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Sandy Hook Promise Premieres Latest PSA 'Back-to-School Essentials'

NEWTOWN, Conn., Sept. 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Following one of the deadliest years on record for school violence in 2018, Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is debuting its latest PSA, "Back-to-School Essentials", a powerful and impactful video that highlights the anxiety and fear students face in the reality of school shootings. Since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook School almost seven years ago, reactive measures to gun violence such as active shooter drills and bulletproof backpacks have increased.

Many students fear that it's only a matter of when, not if, a shooting will erupt on their school campus. Subconsciously accepting shootings as regular occurrences has become the "new normal" at schools and public spaces across the country.

The PSA starts off as a cheery and often-familiar back-to-school ad but slowly unfolds to highlight students using everyday back-to-school items to survive a shooting, shedding light on the gruesome reality that students face.

As with its previous PSAs, including the award-winning " Evan " that was viewed over 100 million times and the Emmy-nominated " Point of View ", SHP reinforces that there are proven preventative solutions, including its Know the Signs programs. These programs teach students and adults to recognize warning signs and threats that often precede an act of violence or self-harm, along with the steps to properly intervene and get help before violence occurs.

In conjunction with the PSA, SHP also provides a downloadable brochure that highlights many of the warning signs to help students and adults recognize them when seen. This Know the Signs brochure is available at www.SandyHookPromise.org.

"So far this year there have been over 22 school shootings, and with students heading back to school, it seems sadly probable that we will see more incidents. This is unacceptable, given that we have proven tools to prevent these acts from occurring. We cannot accept school shootings as the new normal in our country. Our goal with this PSA is to wake up parents to the horrible reality that our children endure. Gone are the days of viewing back-to-school as just a carefree time, when school violence has become so prevalent. However, if we come together to know the signs, this doesn't have to be the case. I hope that parents across the country will join me to make the promise to stop this epidemic," said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting.

To date, more than 7.5 million people nationwide have been trained in Sandy Hook Promise's lifesaving Know the Signs programs that focus on gun violence prevention by training youth and adults how to identify at-risk behavior and intervene to get help before a tragedy can occur. Through these no-cost proven programs, Sandy Hook Promise has averted multiple school shooting plots, teen suicides, and countless other acts of violence.


Funeral services announced for men killed in wrong-way crash

Funeral services have been set for the Newtown man killed by a wrong-way driver on I-84 in Southbury over the weekend.  48-year old Diego Jimenez is survived by his wife, two daughters, mother and a brother.  Calling hours will be held at Honan Funeral Home in Newtown from 5pm to 8pm.  A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30am tomorrow at St Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown.  The motorist who crashed into the limo that Jimenez was driving, 46-year old David Hozer of Southbury, was also killed in the accident.  A memorial service was held yesterday in Southbury, with a private burial.


New Milford Public Works taking icing prevention measures

The New Milford Public Works Department is taking on ice prevention projects ahead of the winter season.  Many areas of town will be addressed over the coming months to assure water runoff is captured in proper drainage channels, and not flowing onto roadways.  Officials say this will not only keep drivers safe from icing issues, but should also help to preserve the quality of roads from the  freeze/thaw cycle and unnecessary water damage.  Public Works crews are adding a catch basin off roadways, along with perforated pipe and stone to collect any ground water that may affect the area during the rainy season.  New curbing is meant to help ensure all water will stay off the road and drain properly into the underlying stone.


Conn. woman killed in horse accident in Dover, NY

A horse accident has resulted in the death of a Connecticut woman.  New York State Police from the Dover Plains barracks responded to a family farm on Byrds Hill Road in Dover on Monday morning for a report of a female fallen off a horse.  Investigators determined that the horse reared for an unknown reason, and fell on top of the rider.  23-year old Samantha Calzone of Greenwich was pronounced dead at the scene.  Northern Dutchess Paramedics and the Dutchess County Medical Examiner’s Office also responded to the scene.


