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Brookfield Police were among the local departments to participate in a nationwide crackdown on distracted drivers.  The "U Text. U Drive. U Pay." enforcement started August 2nd and continued for two weeks.  During that span, Brookfield officers conducted 158 motor vehicle stops, which resulted in 107 infractions, and 3 drug related arrest. 

 

Police reminded motorists that when officer say "Phone in one hand, Ticket in the other" they meant it. 

 

Connecticut is the only state in the country to receive special distracted driving prevention funds.  That grant money allowed Brookfield and other local police departments to implement special patrols to identify, stop, and cite drivers who chose to ignore distracted driving laws. Over $6.8 million has been awarded to the state over the last three years specifically for campaigns like this one.  Brookfield Police say Connecticut qualifies for this federal funding source though a combination of tough laws - and, a proven track record in strong enforcement of distracted driving laws.

 

During the April operation, over 12,000 citations issued to motorists by police across Connecticut.  The state Department of Transportation says there was an eight percent drop in mobile phone use by drivers at observation locations during last year's crackdown.

 

Under Connecticut’s cell phone and texting law, fines are $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second violation, and $500 for each subsequent violation.

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Connecticut's largest association of cities and towns is coming up with a plan to increase regional cooperation and review new taxing options.

 

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities intends to have a comprehensive package of proposals "designed to break new ground" ready in December. The 2017 legislative session opens in January.  CCM on Monday announced a new 13-member State-Local Partnership Panel.

 

The CCM President, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, will lead the panel.  He says the focus is on creating policies that deal with property taxes, local revenue diversification and regional service delivery. The panel plans to expand the work of the 2015 State Tax Panel and increase cooperation between municipalities.

 

Boughton says the legislature and Governor are going to be facing a daunting task with the next biennium budget, with a nearly $5 billion deficit. He says that trickles down to cities and towns, which don't have enough money to provide the services that residents want and ask for.

 

The panel is hoping to answer three questions; what services do they want in Connecticut, how will they be paid for and who pays for them.  Boughton says that will provide a roadmap to ensure Connecticut is on a sustainable path forward.

 

There's been about half a dozen reports over the last several years by various groups, Blue Ribbon Panels and commissions created by the legislature.  CCM Executive Director Joe DeLong says the group's recommendations "won't be another study that will be filed on an office shelf."

 

The panel also includes Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser, East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul, Mansfield Town Manager Matt Hart, New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda, Norwich Mayor Deb Hinchey, Stamford Mayor David Martin, Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, and Wethersfield Town Manager Jeff Bridges.

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A panel discussion about the opioid addiction crisis is being held tomorrow night in Weston.  State Representative John Shaban has organized a community discussion on Connecticut’s Opioid Addiction Crisis. There will be a panel of local officials to guide the discussion, share information and answer questions.  Panelists include the First Selectmen and Police Chiefs of Easton, Redding and Weston.  The Associate Planner of the Western Connecticut Council of Government and the Director of Mid-Fairfield Substance Abuse Coalition are also taking part in the panel discussion.  The free event, open to the public, is being held tomorrow night from 6:30 to 8 o'clock at Weston Town Hall.

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Elementary school students attended school in Sandy Hook on Monday for the first time since a shooting rampage there killed 20 first-graders and six educators.

 

Joseph Erardi, Newtown's School Superintendent, said it was a great and uneventful day for the just under 400 students at the new 86,000-square-foot Sandy Hook Elementary School, which was built to replace the one torn down after the December 2012 shooting.

 

"I spent all day there and it felt the way that it should feel," he said. "Students were excited to be there."

 

The $50 million replacement was built on the same property as the former school, but not in the old footprint. All that remains are two large concrete slabs containing dinosaur footprints that also sat outside the old building.

 

About 70 current students attended the Sandy Hook Elementary School when the shooting occurred. School officials say about 35 of them were in the building at the time, but none witnessed the shootings. Those students, who were all in kindergarten at the time, are now fourth graders.

 

Erardi said he visited all of their classrooms and there were no issues.

 

Because of retirements and transfers, about 60 percent of the staff members from the original Sandy Hook are still with the school. Others left through retirement or job changes, and a handful chose to transfer as part of their recovery process, Erardi said

 

He credited parents for creating a smooth first day back for students, noting the vast majority of families took the time to tour the new school in advance of opening day to prepare the children.

 

"It was a back to business first day," he said. "There was nothing extraordinary that took place with announcements with any type of ceremonies. Just off the bus and let's go to work."

 

After the shooting, Sandy Hook students attended a school in neighboring Monroe, which renovated a previously closed elementary school to serve as a temporary home for them.

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New Milford officials have informed US Solar that they won't be able to commit to a lease of some of the Sullivan Farm property at this time.  The New Milford Town Council had a proposal before them at their last meeting, but the item was tabled for a possible special meeting. 

