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Local News Stories

New Milford schools will have to move forward with budget cuts

The New Milford Town Council has decided that the addition $433,000 in state funding headed to New Milford will not prevent planned school budget cuts.  The Board of Ed will have to trim $600,000 to make up a shortfall between their requested funds and the budget approved by voters.  The local budget is higher than the current year's funding.  The additional Education Cost Sharing money could be put into the school capital reserve fund, for capital projects.  The Fund is not for operating expenses.  The Board of Ed is expecting a surplus, so some of the cuts could be reinstated.


Lamont signs family medical leave legislation into law

Connecticut is on track to have a paid family medical leave system in place by 2022.

Advocates and state lawmakers cheered as Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation Tuesday that provides most workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member, a new child or their own serious health condition.

The program, which begins January 1, 2022, will also cover medical leave needed for organ or bone marrow donations or a qualifying event arising from a family member on active duty.

The weekly benefit will be capped at 60 times the minimum wage or $780 on a $13 minimum wage. It will be $900 when Connecticut's $15-an-hour minimum wage takes effect in 2023.

The program will be funded with a 0.5% payroll tax.

Senator Julie Kushner, co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, said, “I’ve represented working families for more than forty years – I truly understand what a difference this program will make in so many lives. Working families will be able to pay their rent while on bonding leave with a newborn child.  A worker won’t have to fear losing her job, just because she suffered a serious injury. If your is parent ill and needs your help, you can be there without worrying about how to pay your bills. We have done a great thing in passing one of the very best paid family and medical leave programs in the country. It will be good for working families. It will provide peace of mind to those caring for sick loved ones. And, it will strengthen our state’s economy, providing income at a time when people need it most. I couldn’t be prouder to have worked to pass this vital piece of legislation.”


Connecticut employees will be able to use paid family and medical leave for five reasons:
1.      Care for a new child (birth, adoption, foster)
2.      Care for family member with serious health condition
3.      Care for own serious health condition
4.      Qualifying exigency arising out of family member being on active duty
5.      To serve as an organ or bone marrow donor

New York, Washington state, and Massachusetts allow reasons one through four. Connecticut will be the only state in the country to allow for paid leave due to donating bone marrow or an organ.

Definition of Family Member:
·         Child
·         Parent
·         Spouse
·         Domestic partner
·         Grandparent
·         Grandchild
·         Individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships

In Connecticut, paid leave will apply to private sector employers with one or more employees. Self-employed employees and sole-proprietors have the ability to opt-in to the program. In addition, non-union state and local government employees are covered. Unionized public workers will have the ability to collectively bargain and become covered.


Affordable housing item on state Bond Commission agenda

The state Bond Commission will be meeting today.  One of the items on their agenda is to allocate money for various housing projects.  A grant-in-aid request will be considered for Kent Affordable Housing  to assist with construction of three affordable housing units on Maple Street Extension in Kent.  The total estimated cost is about $.37 million, with $779,000 being bonded.  The Recipient is setting aside $594,000 for the work.  The Bond Commission meeting is 10:30am.


Board of Regents signs off on degree option suspension at WCSU

The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education has reviewed spending plans for the four Connecticut State Universities, the community colleges and Charter Oak.  The plans for WestConn, Eastern, Central and Southern would have resulted in deficits of $7.5 million.  For the community colleges, that figure was $19.6 million. 

The  shortfalls were the result of increases in salary costs because of the union agreement and increases in fringe benefits.  The increases were not fully offset by the increase in state budget funding for the coming year.  The spending plans were accepted by the board, on the condition that reserve funds at the community colleges be limited to $8 million.

The Board has signed off on a program change at Western Connecticut State University.  The Board approved the suspension of the Earth and Planetary degree option within the Secondary Education program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree at West Conn. 

The suspension will be in place until the Spring Semester of 2021.


Gov. signs bill about maple syrup and honey production

The state Department of Agriculture will retain the regulation of maple syrup and honey production.  The bill signed by the Governor this week was cosponsored by New Milford Senator Craig Miner.  The bill removes maple syrup and honey products from cottage foods industry and results in a General Fund revenue loss of $200 per year.  Currently, there are four maple syrup and honey producers that pay a licensing fee of $50 per year.  This bill also transfers enforcement of maple syrup and honey labeling from the Department of Consumer Protection to the Department of Agriculture.  The agency will continue to levy fines similar to current practice in DCP, resulting in no change in revenue from these fines.


