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Bethel fire leaves 18 people without housing

An apartment fire in Bethel has left several people without housing.  A fire broke out in the storage area in the basement of 97 Grassy Plain Street shortly before 7:30 Wednesday night.  Bethel Police officers helped evacuate residents and then the fire department put out the blaze.  A smoke detector in the basement alerted residents to the problem. 


Fire officials say the basement sustained extensive fire, heat and smoke damage. 


18 people from 12 apartments were not allowed back into the building because of smoke damage.  The Red Cross is assisting the families. 


The cause of the blaze is being investigated by the Bethel Fire Marshal's office.

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Freshman lawmaker challenged by New Milford Board of Finance member

Republican Cecilia Buck-Taylor was elected in 2012 to the 67th district House seat, having prior experience serving as vice-chair of the New Milford Town Council.  She is a member of the Finance, Environment, and Judiciary committees.  She says there were quite a few bills that were passed last session that's proud of including one dealing with veterans and increasing their employment opportunities.  Buck-Taylor touted her work in bringing grant funding to New Milford for brownfield remediation.


Democrat Gale Alexander has been on the Board of Finance for the past 12 years, has run mayoral and state senate campaigns and holds a teaching certification.


He says the municipal tax system is antiquated, assessment methods from the 18th century.  He says with the new economy, there’s still manufacturing and agriculture, but more businesses without a real property for municipalities to tax.  He says that creates an imbalance between businesses that are heavily capitalized and retail businesses.  He says the current system dealing with property tax is based on a property assessment that doesn’t really represent the people.  He gave the example of retired people who own homes equivalent to their neighbors who may be still working.  He is suggesting an alternate income tax based on the Grand List and mil rate.  He would substitute property value numbers with income value numbers.


Alexander says that would more equitably spread the tax burden across the base.  He says farmers for example would gain from this.  Agricultural land is taxed at a lower rate, but he says a New Milford resident can’t put a building up for his product because his taxes would go up.  Alexander says farmland preservation plays into his push for a change in taxes.


She supported a Task Force being created to review the state's tax structure.  She wants unfunded mandates to be examined as well.  Buck-Taylor says the pension fund is underfunded.  She says the state should live within its means, and that isn't a matter of wanting something and raising taxes in order to get it.  She was also critical of taking money from designated funds to pay for other items and services. 


When it comes to education reforms, Buck-Taylor says there is more to be done and some things that should be undone.  She does not support Common Core, in part because there was no public hearing before it was implemented.  She doesn't believe in having one-size fits all.  She hopes another look at Common Core will be made.  She says the Educational Cost Sharing formula is woefully under funded .  She notes that the formula for children with learning disabilities is not done in an equitable manner.  She believes the state should give the towns the support they need to give education to kids in a fashion the town knows is the right way.


Alexander says he wants to look at changing how high schools are evaluated.  He says technical education system and community colleges play an integral role in the future of Connecticut.  He says there are jobs in manufacturing that are going unfilled because there are no programs to train new workers.  He says these offer an alternative path to success in life.  Alexander says attending college is sort of expected today, but some students end up leaving after a couple of years and a lot of student loans.  He says that leaves kids with tremendous debt, no degree and no prospect to a good job to pay off that debt because of a push toward four-year colleges.  He says one-size does not fit all and there are plenty of jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.


Buck-Taylor says she would support an expansion of Metro North's Danbury branch up to New Milford, and would like to see rail service provided all the way to Massachusetts.  She says Connecticut's roads and bridges are rated as some of the worst in the nation, in part because hundreds of millions of dollars are taken out of the Special Transportation Fund and put into the general fund.  Buck-Taylor says when something reaches desperate conditions, the state bonds for it and then residents will have to pay interest on it.  She says businesses aren't happy with the conditions of the roads and trucks having to use local routes to avoid congestion. 


Buck-Taylor hopes now that the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has had time to review the issues connected to the 2012 shootings in Newtown, she hopes school safety and mental health will be addressed .  Years back the state closed a lot of the mental hospitals in Connecticut and she says people were dumped out onto the streets.  She wants a look taken at that, and also at children who are transferred from one school to another that people know are in trouble.  She was critical of the so-called gun bill being passed by emergency certification with no committee review and public hearing.