 

The lease of 10 acres of the more than 100 acre farm for solar panels came with a September 1st deadline to participate in a state run program. 

 

Mayor David Gronbach says while the possibilities at Sullivan Farm are exciting, an implementation plan takes more time that the deadline allows for.  He told US Solar that New Milford won't be able to offer the level of committment they need at this time, but that he wants to continue exploring projects with them to invest in renewable energy.

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Bridgewater's First Selectman is providing an update on the condition of a man shot in the shoulder during a home invasion earlier this month.  Curtis Read says Victor Compe is recovering from the gunshot wound and complex operations at Yale Hospital to rebuild his shoulder. 

 

The man was great spirits when Read visited him at the Bethel Health & Rehabilitation Center.  He hopes to be home soon, possibly as early as next week. 

 

Compe asked Read to pass on a message so that his friends in Bridgewater would know how much he loves the town and appreciates all that is being done for him and his wife.  Read says Vic and Samantha were random victims of a terrible crime, and they deserve help and support. 

 

The town of Bridgewater is making arrangements for people to donate money to supplement medical expenses.  Compe will also need  drivers willing to take him to appointments and an electric “lazy boy” chair after he gets home.  Read says people looking for information can contact Town Hall.

 

(Photo: Curtis Read, Facebook)

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DANBURY, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut man who spent 48 years on the lam after escaping from prison is expected to fight an attempt to return him to Georgia.

Seventy-one-year-old Robert Stackowitz is set to appear in state court in Danbury for an extradition hearing Tuesday.

His lawyer, Norman Pattis, has said they will try to fight his return to Georgia, where he fled a prison work camp in Carrolton in 1968 while serving a 17-year sentence for robbery. Pattis says Stackowitz has major health problems including heart failure and bladder cancer, and any prison time would amount to a death sentence.

Connecticut officials have denied Stackowitz's requests to refuse to return him to Georgia.

Stackowitz was arrested May 9 at his Sherman home after his Social Security application turned up a fugitive warrant.

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Sandy Hook School students have returned to Newtown for the first time in several years, in a new building designed to nurture their learning experience. 

 

Svigals Project Manager Julia McFadden says Svigals has found that nature is helpful in a learning environment and is soothing.  She says there have been studies showing that the color green can lower blood pressure and heart rate.  Their design opens the school to nature.  In the lobby there are metal steel forming tree trunks and colored glass panes in the widows create the effect of sunlight streaming through the leaves.  Wood was also used on the ceiling by that back wall.

 

 

Vertical sunshades address some of the solar gain in the classrooms.  Instead of plain grey, designers wanted do something lively.  McFadden says the autumnal color scheme make it look like a xylophone.

 

The old school was a single story and McFadden says the teachers were a little reluctant to have two stories.  They wanted the same sense of community so the designers create an open atrium in the lobby.  Kids going to the library, gym or cafeteria can see and be seen.

 

McFadden says the wood was chosen to evoke the identity of Newtown.  The local ecology was something that people held strongly and talked about during the planning meetings.  The gables peak over the rolling landscape.  South American hardwoods, naturally colored, were chosen to evoke the New England character.  A concrete cistern covered in a mosaic collects rain water from the roof.  The water is naturally treated by plants in a rain garden that spans the front of the building, before it flows down into the aquifer.

 

 

There are three weather vanes outside the school.  One features an eagle, the school mascot.  Another is a bear cub.  The last is a mamma duck and ducklings, a theme in other artwork throughout the school.  The former Sandy Hook School courtyard was home to a family of ducks, and the community is hoping to attract them to the site.  Sandy Hook also has a duck race every year.  In the waiting area of the main administration office hangs a painting of birds in flight.  It was painted by Robert Reynolds, a local artist. 

 

The Sandy Hook School Foundation donated funds to create an alcove to relocate the school's turtle.  Shelly had a small aquarium before, but now has a large tank in the main lobby.

 

There are two so-called treehouse locations in the building.  The designers were told that parents sometimes come with a sibling and that tutoring that gets done so these are meant as a breakout spaces.

 

The classrooms have a teaching wall.  There is a white board, an interactive smartboard and a tack board.  The doors have a side window and the only other window into the hallway is above teacher height.  There are built in book cases.  The lower grades have in classroom bathrooms.

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NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- About 400 students have returned to Sandy Hook Elementary School for the first time since a shooting rampage there killed 20 first-graders and six educators.

 

A new 86,000-square-foot school opened Monday in Newtown, Connecticut. It replaces the one torn down after the 2012 shooting.

 

The $50 million replacement was built on the same property but not in the old footprint.

 

About 70 current Sandy Hook students attended the old school when the shooting occurred. School officials say about 35 of them were in the building at the time, but none witnessed the shootings. Those students are now fourth-graders.

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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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