Funeral services announced for pair killed in Newtown crash

Funeral services have been set for the two young Newtown men killed in a car accident on Sunday.  A combined memorial service will be held Friday for 20-year old Elliot Gregory and 19-year old Philip Zuvanich at Gallagher & Son Community Funeral Home in Monroe. Visiting hours are 3pm to 7pm.  The service is at 6:30pm.  The pair were the only occupants of a vehicle that left the roadway in Newtown around 2am Sunday and went down a heavily wooded ravine. 


Bridgewater man charged for April Roxbury motorcycle crash

State Police have charged a Bridgewater man for a Roxbury accident that happened in April.  Police charged 21-year old Cole Patrick with DUI, failure to drive in the proper lane, assault with a motor vehicle and two counts of misuse of limited motorcycle endorsements.  The motorcycle crash on Good Hill Road on the evening of April 19th  happened when Patrick reportedly lost control of his motorcycle on a sharp curve near Bacon Road.  He sustained non-life threatening injuries.  His passenger, a 19-year old Watertown resident was ejected from the bike and sustained serious injuries.  Neither were wearing helmets.  He is due in court on July 2nd.


Hubbell to close Newtown manufacturing plant

An electrical components factory in Newtown is closing this year.  The Hubbell plant, which employs 140 people, is the largest of the Shelton-based company's facilities in Connecticut.  The closure will happen over the next six months and most of the work will move to Puerto Rico. 

Hubbell earlier announced the Bethel closure as part of an ongoing operational efficiency initiative.  The plant in Bethel employs 54.  That work is moving to Alabama.   Hubbell will continue to employ more than 650 employees in Connecticut. 

Harvey Hubbell, a pioneer in electrical components including the light socket, founded the company in 1888.  It's not related to the Hubble Telescope, which was built in Connecticut by Perkin-Elmer at a plant now owned by Collins Aerospace, part of UTC.


Schaghticoke faction applies for federal recognition

Another faction of the Kent-based Schaghticokes is trying to gain federal recognition.  Chief Alan Russell is filing an updated federal petition next month on behalf of the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe.  The group has a 400 acre reservation. 

He told the Connecticut Post that they have land claims to more than 2,000 acres in Kent, including where the Kent School and Bulls Bridge Hydroelectric Plant are currently located. 

The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation faction won federal recognition, but it was revoked shortly afterward, in 2005.  Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky said in the published report that all Russell's group did was copy their petition. 

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs released new rules in 2015 meaning if a tribe fails to gain federal recognition, it cannot try again.   Russell said the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe withheld boxes of historical and genealogical documents from the Velky faction.


Himes calls for Trump impeachment inquiry, delegation's 1st

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes has become Connecticut's first member of Congress to call for an impeachment inquiry into Republican President Trump.

Himes, serving his sixth term, said Monday the president has "shown contempt for the truth, has attacked our institutions, and has ignored the Constitution he swore to defend."  He added that Trump has refused the oversight which is Congress’ long-established right and duty.


Himes acknowledges the politics of impeachment "are messy and uncertain" and might benefit Trump politically in the short run. But the lawmaker, whose district includes Greenwich, where Trump once owned a home, says this is the moment for "clarity and conviction" rather than political expediency.

Himes says he's not pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told Connecticut Democrats on Friday the House Democrats' plan was to "legislate, investigate, litigate."  Pelosi has been under increasing pressure to move forward with impeachment.

Himes, whose district also includes Ridgefield, says most Americans sense the danger and have reacted, most recently by electing a House of Representatives with the power and desire to check this President.  

He notes that opening an impeachment inquiry is not removal of the President.  Himes says impeachment, along with the right to declare war, is the most awesome power of Congress.


Police: Man wanted in stabbings fatally shot in Texas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Police say a Connecticut man accused in the fatal stabbing of a Nashville man and the wounding of his wife has been fatally shot in Texas after stabbing a deputy there.

