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Local News Stories

Annual Christmas tree lighting in Newtown modified

The annual Christmas Tree lighting in Newtown will be held tonight, but it will be modified.  The tree at Rams Pasteure and Main Street will be lit before dark and there will not be a ceremony.  Newtown Residents are invited to drive by the illuminated tree from 5-10pm.  Hawley Road will be temporarily closed from 4:30 until 8pm, but all other roadways will remain open.  Police asked motorists to use caution when driving in the area, and enjoy the evening.  The Newtown Parks and Recreation Department, The Tree Lighting Committee and The Borough of Newtown will be lighting the luminary.


Newtown Legislative Council blocks proposed ban on carrying guns in town

The Newtown Legislative Council, in a split vote, has blocked a proposed ban on carrying guns in town.  The decision not to send the proposal to a review committee was made because the town can't preempt state law.  The Newtown Action Alliance proposed a ban on carrying guns on town property and at public demonstrations.  The organization said it was to prevent intimidation of teenagers at demonstrations, who have been active in protests since coming of age at the time of the Sandy Hook School shootings.  The Southbury-based Connecticut Citizens Defense League applauded the decsion of the Legislative Council.  There are routine demonstrations held outside the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters.  The proposal was modeled on firearms restriction ordinances at parks and other recreation spaces in Danbury, Ridgefield. and Bridgeport.


SCOTTY Fund's Winter's Eve Gala to be virtual

The SCOTTY Fund's Winter's Eve Gala and Auction of Trees will be virtual this year.  The event hosted by the Bethel-based organization raises money for children with life-threatening and critical illnesses.  It will take place virtually on December 5th.  After purchasing a ticket, participants will receive an email with a link to the Virtual Gala and Auction of Trees.  There are different ticket levels, including VICP, which the Scotty Fund says stands for Very Compassionate and Inspiring People. General Admission Kindness Ticket donation includes a link to view the Gala and bid on items.     


Bethel firefighters warn residents to keep Christmas tree hydrated

With Thanksgiving in the books, many are turning their attention to the December holiday season.  For many, that means getting a Christmas tree.  Bethel Fire & EMS are again holding a tree sale as a fundraiser for the department.  They're also offering a safety reminder for people who do get live trees.  Whether it's a pre-cut tree from the firehouse, or somewhere else, or picked fresh from a farm, Bethel firefighters say it’s important to cut a slice off the bottom of the tree to ensure it will take water once home in the stand.  Even if you cut down a tree freshly, you’ll want to make sure the base is fresh because a properly hydrated tree lessens the risk of fire.  Bethel Fire officials say a dry Christmas tree burns with more energy/intensity than a gallon of gasoline.


New Fairfield officials urge residents to prepare for winter weather

New Fairfield First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says they have learned from past storms, that it is not unrealistic for residents to be isolated and without power for an extended period of time.  As winter approaches, she urged everyone to plan ahead for the possibility of sheltering at home in the event of an extended power outage.  New Fairfield will not be able to provide shelter, congregate meals or showers for residents like in the past because of state guidance during the pandemic.  Anyone unable to provide a reliable source of heat should make arrangements to shelter with family or friends who may be unaffected by the emergency.  If that's the case though, Del Monaco says residents must wear masks, practice social distancing and stay in a separate area of the home if possible.


Redding contact tracers not getting cooperation from patients

Redding's contact tracer, a medical doctor, is experiencing a lack responsiveness from COVID-19 positive patients who they call.  First Selectman Julia Pemberton says any resident who is a patient, should provide answers and accurate answers.  She notes that otherwise they cannot trace potential contacts, and additional lives are needlessly placed at risk. Any information shared with the contact tracer is confidential. The identification of contacts is also confidential.