Alexander touted constituent service as what he would most like to bring to the district.  He says there has to be a concerted effort to be in touch with the people you represent.  He encouraged people to stay involved and voice opinions on what is effecting day to day life.


Buck-Taylor wants to increase opportunities in the state for veterans, businesses and seniors.  She also wants to educate and protect children in a fiscally responsible manner so that the state can somehow come up with a tax system that relies less on property taxes.  She wants to continue to work to keep farmlands productive and in a low-tax environment.

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Fuel cell to be installed at Danbury Mall

A fuel cell is being installed at the Danbury Fair Mall.  The Mall's owner, Macerich Corporation, will be gathering with business and city leaders this morning for the announcement.  The 750 kilowatt fuel cell program is being powered by Bloom Energy. 


Officials say the project will provide the 1.3 million square foot building with clean, reliable energy while reducing carbon emissions by nearly 3 million pounds each year. 


The Mall recently installed LED lighting outside the facility and will be installing solar panels on the roof next year.

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'Real Housewives of New Jersey' reportedly to serve prison term in Danbury

A federal judge announced Wednesday that she was told "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice will be assigned to a prison camp facility in Danbury, and must report there on January 5th.  She was sentenced to 15 months in prison for bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy. Her husband was sentenced to 41 months. 


The couple pleaded guilty in March, admitting they hid assets from bankruptcy creditors and submitted phony loan applications to get 5 million dollars in mortgages and construction loans. 


Some former infamous Danbury Federal Correctional Facility include Watergate conspirator G Gordon Liddy, hotel mogul Leona Helmsley, Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, singer Lauren Hill and Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman.

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This is National Teen Safe Driver Week

This is National Teen Safe Driver Week.  Danbury High School students are part of an anti-districted driving contest to win the school a 25-thousand dollar grant by asking people to pledge to drive safely.  State Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman William Seymour is urging parents to talk with their kids about driving safely.


Seymour says they are calling on parents to talk with their kids about not speeding, not to drink and drive, to put the phone down, to buckle up and to only carry one passenger at a time.


The DMV notes that fatalities involving 16 and 17 year old drivers were down 71-percent last year compared to 2007, the year before tougher teen driving laws took effect. 


The Celebrate My Drive contest ends Friday.  Last year Danbury High School was one of the first place winners, receiving the most safe driving pledges.  They were rewarded with a $100,000 grant.  DHS Principal Gary Bocaccio says while they can't win that top prize two years in a row, the school could still win a $25,000 grant.  Glastonbury HS is currently #5 and Danbury HS is currently #18.  They are among nine schools in Connecticut competing with schools across the country. 


The school's safe driving campaign is online at

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Congresswoman to meet with NHS students on gun violence prevention

With little less than two weeks before the election, a member of Congress is coming to Newtown to talk about gun violence.  5th District Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty will be meeting with students at Newtown High School this afternoon.  The students from the Junior Newtown Action Alliance at the Student Government are hosting a discussion on gun violence prevention. 


Esty will be joined by California Congressman Mike Thompson, whom she says is an avid hunter and gun owner, and chairs the U-S House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.  They are looking for feedback from students and will discuss federal efforts to prevent gun violence. 


Esty is in a contentious race against Republican challenger Mark Greenberg.  During the first debate he said he would support universal background checks, something he thought would take his NRA "A" rating down to an "F".  The NRA has now done just that. 


The "A" rating was based on a 2012 survey when Greenberg was making a run for the seat, but he says the shootings at Sandy Hook School changed his views and he never filled out the 2014 NRA questionnaire.

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Former bus driver arraigned on sexual assault charges

A former school bus driver has been arraigned on charges of sexually abusing a child and possessing child pornography.  68-year old Michael Cunningham of Brewster was arrested in July following an investigation of abuse of a 6-year old child. 


Cunningham has been charged with 8 counts of sexual assault, both felonies and misdemeanors, as well as one count of endangering the welfare of a child.  When his Brewster home was searched, police found child pornography and 5 additional charges were filed. 


Cunningham was arraigned last Wednesday and is being held on $100,000 bail.  A restraining order has also been issued to protect the victim and the victim’s family.