Putnam County temporarily suspends 2019/2020 School Tax Collection process

The Putnam County Commissioner of Finance has temporarily suspended the 2019/2020 School Tax Collection Process due to a file control error.  It caused Veterans Exemptions to exceed maximum limits, making the bills incorrect.  New tax bills will be mailed out this week and will be clearly marked 'Corrected Tax Bill' printed in yellow.  The vast majority of taxpayers will see a small reduction in their tax bill, while about 3,300 people receiving the affected exemptions will see a bill comparable to previous years.  Due to this error, the tax collection period will be extended.  First half partial payments will be due October 7th.  Full Pay payments without interest are due October 21st. Taxpayers who already paid will receive a refund if their school taxes were overpaid, or must pay the difference to the Local School Tax Collector if they are underpaid.


School shooting hoodies with bullet holes draw criticism

There's an uproar over a line of sweatshirts embroidered with names of schools where mass shootings have occurred.  The controversy is because the designs have holes that look like they came from bullets.  The names include Sandy Hook, Columbine and Virginia Tech.  Sandy Hook Promise denounced what they called the “offense and traumatic release” of the sweatshirts.  The organization's two founders, who each had a son killed on 12/14, called it repugnant and deeply upsetting.  The designer said they wanted to make a comment on the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention, while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes.  Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden said this is not about inspiring change to prevent these acts of violence.  They called for an immediate halt to production. 


Lamont says review of taxed, prepared foods under way

Bethel state Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan has signed onto a letter to the Department of Revenue Services Commissioner calling for a review of the policy guidance release last week on the meals tax.  He says the unilateral decision by the agency to expand the sales tax to additional food items is not consistent with the intent of the budget. 

Allie-Brennan says the budget assumed the definition of meals as enforced at the time by DRS.  He says while the guidance is an attempt to resolve some of the inequities in the current definition of meals, complete understanding of the real-world impact is necessary. 

Meanwhile Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano says lawmakers who voted for the budget need to clean up their mess in a Special Session.  He says they created the confusion and the public uproar over a damaging policy.  If they now regret their actions, Fasano added that they need to admit their mistakes and fix the legislation. 

He notes that it is not unprecedented.  The legislature returned in a special session in 2018 to restore funds for the Medicare Savings Program.

Gov. Ned Lamont says Connecticut's tax department "too broadly interpreted" a planned tax on prepared foods and will revisit which items should be taxed.  The Democrat said Tuesday his budget office and legislative Democrats, who crafted the final budget deal, only planned an extra 1% tax on items already subjected to the 6.35% sales tax, such as sandwiches and pizza sold at restaurants and many grocery stores.

Lamont hopes the revenue department can clarify things before the tax takes effect October 1. Republicans say a special session is needed to change the law.


Science experiment gone wrong prompts Bethel High School early dismissal

A science experiment sent Bethel High School students home early yesterday when the sprinkler system was set off.  The chemistry experiment led to a small fire, and the sprinklers flooded a handful of rooms shortly after 9:30am.  Classes at Bethel High School were dismissed around 10:45am.  All after-school sports and activities still scheduled took place in the afternoon.  Superintendent Dr Christine Carver says the rooms were professionally cleaned and classes are back on as normal today.  Carver says the experiment will be investigated as a personnel matter to determine whether it was an appropriate experiment.


Proposed short term renal regulations get hearing in New Fairfield

Proposals about short term rental regulations in New Fairfield were up for a public hearing last night.  The Zoning Commission is looking into an amendment allowing rentals of six or fewer days as long as a property owner obtains a zoning permit.  Rentals of at least seven days would not require a permit.  For short term rentals, the owner would have to pay 500-dollars every two years, hold a certificate of insurance and live on the same property, or an abutting one.  Current New Fairfield Zoning regulations only have a special permit detailed for bed and breakfasts.  The Zoning Commission's next meeting is set for October 2nd.


