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Danbury investigates opening additional small learning academies


As Danbury gets set to open its new STEM academy, school officials are looking at what other specialized choices for Middle School students can be offered.  The West Side Middle School Academy will house the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program as well as the a Global Studies Academy.  Mill Ridge was closed in 2010 and is being retrofitted with these academies to relieve overcrowding in the schools and to provide more specialized choices for students.

 

Deputy Superintendent of Schools Dr Bill Glass says they're looking at the possibility of opening three small learning academies at the two middle schools.  They would be in the fields of health and bio science performing arts, and environmental science magnet academies.

 

Glass says they are studying whether to open a performing arts magnet academy at each middle school because there's a lot of interest in the field.  Western Connecticut State University is currently constructing a new performing arts center.  Glass says this would be a naturally occurring opportunity to build on the connection that already exists between Danbury Public Schools and Western.

 

Glass says a health and bio science academy at Broadview Middle School with an environmental studies academy at Rogers Park Middle School are possibilities being studied.  Danbury Hospital has expressed an interest in working with the City on the Broadview academy.  Rogers Park is near an old quarry, nature preserve, Tarrywile Park, a pond and organic gardens.

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Grant applications filed for wheelchair accessible vans


Applications have been sent to the state for grant funding of wheelchair accessible vans serving seniors and persons with disabilities.  At a recent meeting of the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials, regional rankings were given to certain programs that provide van services. 

 

Using the state Department of Transportation's criteria evaluation system, HART helped the regional planning group make the rankings.  Four grant applications to purchase wheelchair accessible vans are available this year.  The applications will be made for Ability Beyond Disability, New Milford Wheels, the City of Danbury and Chestnut Grove Senior Housing Complex in New Milford. 

 

There are also Three grant applications available to fund projects and activities that support those services.  Applications will be made for Ability Beyond Disability so they can implement GPS technology for door-to-door service, Rides for Ridgefield mobility Management services and SPHERE to support operations of the bus service in Ridgefield.

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Construction started in Wilton on natural gas pipeline expansion


Wilton First Selectman Bill Brennan says the town has reached an agreement with Yankee Gas to expand natural gas distribution in the Wilton Village and school areas.  He says the end of July, early August was chosen for construction because it's traditionally the time of the lowest level of traffic and pedestrian activity.  The pipeline is being installed in the Center Street-River Road area. 

 

Brennan says the goal is to have construction completed in that area by August 22nd.  Work near Wilton High School should be completed around the same time, since classes are slated to resume on August 25th.  There will also be a construction crew working on Wolfpit Road West from Route 7 across the Norwalk River and the train tracks to River Road. 

 

He advises motorists that the construction will cause temporary traffic congestion.  Officials estimate that the whole installation should be completed in four months by the end of November. 

 

Brennan says natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel, creating less emissions which will contribute to the Town's long range environmental objectives.  The town has already locked in a natural gas price for three years.

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WCSU scholarship created to honor slain Airman


TJ Lobraico Jr. was a carefree 10-year-old boy when the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred during the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.  A dozen years later on an early September evening in Afghanistan, Lobraico made the ultimate sacrifice in service to his country during his second tour of duty with the New York Air National Guard as a participant in Operation Enduring Freedom.

 

TJ attended community college before his first tour of duty in Iraq in 2010-11, and then transferred to Western to pursue a degree in Justice and Law Administration. TJ volunteered for his second deployment in 2013, this time to Afghanistan.  He died at the age of 22 after saving several members of his squadron when they were ambushed on September 5, 2013.

 

His family has started a scholarship at Western as a way for his memory to live on.

 

Lobraico’s mother Linda Rohatsch, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard and WCSU graduate, commands the 105th Medical Group at Stewart Air Base in Newburgh, New York, the same base that TJ was assigned to, and served a tour of duty in Balad, Iraq. TJ’s father, Todd James Lobraico, is an Air Force veteran of the first Persian Gulf War who serves as a master sergeant with the 105th Security Forces Squadron. He also is a Stamford police officer.

 

The scholarship is for a student entering their junior year studying Justice and Law Administration who, like TJ, had demonstrated active participation in community service and held a part-time job.  Rohatsch says by having the scholarship designated for a junior, it's a student who has shown they are dedicated to getting through their four years and typically the junior year is the hardest to get through. 

 

Qualified applicants are required to submit a short essay that answers the question, “What does service above self mean to you?”  The TJ Lobraico Memorial Scholarship will provide a $5,000 scholarship annually, beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.

 

The goal is to raise $120,000, which is the minimum to be endowed.  It will then be self sustaining through a foundation.  They are almost half way to that goal.