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Political newcomer challenges 6-term incumbent in 138th district

State House and Senate positions are on the ballot in November.  WLAD is profiling the candidates running in the 138th state House District of Danbury, Ridgefield and New Fairfield.  Six-term Republican incumbent Jan Giegler is seeking reelection.  She is being challenged by Democrat Henry Hall. 


Giegler says she has a leadership role in the GOP caucus, has worked in a bipartisan manner and worked with constituents to cut through the red tape of state bureaucracy .  She says during the last session, it was a challenge being in the minority.  But she thinks a lot was accomplished by working across the aisle on the Public Safety Committee.  Giegler says she has always tried to be an advocate for fiscal responsibility and to keep Connecticut a place that people want to call home.  But she says the state has been going in the wrong direction when it comes to creating jobs and being a competitive business environment.


Hall is a 30 year Danbury resident who worked for GE Capital, and United Health among other companies.  Hall says he decided to run to giveback to the community and try to make a difference.


Jobs, transportation and public safety are his key platforms.  He says historically the biggest industries in Connecticut have been insurance, finance, precision manufacturing and defense.  He notes that they are not hiring as fast as they used to, and he would like to expand what the state is known for.  Hall says more must be done to bring in jobs in the biosciences, digital media and renewable energy.


Giegler says the Transportation Committee has dealt with a number of issues in the past year.  One was the issue of border tolls.  She says they are not the answer and the Danbury area would be unfairly impacted by their implementation.  Metro North has been a big issue.  She says there is no representation from Connecticut on the Metro North board, so there is no local control of decision that are made in New York.  But she says with the new President of Metro North, there’s been a more open dialog.


Hall says the problem with Metro North is that it’s run out of New York and Connecticut doesn’t really have a say in what is being done.  He would like to see other contracts looked into.  There are things that can be done about congestion, he says including ridesharing, shuttle services and opening the existing railway that runs into Brewster.  He says transportation dollars need to be brought to this side of the state because I-84 is well above capacity.  He says the wear and tear on the roads caused by truck traffic can be reduced by increasing freight rail.


The 138th is a multi-town district stretching from Ridgefield through Danbury up to New Fairfield.  Giegler says having the district redrawn two years ago, she’s working with a priority school district in Danbury and other schools that aren’t.  When it comes to funding for the communities, Danbury as a city is entitled to certain bond money where Ridgefield and New Fairfield can use Small Town Economic Assistance Program grants.  She says there are different concerns when it comes to policing as well because New Fairfield has a Resident State Trooper office.


Giegler says there’s been a push for regionalization at the state capital, including the attempted closing of the Southbury State Troopers Barracks on weekends.  She fought against that.  But she touted the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials regional planning group in their efforts working together.


Regionalization has a lot of advantages including for many services.  He says it can help reduce costs when it comes to road salt, dispatch services and the like.  But he notes it’s not a panacea.


Hall says every Connecticut resident needs to be provided with the opportunity for quality affordable education from pre-k through the workforce years.  He says the forecast for the economy over the next 25 years predicts that people will have two or three careers.  He says that shows a need for continuing education.  He calls education one of the cornerstones of a prosperous Connecticut.  Hall would like to see scholarship programs increased.  He also suggests low-interest loans would be helpful to reduce the cost of a college education.


She is interested in tackling some broad priorities if elected to another term.  One is to reduce the state’s deficit.  Another is getting businesses in the state on track to growth again.  In a wrap up message, she asked that constituents understand the issues and how people vote on a particular bill.  She notes that there are bills that have pieces she would like to vote on, but other parts that would be detrimental to the community.  She cited budget bills, in order to implement them, there are a lot of last minute add-ons that unnecessarily inflate spending.

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New daytime shelter opening for Danbury homeless

A new “day shelter” for the city’s homeless will conduct an open house to introduce downtown Danbury business, nonprofit and community leaders to the program.

The Good Samaritan Center’s overnight seasonal shelter will be open year round once it opens next month. The shelter provides beds for 14 men amd previously was operated during the winter by the Jericho Partnership.  This new daytime shelter is housed in the seasonal overnight shelter on Maple Avenue in Danbury, across the street from the Good Samaritan Mission. 