Bethel Public Works Director resigns after week of administrative leave

After being placed on administrative leave, Bethel's Public Works Director has resigned.  Doug Arndt held the position for nearly 5 years.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker has not commented on why Arndt was placed on leave, or why he volunteered to resign.  Knickerbocker told Hearst Media that it was time for a change for both Arndt and the town, but noted that he did a lot of good work overseeing various water projects and intersection realignments.  Assistant public works director and highway superintendent Bob Dibble is filling the role on an interim basis.  The job opening post says Bethel is seeking a director with a professional engineer license who has management experience.  Knickerbocker said in the published report that the new Director would focus on building maintenance and highway planning, as well as using technology to analyze how the town could save on vehicle costs.


Local businesses featured at annual "Discover Connecticut" reception in DC

The sixth annual “Discover Connecticut” reception, which will showcase more than 30 businesses based in Connecticut, is being held in Washington DC today by Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and the Connecticut State Society. 

Among the small-batch food producers, restaurants, breweries, tourist attractions, and other businesses featured are Bethel-based Noteworthy Chocolates and Candlewood Coffee Roasters and DiGrazia Vineyards, both from Brookfield.  The reception is expected to attract more than 300 guests, including Members of Congress, national retailers, and Connecticut residents. 

Blumenthal says the Discover Connecticut event is an opportunity to showcase some of the nation’s most inventive businesses and tourist attractions.  Whether they’re household names or local favorites, he says they create thousands of jobs, boost economic development and represent a sample of Connecticut’s diverse industries. Some of those household names are products like PEZ Candy, Newman’s Own, defense manufacturer Sikorsky and minor league baseball team the Hartford Yard Goats.


New Fairfield Selectmen, Finance to meet on school building proposals

A special New Fairfield Board of Finance meeting is being held tonight, followed by a special Board of Selectmen meeting. This follows a public hearing last night on proposed school building projects. A new high school would be constructed, along with a learning academy for some Consolidated students.  Other elementary students would move into an existing wing at Meeting House Hill School.  New Fairfield is applying for state reimbursement, which would bring the total cost to taxpayers for the projects to $79.9 million.  The Board of Finance meeting is at 6:30pm, the Selectmen's meeting starts at 7:30.


Brookfield, Bethel firefighters train together

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department Candlewood Company, along with the Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company, did a joint drill on Rapid Intervention Team techniques. They did various evolutions on freeing and extricating a down firefighter at the New Milford smoke tower. Both Brookfield and Stony Hill respond to each others district’s frequently for coverage during structural fires or other major emergencies.  Brookfield fire officials say the drill was a great way for both departments to refine and hone their skills together so they can stay ready for future incidents.


Danbury Mayor hires gubernatorial campaign manager for jobs at City Hall

There are some vacancies at Danbury City Hall, and a person filling the positions has drawn some criticism during this election season.  Republican incumbent Mayor Mark Boughton, who is seeking reelection in November, hired his gubernatorial campaign chairman.  Marc Dillon is being paid $75,000 to be community services coordinator and project excellence director.  The employees holding those positions left in August and this spring, respectively.  Democratic challenger Chris Setaro called the hire concerning and that it the impression that people of Danbury are paying for Boughton’s campaign.  Dillon previously was press secretary for the Connecticut General Assembly and chief of staff in Stratford.  The $45,000-per-year community services coordinator job was vacated by Austin Samuelson.  The  $120,000-per-year project excellence director job was vacated by Stephen Nocera.


Brookfield lawmaker speaks out about meals tax guidance

The state Department of Revenue Services guidance on the list of items considered prepared meals, which will be subject to a new higher sales tax, has a number of lawmakers speaking out.  Brookfield Representative Steve Harding says the previous 2-percent proposed grocery tax got well-deserved pushback, and was abandoned.  He cited comments from Governor Lamont during a February business gathering in Southbury that the idea was “one of the options discarded very early on.” 


Bethel Police highlight National Child Passenger Safety Week

This is National Child Passenger Safety Week.  Bethel Police are reminding people to get car seats checked or installed this Saturday at their clinic.  The event on the 21st, by Bethel Police Car Seat Technicians, is by appointment only.  They can be made through the department's website, Bethelpd.com.


Connecticut man gets probation for sex assault of child

MILFORD, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut man who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl a decade ago has avoided prison and instead been sentenced to 10 years of probation.

