely won't be realized.  Superintendent Dr Karen Baldwin told the Board of Ed that the cold snap prevented them from turning down the thermostats at night.  There were also water main breaks affecting Barlow Mountain Elementary and Ridgefield High school.  One Barlow Mountain classroom, was damaged and the break at the High School happened on New Year’s Day.  The deficit is projected at just over a million dollars, but Baldwin believes most will be offset by the freeze put in place in September.

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Ridgefield Police are offering some internet safety advice for people on social media sites.  Police say users should be aware of commenting on posts that ask questions such as "Who was your 1st grade teacher?", "What was your first car?" "Who was your childhood best friend?" and the like.  Ridgefield Police say they may be fishing for password recovery answers because those questions are asked when setting up account security information. Hackers can use the information to get into current accounts or open up new ones in your name.  Not all of these types of posts are scams, but Police say it's good practice to remain vigilant.

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