 

Rohatsch says the community, the state, the air base and everyone else has been so kind.  She says she is very thankful for people's genuine kindness.  On behalf of the whole family, she says there really are not enough words for how much they appreciate that.

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Teacher who survived Sandy Hook has book deal


NEW YORK (AP) A Connecticut teacher who helped save students' lives during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has a book deal.

G.P. Putnam's Sons announced Tuesday that ``Choosing Hope: Moving Forward from Your Life's Darkest Hour'' by teacher Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis will be released next spring. The publisher says the book will be a ``poignant account of personal triumph over unbearable tragedy.'' Robin Gaby Fisher is co-writing it.

Roig-DeBellis hurried 15 first-graders into a bathroom upon hearing gunfire at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, saving their lives. The gunman eventually shot himself to death after gunning down his mother, six teachers and 20 children.

Last year, Roig-DeBellis founded Classes 4 Classes, a nonprofit that advocates teaching children that all lives are connected.

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Woman forgives husband who left son in hot car


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut woman whose 15-month-old son died this month after her husband left him in a car on a hot day says she forgives him.

Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, of Ridgefield, says that her husband, Kyle Seitz, was extremely distraught after bringing their son to a hospital. She says she told her husband she loved him and made sure he looked at her.

Rogers-Seitz, who also has two daughters, said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press that her family is grieving together.

Police say the father was supposed to bring Benjamin to daycare but went to work and left his son inside the car on July 7 for ``an extended period of time.''

A police investigation is continuing. The official cause of death has not been determined.

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Brookfield police ID teen killed in crash


The name of the driver killed in a two car crash on Saturday in Brookfield has been released.  Police say 19-year old Amanda Sarapochiello of Brookfield was pronounced dead at Danbury Hospital. 

 

Police say Candlewood Lake Road was closed around 11am Saturday because a car travelling northbound, driven by Sarapochiello, crossed the double yellow line and collided with a vehicle travelling in the other direction.  Police say that other car was being driven by a 16-year old Brookfield resident, who was not seriously injured.  The other teen was also transported to the hospital. 

 

The road was closed for about 3 hours Saturday.

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Public hearing in Redding tonight held by Connecticut Siting Council


An application has been made to the Siting Council for a telecommunications facility to be constructed at the Redding Ridge Fire Department on Black Rock Turnpike.  Weather permitting today, the Council will conduct a public field review starting at 2pm, with the applicant flying a balloon to simulate the height of the proposed tower.  The 150 foot cell tower will be managed by Message Center Management and the fire district.  AT&T would be the primary carrier but Verizon would also use the facility.  Nextel is the only carrier on the existing 80-foot tower.  

 

The 3pm hearing at the Redding Community Center will provide the applicant and intervenors an opportunity to cross-examine positions.  The purpose of the hearing is to hear evidence of a public need for this tower outweighing any adverse environmental effects that would result from the construction, maintenance or operation of a tower, access road and ground equipment. 

 

The 7pm hearing will be reserved for the public to make brief comments on the record.  Cross-examination of all parties will resume if necessary after all comments have been entered into the record.

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Conn. man arrested at WCSU for unemployment compensation fraud


A Connecticut man working at Western Connecticut State University has been arrested for using someone else's Social Security Number to illegally collect $68,197 in Unemployment Compensation.  38-year old Mauricio Perez of Meriden was arrested Friday while working as an independent flooring contractor at the new visual arts building being constructed on the West Side Campus. 

 

He was charged with larceny, identity theft, and felony unemployment compensation fraud.  According to the arrest warrant, Perez used a California resident's Social Security number to collect the benefits from 2002 to 2013 when he wasn't legally authorized to work in the United States. 

 

He is being held on $20.000 bond for a court appearance on the 14th.

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Lake Waramaug poor water quality continues


The swimming area at Lake Waramaug State Park in Kent has been closed since Thursday and remains closed today.  Environmental officials say the rain last week caused elevated bacteria levels.  The water was tested again on Friday and the results came back the same.  State officials say water quality will be tested again early this week.  The tests are used by public health and environmental protection authorities to evaluate the potential for contamination in water bodies.

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Lawmaker calls for Metro North Danbury Branch advocate


An area lawmaker has written to Governor Malloy asking him to push Metro North to appoint more rail advocates.  On word that the Waterbury Branch Line Advocate was appointed last week, Wilton Senator Toni Boucher questioned why the railroad didn't also appoint one for the Danbury Branch.

 

Boucher says Danbury area rail riders have what she called "complaint fatigue", feeling Metro North is not listening to their concerns and complaints.  She says commuters on that line are frustrated, with good reason, but so are commuters on the Danbury Branch.

 

Boucher retold the story of a veteran commuter who is considering finding a new job or moving away because the deterioration of Metro North service has been maddening.  Earlier this year especially, commuters were telling officials they weren't sure if they would make it to work on time or get home safely because of the numerous issues the railroad is having.

