Students at Sandy Hook School in Monroe had early dismissal today after being evacuated because of a threatening phone call. Newtown Superintendent Dr Joseph Erardi say the bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday morning and everyone was evacuated from the building to another school on the campus around 10:45am. They were dismissed at noon.
Police searched the building and the surrounding area, finding no evidence of a threat. The investigation into who placed the call in ongoing.
Erardi issued the following statement Wednesday night:
“Although there was little to no danger at any time with the alleged threat, the decision was made to make sure that every precautionary step had been taken for the safety of the Sandy Hook staff members and students. This same decision would have been made for all other Newtown schools. I would like to personally thank both the Newtown and Monroe Police Departments for their unyielding support throughout the evacuation. I would also like to thank the Sandy Hook administration and staff for their full cooperation as they did an exceptional job with this evacuation event."
An informational meeting is being held tonight in Danbury about a natural gas pipeline expansion proposal. Spectra Energy subsidiary Algonquin Gas Transmission has been holding land owner information meetings in Connecticut about the so-called Atlantic Bridge Expansion. Spectra Energy Director of Stakeholder Outreach Marylee Hanley says so far people have had questions about the environmental and permitting processes, construction, operation and land acquisition.
Spectra Energy says the project is needed to bring additional natural gas to the region, as the New England states look to expand supply and usage.
The Project would run from the Brewster area, through Danbury and Oxford and eventually headed into Massachusetts. The target in-service date is November 2017.
Hanley say the additional supply will keep natural gas prices lower overall, while also dampening future natural gas and electricity price volatility. As a result, she says homeowners, manufacturers and businesses will realize energy savings.
The meeting at the Crowne Plaza hotel on Old Ridgebury Road tonight is from 5:30 to 7:30pm.
A Ridgefield man arrested in New York last month has pleaded guilty in Connecticut to filing a false tax return. 54-year old Timothy Griffin was in court Tuesday.
The Bronxville, New York attorney received a letter from the IRS in 2006 about not filing income tax returns for the 2002 through 2004 tax years. Griffin then submitted false tax returns for those years. He is scheduled to be sentenced in December in Connecticut.
Griffin was arraigned on September 25th for allegedly stealing more than a million dollars from clients. According to the New York State Attorney General's office, Griffin made the thefts between 2009 and this February. He will be back in court on the New York charges on October 7th.
The attorney was previously accused of embezzling almost $2 million from a New York cemetery. Those alleged thefts occurred while Griffin was president of the non-profit United Hebrew Cemetery.
An annual Shelter Grant program is sending $20,000 in funding to the Women's Center in Danbury. The grant program is run by the Mary Kay Foundation to maintain critical services.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and while recent events have increased awareness, officials say there remains a need for housing, resources and support programs for women and children as they flee abusive situations and work to rebuild their lives.
Mary Kay Foundation officials say it's been a bigger challenge than ever for shelters to keep their doors open and anything they can do to help those on the front lines, like the Women's Center, they will try to provide financial backing.
The state Department of Transportation is inspecting bridges overpasses on the highways in Connecticut over the next few days. There were inspections done Tuesday in Newtown, which will continue today. There will be alternating right and left lane closures westbound on 84 between exits 12 and 11 from 10am to 2pm.
There will also be alternating right and left lane closures on the ramp from Route 34 in Newtown to I-84 westbound. That is taking place on Thursday from 9am to 3pm.
The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen is meeting this afternoon about a possible sale of town-owned land.
The Board met Monday with some of the bidders for the 10 acres of the former Schlumberger land that's up for sale. During the budget referendum, voters rejected a plan to sell the parcel to Toll Brothers for $4 million to develop 30 luxury condos on the site.
A request for proposals was sent out and five presentations were made for the site. The developers are being asked back to this afternoon's meeting. The bids came in between $3 million and $4.1 million. The parcel of land is zoned for multi-family housing. Density concerns, questions about the price of housing units and possible age restrictions are all factors being considered.
One of the bids is from Stephen Zemo, who purchased another parcel of the Schlumberger land. He proposed 14 condos with 32 units. Another Ridgefield developer, Sturges Brothers, came in with the lowest bid on a plan for about 20 single family homes. Quarry Park Properties of Ridgefield was the highest bid on a plan for 21 condos and 19 townhouses. Charter Group Partners of Brookfield proposed 59 condo units while Toll Brothers of Newtown proposed 23 townhouses and 17 condo units.
The final of the Sandy Ground playgrounds is now being built.
26 playgrounds in all are taking shape around the region, showcasing the likes and interests of each of the 20 children and 6 educators killed at Sandy Hook School. The Sandy Ground Project, an effort spearheaded by the Firefighters' Mutual Benevolent Association of New Jersey, have playgrounds in communities in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, linking the two tragedies that have a name in common.