Executive Director Mark Grasso says it provides a place for the homeless to connect with community providers, activities and housing, along with faith-based counseling. 


The open house is November 5th from 4 to 6 pm.

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Danbury High School student now stable

A 16-year-old Danbury High School student who jumped off a parking garage last week remains at Yale-New Haven Hospital, but her condition has been upgraded from critical to stable.

The girl sustained multiple fractures after jumping from the top of Danbury Hospital's four-story garage. She was treated for those injuries at the hospital, but also suffered less obvious internal injuries that required further treatment at Yale-New Haven.

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New Sandy Hook School site work has begun

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) Site work has begun for construction of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School replacing the building where 20 children and six staff members were fatally shot nearly two years ago.

Consigli Construction Co. officially received the job and a Newtown building permit on Tuesday.

Architect Bob Mitchell said an official groundbreaking was not scheduled partly to protect the privacy of the Sandy Hook community. He expects the community will be invited to visit the site.

Construction will begin in March.

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Fatal accident in Danbury

A Norwalk man was killed Tuesday in a one-car collision that occurred at the intersection of Eagle Road and Executive Drive after the vehicle he was driving was found off the shoulder on the embankment.

Police found the driver.. 66 year old Thomas Proulx slumped behind the wheel. the accident ocurred around 2:30 pm.

At the scene, Proulx was determined to be in critical condition and was taken by ambulance to Danbury Hospital where he was pronounced dead soon after his arrival.

Police ask  any witnesses to contact the department traffic investigation division. 

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Ridgefield police to investigate High School hazing

A police investigation has been launched into alleged hazing incidents last week involving Ridgefield High School students.

Principal Stacey Gross said the alleged hazing involved a small number of athletes and non-athletes last Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The incidents did not occur on school grounds. The incidents occurred during Ridgefield's Spirit Week, a series of themed days held at the high school to boost and express school pride.

Gross read a letter Thursday to students over the intercom, stating she had learned that "a number of incidents of hazing, bullying and intimidation have taken place in association with some of  the  athletic teams involving athletes and non-athletes." The letter was also sent home to parents.


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'Row of Honor' display to return to Carmel

An annual display to honor veterans will be opened soon in Putnam County.  The opening date for this year’s Veterans Day Row of Honor in Putnam County will be announced in the afternoon.  The display recognizes those who have served in the military. 


The Row of Honor installation consists of American-made flags that border Gleneida Avenue on the shores of Lake Gleneida in Carmel.  Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says it's assembled each year to give residents the opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank those who have served their country.


Funds are also raised to support programs run by the Joint Veterans Council.

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Candidates forum being held in Newtown

Candidates looking to represent Newtown in the state House are gathering Tuesday night for a forum.

The annual candidate forum is being hosted by The Newtown Bee.  Like many other towns in the region, several state house districts represent parts of town.  The 2nd district is currently represented by Republican Dan Carter.  He is being challenged by Danbury attorney Candace Fay. 


The 106th District seat is currently held by Republican Mitch Bolinsky.  His challenger is recent West Conn grad Matt Cole. 


The 112th district is an open race with the retirement of longtime representative DebraLee Hovey.  Republican JP Sredkinski, a Monroe Town Council member is looking to fill the vacancy.  Democrat Jen Aguilar, a Monroe Youth Commission member. 


The forum at Edmond Town Hall is at 7:30pm.

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4th Congressional District candidates meet for debates

The first two debates between 4th Congressional District Representative Jim Himes and Republican challenger Dan Debicella have been held.  The first was a telephone town hall sponsored by the AARP.  The next was held in Wilton Sunday. 


Debicella, who ran for the position in 2010, says safety and transportation are key issues.  He wants to invest in smart maintenance to make sure roads and rails are safe.  He says that will go a long way in making sure commuters stay safe.


Himes says he's worked hard on Metro North issues.  He and others in the Connecticut delegation pushed for new leadership at the railroad, who has met the demand to install "positive train control" devices on all trains.  Himes says those devices will sense if there is an impending derailment or crash coming up regardless of the conductor's attentiveness.


They also addressed Social Security.  Himes says in about 30 years Social Security will begin to pay out more than it brings in, if nothing is done.  He says some equitable and fair reforms will need to be made, but not privatization proposals made by the Republican party.