 

Over the years, Boucher says the branch lines have been more neglected than the main line.  She notes that often times the branch lines can't be used and commuters will clog the highways by driving to other stations.  In addition to road congestion, Boucher says it worsens an already tight parking situation in other towns.

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Compromise on help for veterans dealing with health care delays


Senator Richard Blumenthal is pleased with a bipartisan compromise agreement reached over the weekend by the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committee chairmen to improve delivery of health care services. 

 

Blumenthal calls the legislation long overdue and called for immediate passage.  Recent data has shown a worsening of wait times for Connecticut veterans to get care at the two V-A hospitals and six clinics in the state, including the one in Danbury.  

 

The compromise calls for $5 billion in emergency funding for the hiring of more doctors and facility upgrades.  It also includes $10 billion for private health care for veterans who waited too long to receive treatment.

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Parking violation fines hiked in Ridgefield


Connecticut has raised the maximum fine for parking in a fire lane and illegally parking in a handicap parking space.  That means Ridgefield has now taken action to raise the rates set by the town, to match the state fine.  A town meeting and public hearing was held Wednesday to approve the changes. 

 

The ordinance change was recommended by the Ridgefield Parking Authority.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says the change was made to streamline the process.  Any time the state raises the fine and the town decides to follow suit, only Board of Selectmen approval would be needed.  Previously a public hearing, town meeting approval process was also needed.

 

Marconi and other Board members feel strongly, particularly when it comes to illegally parked cars in handicap spaces.  If people are just walking into a store quickly to pick something up and they don't have a permit, it's still a violation.  Marconi says the stiff fine is a reminder that people shouldn't park there.

 

The fine for parking in a handicap space has increased from $86 to $150.  Parking in a fire zone has gone from a $50 fine to a $92 ticket.

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Gov: Feds no longer asking for Conn. sites to house child refugees


Governor Dannel Malloy says a closer look of the Southbury Training School and Old Gateway Community College buildings has revealed that neither can be used to house thousands of migrant children from Central America because of physical and safety limitations.

 

Malloy says mass housing sites, institutionalizing children is not the way to go.  He says the better way is to place children with family members.

 

He notes that the federal government is no longer asking the state to provide facilities for the children at this time.  The children are being settled with families members, more than 300 of them in Connecticut.

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Senator touts WCSU Upward Bound Program


While in Danbury on Friday, Senator Chris Murphy stopped by Western Connecticut State University to check in with high school students participating in the Upward Bound Program.  The Danbury High Schoolers are first generation college students or are from low income families.  He says they face a barrier if they do get into college--paying for it.

 

He is working on a bill with three other Senators that would hold colleges accountable for reducing tuition by possibly withholding financial aid from the federal government.  Murphy says the federal government spends $140 billion every year on that, with almost no conditions.

 

100 Danbury High School students, many of who were recruited at the end of 8th grade, are participating in the program to develop and strengthen their academic skills.

 

A mandatory six-week, nonresidential summer program is conducted at the University. This summer program is designed to prepare students academically and socially for the upcoming school year. Students are given an introduction to the major courses they will be taking in the fall.  Murphy was in Danbury to listen to presentations the kids have been working on and to push them to stay on course, get a degree and be able to earn a substantial living in Connecticut.

 

During the academic year, each student receives an academic advisor who monitors their academic and behavioral progress. Tutoring and various workshops such as Study Skills, SAT Preparation, and Financial Aid Awareness are offered.  Career and college counseling courses are offered, as well as supplementary classes which address issues effecting today's teens. Students participate in educational and cultural trips as well as college tours.

 

Over the course of the four years, each student participates in a ten-day Great Hollow Wilderness School experience in New Fairfield Students develop self-confidence and goal setting skills, as well as learn the importance of team work and social-personal responsibilities. These skills are developed through technical rock climbing, canoeing, caving, backpacking, and meeting the challenge of a high rope course.

 

The Upward Bound Program is funded by the US Department of Education, along with supplementary grants from the Danbury Board of Education.

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Area lawmaker honored today as 'Children's Champion'


An awards ceremony is being held today at the Bethel YMCA to recognize this year's Children's Champions.  The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance has given the honor to 24 state lawmakers for their work during the latest legislative session.  Among them is Wilton State Senator Toni Boucher.

 

Boucher cited research that shows investments in pre-school and early childhood education will bring the greatest return on investment and help close the achievement gap.  She says a highly trained and educated Connecticut work force is vital in today's global economy.  Boucher says almost 80-percent of what we learn is done from the ages of birth through age 5.  She says their rapid pace of brain development means a good environment for young children is vital.