 


New Fairfield students to return to in person learning soon

New Fairfield students will return to in person learning soon.  In a letter to families, Superintendent Pat Cosentino said that pre-school through fifth-grade students will attend school in person full-time beginning Monday.  Students in grades 6-12 will be on a hybrid schedule through December 23rd.  The cohorts will alternate in-person schooling on Wednesdays.  The district moved to remote learning when, like many others in the area, they ran into staffing shortages due to teacher quarantines.  New Fairfield parents can opt to remain in distance learning through the New Year, but need to contact the nurse or principal at their child’s school.


Ridgefield High School cancels midterm exams

Ridgefield High School administrators have decided to cancel midterm exams.  In a letter to families, Principal Jacob Greenwood said they decided that high stakes exams are not in the best interests of students in this environment.  There have been a number of disruptions to the academic year at Ridgefield High School.  Greenwood says it's also challenging to administer these types of summative assessments in a hybrid environment and felt it would be better to regain some lost instructional time.  Ridgefield High School students are still in a hybrid model. 


Bethel on track to return to some in-person learning next week

Plans are moving ahead as scheduled in Bethel for students to return to in-person learning.  Superintendent Christine Carver says health officials determined it was safe for students to return to the buildings on Monday.  Students went to remote learning for two weeks due to staff shortages and community exposure of COVID-19.  Berry and Rockwell elementary school students will participate in full in-person learning while Johnson, middle and high school students will be on a hybrid schedule through to Christmas break.  Carver says this will maximize their ability to socially distance students.


Bethel COVID cases increase

Bethel's rate of new cases has risen over the past month from 12 per day per 100,000 population to over 53 in the last update.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the most significant single factor in these new cases is small get-togethers. He says some of the November surge may be related to Halloween activities.  Knickerbocker added that with many people traveling this past Thanksgiving weekend, health care professionals are bracing for an even bigger surge over the next few weeks.  He is asking the community to be extra diligent this holiday season.


Danbury bodega owners charged in alleged illegal gambling operation

Two Danbury men has been arrested for their role in an alleged illegal gambling operation. 

State Police charged 41-year old Nilo Espinal and 43-year old Cesar Vasquez illegal professional gambling, illegal possession of gambling devices and illegal operation of a gambling premises.  The State Police Organized Crime Task Force has been investigating multiple bodegas throughout Connecticut operating under the organized direction of several individuals. 

The arrests were made late last month, though search warrants were executed at Torres Grocery on Wildman Street and Pollas Supermarket on Main Street in February.  Troopers had a confidential informant complete a number of controlled gambling wagers. 

The pair were released on bond for appearances in Danbury Superior Court on January 5th. 

During the search of Torres Grocery, police found more than $74,000 in cash rubber banded together with names and amounts written on torn pieces of paper--“pay-outs” from winnings.  According to the arrest warrant, Espinal told police the money for was a program he initiated with residents who frequent his store.  From Pollas Supermarket, police seized a shotgun, multiple passports, ledgers documenting what is believed to be evidence of loan sharking and $192,476 in US currency.


New Milford holding three pop up COVID-19 test events

New Milford will be holding three pop up COVID-19 test events this week and next.  The first session is tomorrow at New Milford High School from 3pm to 7pm.  The next will be held on Friday at the Pettibone Community Center from 1pm to 4pm.  There will also be a test event on Monday at Pettibone from 9am to noon.  The state is conducting the testing and it's being done on a first come, first served basis.  New Milford Emergency Operations Director Jim Ferlow says the limit for the high school testing will be between 200 and 225 tests.  At the town Pettibone sessions, they'll be able to test between 100 and 115 patients.

 


Danbury Health Department receives grant to hire part time help

The Danbury Department of Public Health has been stressed by COVID-19 case work.  But the Acting Director applied for and has been awarded grant funding to bulk up the staff.  There are temporary part time employees helping out with contact tracing, vaccinations and other work.  There is also a volunteer pool the department can tap.  Danbury is still looking to hire more part time contact tracers.  That information can be found on the City's website.