The Connecticut Post reports that a prosecutor said in court Monday during the sentencing of 51-year-old Gregory Bystryk that the now 15-year-old victim is ``content'' with the deal.

The Seymour man pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual assault in July. The assault occurred in June 2009, and was reported to police eight years later.

The victim told a social worker from the Department of Children and Families that Bystryk had sexually assaulted her when she was between 4 and 6 years old. Bystryk knew the girl.

Bystryk said in court that he was ashamed of himself and the assault should ``never have happened.''


Aquarion to clean water mains in Stony Hill section of Bethel

Aquarion Water Company will be cleaning water mains in Bethel’s Chimney Heights System through Friday.  Residents might notice some discoloration in the water, which results from the temporary disturbance of the water flow stirring up naturally occurring minerals that settle in water mains.  If water is discolored, Aquarion advices people to delay washing clothes until it is clear.  The cleaning schedule is 8am to 5pm daily.

The roads include:

Adams Drive
Apple Tree Road
Benedict Road
Brookview Court
Budd Drive
Buff Lane
Cedar Drive
Chimney Drive
Colonial Drive
Far Horizons Drive
Fox Den Road
Green Pasture Road
Hearthstone Drive
Hillcrest Road
Hilldale Lane
Hollyberry Drive
Meckauer Circle
North Hearthstone Drive
Oak Ridge Road
Old Field Drive
Old Hawleyville Road
Partridge Drive
Payne Road
Pondview Drive
Pound Sweet Hill
Quaker Ridge Road
Ridgedale Road
Rockwell Road
Sand Hill Road
Shelter Rock Road
Sky Edge Drive
Sky Edge Lane
Stony Hill Road /Route 6
Terrace Drive
Walnut Hill Road
Westview Drive
Wine Sap Run
Woodlawn Drive


Metro North improvements proposed in MTA's $51 billion Capital Improvement Plan

Metro North will get some upgrades as part of a proposed $51 billion investment plan by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.  Some $184 million worth of work on the Harlem line is planned.  Infrastructure work to improve reliability includes support of a future third track.  Work is underway to relocate and expand parking at Southeast Station to allow for future Brewster Yard expansion. Plans also call for building two new electrical substations and designing three more.

The proposed program advances New Haven Line access to Penn Station via four new stations in the Bronx, begins reconstruction of the Grand Central Terminal train shed and Park Avenue tunnel and viaduct, begins replacement of Metro-North’s fleet of M3 rail cars, improves stations, prepares for capacity improvements on the Harlem Line and Port Jervis Line.

Metro-North will add accessibility improvements at up to four stations, bringing wheelchair access to 78% of stations serving 93% of customers, renew stations on the Harlem Line in the Bronx and southern Westchester County, and make priority component repairs at stations on the upper Hudson Line and upper Harlem Line. This work will benefit 60% of customers.

Metro-North will pursue Phase 1 of the replacement of the 100+ year old Grand Central Terminal Trainshed and Park Avenue Tunnel and Viaduct used by more than 700 trains per day and 83% of customers, and build four new emergency exits.

Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi says the proposed replacement of the Park Avenue Viaduct is one of the most significant construction projects in the history of the MTA.


DOT seeks rail riders for Customer Advisory Panel

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is looking for public input as it develops the state’s next generation of rail cars.  The DOT is purchasing a fleet of new rail cars to replace its existing push-pull coaches operating on the Danbury branch, the Hartford Line, Shore Line East, and the Waterbury Line. 

To help in developing rail cars that are reliable, comfortable, and sustainable for the next 30 or more years, the Department is asking interested residents, who are current rail riders, to participate in a Customer Advisory Panel. One of the goals is to identify possible features and amenities desired in the state’s next generation of rail cars.

The Panel will include up to three representatives from the Americans with Disabilities Act advocacy community including persons with visual and mobility disabilities, the bicycle and pedestrian community, and a representative of the Connecticut Rail Council.  The Customer Advisory Panel also will include customers from each rail line.  These customers will be selected through an open lottery process. 

A survey has been placed online as well http://www.surveymonkey.com/r/newrailcars, and people can apply there for a position on the CAP.


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