The final playground is being dedicated to Principal Dawn Hochsprung. It's at Veterans Park in Watertown Connecticut. The ribbon will be cut this weekend.
Each playground takes about a week to build. They are all handicapped-accessible and have similar swings, slides, balance beams and monkey bars.
Danbury firefighters were called to solve an unusual problem early Tuesday morning at the Patriots Garage in Downtown Danbury. Deputy Fire Chief Bernie Meehan says it seems a raccoon was trapped on the upper deck of the garage and couldn't find its way out.
Meehan says the raccoon looked very healthy, probably about 30 pounds.
Firefighters used an animal snare, a leash-like item with a hook, to coax the raccoon down the stairs. The animal then ran off.
(Photo courtesy: Danbury Fire Department)
There are two confirmed cases of enterovirus from Danbury Hospital. Samples were sent to the CDC earlier this month for confirmation. Danbury Hospital Chief of Pediatric Pulmonology Dr Greg Dworkin says this is the time of year that you see respiratory viruses. Dworkin says both patients treated at Danbury Hospital have been released and recovered.
The CDC has confirmed three cases of enterovirus-68 from the Connecticut Children's Medical Center and seven at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.
Dworkin says there's 100 types of enterovirus, but they're not sure exactly which one was confirmed here. He notes that's because when people are admitted to the hospital, they don't need to know which strain specifically it is.
Dworkin says the virus typically runs its course in a few days, and doctors treat the wheezing as they would any asthma attack.
He says the testing was done to help track the spread.
Bethel residents will be voting on revisions to the town's Charter when they go to the polls on November 4th. There will be six questions on the ballot about the changes. The Bethel Action Committee is hosting a public forum tonight about the Charter revisions and what they see as a shift in the balance of power at the Bethel Municipal Center.
BAC Founder Billy Michael says there are a few proposals that give them concern.
One proposal would reduce the Board of Finance's ability to make line item cuts in the budget from the Board of Selectmen. Other proposed changes include increasing the Board of Selectmen from three to five members and also increasing the term of office for the Board from two years to four years.
During public hearings held by the Charter Revision Commission, a few people spoke against moving the Annual Town Budget Meeting to April from May. Some people also opposed increasing the threshhold for bonds and other appropriations requiring a town meeting. But the Commission says the dollar amounts are outdated.
Current and former local officials will offer their insight and respond to questions at this informal meeting. Tonight's public forum at the Senior Center cafeteria is at 7pm.
Police departments in several municipalities across the Greater Danbury area participated in the recently ended statewide anti-texting enforcement program. The “U Drive, U Text, U Pay” campaign was a three week crackdown. Aaron Swanson of the Traffic Safety Office at the Department of Transportation says more than 3,500 tickets were issued by state and local police.
The figure could be closer to 5,000 violations, once the final numbers are counted.
Swanson says drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get in a serious crash. The state received federal funding, which it passed down to local departments, to carry out the enforcement effort. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. Swanson says driving at 55-mph, that is the equivalent of traveling the length of an entire football field--blind.
The state received funding from the National Highway Safety Administration for the enforcement effort, which it granted to cities and towns.
Under Connecticut’s cell phone and texting law, violations involve heavy fines, ranging from $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second violation, and $500 for each subsequent violation.
Bethel will be holding a town meeting next month about a project to make improvements to the intersection of Walnut Hill Road and Hoyt Road. Preliminary design work has been completed.
Construction will be completed through the state Department of Transportation's Local road Accident Reduction Program. The reconstruction plans include drainage improvements, slope construction and stabilization , paving, curbing, new signage and restriping the road.
90-percent of the project cost will be covered by the Federal Highway Administration with the town picking up the 10-percent balance.
The information meeting will be held October 7th from 6 to 9pm in the Municipal Center.
Demolition has started on Danbury Hall at the Fairfield Hills campus in Newtown. The Newtown Bee reports that the workers started tearing down the building Monday morning. The project is intended to open the sightlines of the complex from Wasserman Way.
The project cost of $511,000 also covered hazardous materials abatement, but was originally supposed to also include demolition of 8 single-family former staff homes.
Additional funding was needed for asbestos removal, which changed the scope of the project.
A narrow margin of victory for the proposed Miller-Driscoll School renovation project in Wilton. Voting was done during a Special Town Meeting last week and also on Saturday. Registrars say the vote was 979 in favor and 952 opposed.
The $50 million price tag would cover the planning, design, construction, renovation, and furnishing of the Miller-Driscoll School. The project has the unanimous support of the Boards of Education, Finance and Selectmen.
There is some state reimbursement of about $6 million.
The Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials has held its final meeting. The organization was in existance for the past 37 years, but because of regionalization efforts in the state HVCEO is merging with the Southwestern Regional Planning Agency.
Mayor Mark Boughton says a committee of the Danbury City Council will be meeting about the merger on Monday night.
Boughton says it's sad to see HVCEO finished because it did a lot of good for the region through planning, emergency management and sharing of equipment.
The new group will meet once a month. New bylaws have been created. Boughton says there's been a lot compromises about where the headquarters will be, how many employees it will have and how to manage the organization. The headquarters, HVCEO is currently in Brookfield, will likely be further south. The most northern towns in the group are Sherman and New Milford, and they could have to travel as far as Darien or Stamford.
Three groups have been recognized for their environmental protection efforts. Connecticut Fund for the Environment and Save the Sound held their annual meeting at Ridgefield Library on Sunday. They presented awards to groups who have made extraordinary contributions to protecting the environment.
The Ridgefield Open Space Association was recognized for their support in protecting the Eureka lands. A decade-old lawsuit with developer Eureka V LLC is not being appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The town tried to take Eureka’s 153-acre Bennett’s Pond south parcel by eminent domain. A case is pending in the state Supreme Court about the density of plans for more than 300 units of affordable housing project on the south parcel, which includes 67 acres of reservoir watershed.
Westchester Community Foundation and Trust for Public Land were also recognized.
A grant has been awarded to the Women's Center of Greater Danbury for domestic violence programs and victim services. The Avon Foundation for Women has awarded a $20,000 one-year grant to the Women’s Center. The grant is part of the Avon Foundation for Women Speaks Out Against Domestic Violence program.
It is the first time that the Women’s Center has received this grant.
The Avon Foundation for Women launched Speak Out Against Domestic Violence in 2004 to support domestic violence awareness, education and prevention programs aimed at reducing domestic and gender violence, as well as direct services for victims and their families.
Women's Center CEO Pat Zachman says these funds will help them to continue providing a 24-7 emergency shelter and crisis services, counseling and community education programs free of charge throughout the greater Danbury area.
This summer brought good water quality to Candlewood Lake in terms of transparency and low algae counts. But the pesky Eurasian Milfoil was found once again in large quantities. Candlewood Lake will be lower once again this winter and is tentatively scheduled for a deep drawdown. The lowering is done in part to control the non-native invasive plant.
A thick mat of milfoil can clog boat propellers and tangle with swimmer's limbs.
Candlewood Lake Authority Executive Director Larry Marsicano says the water is dropped substantially, by as much as nine or ten feet, in hopes of a cooperative winter to kill the root crowns of the milfoil. He says snow pack, temperature, wind and length of exposure all have an impact on how much of the milfoil survives into the next summer.
Marsicano says the reason the alternate year is a shallow drawdown of about four feet, is to limit the damage to native plants near the shoreline. If native, non-invasive plants are near the shoreline, they could also be killed off by the freeze, which Marsicano calls an unintended consequence. The trade off is to have the shallow drawdown every other year.
The lake must be back at normal operating levels by mid-April in time for the fishing season.
The drawdown allows lake residents to repair their docks and the seawalls.
There's a new leader of the Good Samaritan Mission in Danbury.
Mark Grasso of Newtown has been appointed the executive director of the Good Samaritan Mission. Grasso has been with Catholic Charities in Bridgeport and Danbury for the past 12 years, most recently as vice president. He has extensive experience in mental health and homeless services, and has directed various programs for at-risk communities.
The Good Samaritan Mission was created by Jericho Partnership to provide in-depth, long-term transitional programs to homeless and other at-risk men. They run an overnight shelter and and long-term residence and counseling facilities on Maple Avenue.
Another swastika has been found at Wilton High School. In a letter to parents Friday, Principal Robert O'Donnell said it was found Tuesday etched into the paint of a boys bathroom stall on the third floor. Since the first swastika was found etched into a locker on September 4th, the common areas have been checked regularly.
Both the one found on the locker and the one in the bathroom were removed immediately.
O'Donnell says he is working with the student government to address the issue and the social studies department is developing curriculum to address the meaning and impact of the symbol. He is also reconnecting with the Anti Defamation League to discuss strategies to address the matter systematically.
When the letter circulated, students showed the Principal a third symbol carved into a first floor door, though officials say that one likely went unnoticed for years.
A 15-year old student, who was not named because of age, turned himself in for etching the first swastika into a locker.
O'Donnell said in his first letter to the community that symbols of hatred, racism and anti-semitism have no place in an environment of free of prejudice, cruelty and intolerance. In his latest communication, O'Donnell said when students make very poor choices that impact the school community, it's incumbent on educators and parents to teach students that this is unacceptable behavior that is hurtful to us all.