Debicella says he would not vote to raise the retirement age to support Social Security solvency.  He advocated for a plan to have Social Security increases attached to prices not wage, which he says will lower benefits to wealthier people who don't need it.


Another of the topics covered was economic recovery.  Himes says there is a long way yet to go, but there has been progress.  He cited 10 million private sector jobs added, an economy growing at about 3-percent and a declining deficit.


But Debicella says Connecticut is 50th out of 50 in terms of job creation and people can't save for retirement unless the economy robust.  He proposes closing loopholes for special interest groups and lowering tax rates for the middle class and small businesses, paid for with the loophole closures.

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Annual college and vocational fair being held at Danbury Mall

High School students and their parents are being called on to attend Danbury High School's annual College and Vocational Fair tonight at the Mall.  More than 230 two-year and four-year schools, vocational, trade and technical schools, the military and the college board are participating in the event. 


Chairwoman Valerie DeRubertis says college fairs can be very informative but they can also be overwhelming, but the guidance counselors will be there as well to provide information and direction.  DeRubertis says it's easy to get caught up in the crowds and confusion, criss-crossing the room, stopping at any booth that seems popular.


Students are urged to write up a short list of questions to ask admission representatives, including what the two or three most popular majors are.  That  can give a good idea of the main interests of the majority of the students.  Students who are undecided should ask about what services and support are available to help them explore various majors. 


Freshmen and sophomores are urged to ask admission representatives what they should do to strengthen their transcripts and activities.  Juniors who attend are urged to start making a list of colleges they are interested in to learn more about heading into senior year.  Seniors can make another contact with a school they're interested in or find a school they weren't aware of before the fair. 


She says students with access to computers might want to to print up a few sheets of self-stick address labels with contact information, high school, year of graduation, intended major(s), and any extracurricular activities of interest.  At the fair, that can then be placed on information cards to save time in filling out the same information over and over at each college’s table.


The College and Vocational Fair is from 5 to 8:30pm at the Danbury Fair Mall.

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Residents urged to test wells for arsenic, uranium

The state Department of Public Health is urging residents with private wells to get them tested for arsenic and uranium.  Arsenic is a known human carcinogen, leading to liver and kidney cancer.  Epidemiologist Brian Toal says Uranium is a heavy metal that's toxic to the kidneys.  He says if people drink high enough levels for a long enough time, there could be decreased kidney functions.


Toal says the state had gotten reports from a town like Weston, where over 10-percent of the wells had elevated levels of arsenic.  Other towns around Connecticut had very high rates of uranium.


Toal says arsenic and uranium are easily treatable at a reasonable price.  A list of the recommended labs can be found on the state DPH website.

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Playground equipment being replaced in Danbury

Danbury is in the process of replacing eight or nine playscapes with repairs being made to additional ones. 


During the City Council meeting last week, resident Kevin Haddad questioned when the playgrounds at the schools would be completed.  The jungle gyms at King Street School, Morris Street School and South Street School are being replaced.  The playgrounds were closed just before the start of the new school year. 


A study of parks in Danbury as well as school playgrounds was started this spring. During the study, a company came in to assess all of the playareas for risks.  That company provided the City with a roadmap of how to move forward.  The plan was about which ones can be repaired, what sections to eliminate and where to buy new equipment.


City officials say they were waiting on some parts to come in and that they are in the home stretch.

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Ridgefield schools investigating reports of hazing among athletes

Ridgefield School officials are investigating what it says are possible incidents of "hazing, bullying and intimidation" among sports teams at the High School.  NBC reports that Principal Stacey Gross sent a letter home to parents yesterday with their concerns over events that happened Wednesday, though she did not elaborate in the letter. 


She did say that she was disappointed that in spite of efforts of everyone, some students chose to place themselves and others in jeopardy of injury and exposed their fellow students to ridicule and humiliation.  The letter said those involved, both athletes and non-athletes in association with the teams, will receive serious consequences.


Ridgefield Superintendent Dr Deborah Lowe said given how ad advisory program is in place and appropriate behavior is discussed with athletic teams, she is surprised and disappointed.



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