Redding records more COVID-19 cases in Oct. and Nov. than the previous 8 months combined

COVID-19 cases in Redding are now increasing at a rate that First Selectman Julia Pemberton says is of great concern.  Through September 1st, Redding's total cases numbered 80. In the month of November alone the town had 67 new cases.  In two months, Redding has had more cases than the prior 8 months combined. Statewide and locally, testing over the holiday was significantly reduced and Pemberton says new reported cases are likely suppressed. In the coming week, as testing increases again, she anticipates continued jumps in cases.


Danbury Police raise $3500 to help cancer patients

The Danbury Police Department is thanking community members who donated to the "No Shave November" event hosted by Circle of Care. Police Departments across Connecticut raised nearly $30,000 which they say will make a huge difference in the lives of families facing a pediatric cancer diagnosis.  The Danbury team raised more than 35-hundred dollars toward that effort.


Collapsed drain pipe causes problem at Monroe road construction site

A road construction project in Monroe is causing some concerns.  First Selectman Ken Kellogg says town officials were onsite inspecting Pepper Street yesterday.  There was a collapse of a drainage pipe, which is being addressed.  He's been working with the Town's contractor in preparation for the winter shutdown and learned that the status of the road is because of the work being done by contractors of the utility companies, not the Town. 


Hearing to be held on proposed medical marijuana dispensary, Shake Shack drive thru

The Danbury Planning Commission is slated to take up two big items at their meeting tonight. 

One is an application for special exception to put a Medical Marijuana Dispensing Facility on the City's Westside.  The other is a revised site plan for a previously approved Shake Shack, which could allow for a drive thru pick up window. 

Attorney Tom Beecher said at the time of the first approval that this restaurant and another would break up the landscape of a parking lot.  He said it could also improve stormwater flows in an area which routinely floods. 

The owners of the D&B Wellness/Compassionate Care Center in Bethel, which opened six years ago, is looking to relocate to 105 Mill Plain Road, a former bank building which most recently was a yoga studio.  D&B Wellness has reportedly outgrown their Garella Road location in Bethel, Fairfield County’s first medical marijuana dispensary. 

Tonight's Danbury Planning Commission meeting is virtual and starts at 7:30pm.


Brookfield seeks volunteers with medical backgrounds to administer COVID-19 vaccines

The Brookfield Health Department  is seeking licensed active and retired nurses, other healthcare providers and EMTs qualified to give injections who would be willing to volunteer their services in providing vaccinations against COVID-19.  The task force is planning the first groups of people to receive the vaccine--those would be the Critical Work force and those at high risk for contracting the disease. Vaccinations could start as early as the end of this month and extend into Spring.  Anyone who can volunteer the needed services is asked to call the Brookfield Health Department.


Virtual COVID-19 Task Force presentation planned in Ridgefield

A virtual COVID-19 Task Force presentation is planned in Ridgefield.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says all residents are invited to hear a town update on Thursday, at 7pm.  The presentation will include data up to 4pm that day. Remarks will be made by Task Force members which include scientists, doctors, communications specialists as well as Town Health Director Ed Briggs, School Superintendent Susie Da Silva and Marconi. Questions may be sent in advance or during the presentation to: pio@ridgefieldct.org.  Once residents register, they will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Zoom webinar.


UNIT helping to relocate homeless couple found living in tent on city property

Responding to a concern of a tent and possible homeless persons living on Danbury city property, the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team visited the location. Initially, the person was not there, but he was located nearby.  UNIT said in a report to the City Council Tuesday that the man and his significant other are homeless, and learned they can often be found panhandling off of exit ramps and shopping plazas.  UNIT says they have been ticketed for those actions in the past.  Director Shawn Stillman has been working to get them housed in Super 8, which has been acting as the City's homeless shelter since the pandemic hit in March. In the meantime, the couple was advised to clean the area where they are living, and they did, but will be expected to leave the property soon.


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