 

The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is a statewide membership and advocacy organization committed to improving developmental outcomes in the areas of learning, health, safety and economic security for children ages birth through eight.

 

Boucher also received the Children’s Champion award from the Alliance in 2013, 2012 and 2009.

 

The other 23 honored are:

Senator Andres Ayala (D-23) Bridgeport and Stratford

Senator Dante Bartolomeo (D-13) Cheshire, Meriden, Middlefield and Middletown

Senator Beth Bye (D-05) Bloomfield, Burlington, Farmington and West Hartford

Senator Carlo Leone (D-27) Stamford and Darien

Senator Andrea Stillman (D-20) Bozrah, East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, Salem and Waterford

Senator Don Williams (D-29) Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Mansfield, Putnam, Scotland, Thompson and Windham

Representative Cathy Abercrombie (D-83) Berlin and Meriden

Representative Tim Ackert (R-08) Columbia, Coventry, Tolland and Vernon

Representative Joe Aresimowicz (D-30) Berlin and Southington

Representative Juan Candelaria (D-95) New Haven

Representative Victor Cuevas (D-75) Waterbury

Representative Andrew Fleischmann (D-18) West Hartford

Representative Mae Flexer (D-44) Killingly and Plainfield

Representative Daniel Fox (D-148) Stamford

Representative Gerald Fox (D-146) Stamford

Representative Mary Fritz (D-90) Cheshire and Wallingford

Representative Patricia Billie Miller (D-145) Stamford

Representative Bobby Sanchez (D-25) New Britain

Representative Hilda Santiago (D-84) Meriden

Representative William Tong (D-147) Stamford and Darien

Representative Toni Walker (D-93) New Haven

Representative Roberta Willis (D-64) Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Torrington and Sharon

Rep. Michelle Cook (D-65) Torrington (Legislator of the Year)

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Tornado touches down in Wolcott


WOLCOTT, Conn. (AP) The National Weather Service has confirmed that a small tornado touched down in Wolcott.

Sunday's tornado was rated as an EF0, the weakest rating for the storms, with winds between 65 and 85 mph.

Investigators say among other things, the storm uprooted trees, knocked down a fence and blew down a portable backstop on the baseball field at Wolcott High School.

The weather service says the tornado touched down at 12:50 p.m. and traveled about six-tenths of a mile from the intersection of Minor Road and Center Street to the high school.

No injuries were reported.

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Newtown man reported missing 1 year ago still missing


Newtown police are continuing their search for a man who went missing almost a year ago.  Robert Hoagland was last seen at a Mobil Gas Station on Church Hill Road early on July 28th 2013.  He was reported missing by his wife, who was waiting for him to pick her up at the airport. 

 

The man does not have his wallet, ID, credit cards, cell phone or blood pressure medication with him.  His shoes were also found left behind at his home. 

 

Sightings of the man had been reported in the Rhode Island area, but they all turned out to be misidentifications or unconfirmed.  A possible sighting was made in Brookfield this January, but surveillance footage was not clear enough to make a positive identification. 

 

Anyone with information on Hoagland's whereabouts is asked to contact Newtown Police at 203-426-5841.

 

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Mental health services draft report submitted to legislature


A draft report has been submitted to the General Assembly's Appropriations and Children's committees by a Task Force studying mental health issues in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The joint meeting was held Thursday at the state capital.  Yale Behavioral Health Director Dr Michael Hoge says access is a challenge.

 

says there are many concerns with prevention, early identification and early intervention systems.  He notes that has led to a lack universal screening for mental health problems across the age continuum.  There are also inadequate services to refer to once behavioral health needs have been identified.

 

The report found that there are some effective programs in the state, but there is an overall disconnect. 

 

A final report is due to lawmakers in October by the state Department of Children and Families, Office of Early Childhood and others.

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Area towns take step for planning agency merger


The leaders of 10 Greater Danbury area towns are taking steps to merge their regional planning group with one representing lower Fairfield County towns.  The state recently passed an initiative calling for the 13 planning agencies in the state to merge into no more than eight.  Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi says his biggest concern in all of this is that it will lead to a county level of government.  Marconi says he and others will stand firm that that can't happen.

 

The 10 towns in the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials and the eight towns in the South Western Regional Planning Agency would become the 18 towns in  the Western Connecticut Council of Governments.

 

Marconi says the state is hoping for more regionalization efforts when it comes to a sharing of equipment and bulk purchasing power to bring the cost of government down.  But he says, the HVCEO region already does a lot of that so they are entering this merger with caution. 

 

If larger councils of governments are not created, the current ones risk losing funding.

 

HVCEO towns are: Bethel, Bridgewater, Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield and Sherman.

 

SWRPA towns are: Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton.

 

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