Texas Highway Patrol Sgt. Oscar Villarreal says 34-year-old Peter Alexander Bohning of Kent, Connecticut, was shot Monday morning during an altercation with authorities in Gaines County, Texas. A deputy there was stabbed and taken to a Lubbock hospital.

A Tennessee arrest warrant accuses Bohning, of murder and attempted murder in an attack Friday on Donald and Leigh Ann Zirkle in Nashville.


Brookfield Water Pollution Control Authority moves out of Town Hall

The Brookfield Water Pollution Control Authority has been awarded two state study grants, totalling $330,000.  One is for a comprehensive, forward-looking Facilities Plan, required by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  The other is to study creative approaches to intercepting septic flow from Brookfield properties into Candlewood Lake. Brookfield’s system has 33 miles of sewer infrastructure servicing commerce along Federal Road, all the schools, and many condo complexes. Fourteen pump stations collect wastewater and pump it to Danbury for treatment.  The Authority's office has moved from Brookfield Town Hall to a new Operations Center at 53A Commerce Road.


Danbury man arrested on drug charges following routine traffic stop in Wilton

A Danbury man has been arrested on drug related charges following a routine traffic stop.  Wilton Police say a car crossed the white painted line on Danbury Road shortly before 1:30am last Wednesday.  Police could smell marijuana in Andre Ward's vehicle and a search turned up less than an ounce of pot packaged in 14 smaller bags.  Police also found 19 empty individual bags, an electronic cigarette containing THC, 3 previously smoked “joints”, a stone smoking bowl, rolling papers and a fraudulent Connecticut handicap placard.  Ward had a suspended license and no insurance.  He is due in court on July 1st.


Cause of death determined for two men killed in Newtown crash

Sunday's early morning accident in Newtown remains under investigation.  The Chief Medical Examiner's Office say the 19 and 20 year old died from blunt impact injuries.  Newtown Police say the victims' SUV went off the westbound shoulder of Route 34 into a 100-foot-deep, heavily wooded ravine.  Police did not say who was the driver and who was the passenger.  Funeral arrangements for Philip Zuvanich and Elliot Gregory have not yet been announced.


State Senator to host constituent meeting in Ridgefield

Freshman State Senator Will Haskell is hosting an end of session town hall in Ridgefield tonight.  He plans to discuss accomplishments of this past legislative session and the work that still needs to be done.  Haskell also wants to hear perspectives and opinions of constituents on these issues.  The town hall meeting will be held at Ridgefield Library from 6pm to 7:30pm.


Bill banning pets from puppy mills fails this legislative session

A bill that would prohibit Connecticut pet shops from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits originating from puppy mills and other cruel commercial breeding facilities stalled in the State House this legislative session.  Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says he'll continue the fight to end the puppy-mill-to-pet-store pipeline next session.  Meanwhile Rhode Island's House of  Representatives has approved a bill to ban the sale of dogs and cats not from animal shelters.  Allie-Brennan says Connecticut lags behind as other states make moves to ban the sale of inhumanely bred animals.


Kent man accused of murder shot by Texas authorities

The man accused in the fatal stabbing of a Nashville man and the wounding of his wife has been shot by law enforcement in Texas. Arrest warrants issued Saturday charged 34-year-old Peter Alexander Bohning in Friday's attack. 

He fled in their vehicle, leaving his parked on the street.  Gaines County Police say a deputy encountered Bohning while answering a suspicious vehicle call.  That vehicle was the victims' car.  A Gaines County deputy was stabbed during the altercation and the injuries are reportedly not life-threatening.

Metropolitan Nashville Police said in a news release that Donald Zirkle died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and his wife was seriously wounded. Police say the couple was sitting on their back porch and did not know the attacker.


Bills sponsored by Greater Danbury area lawmakers signed into law

Connecticut's governor has signed legislation banning use of the so-called "gay or trans panic" defense in criminal cases.  The controversial legal strategy seeks to use a victim's sexual orientation or identity as justification for a violent crime. 

Lamont made note of the 1998 death of Matthew Shepard, the college student who was beaten to death by two men in Wyoming. Defense attorneys unsuccessfully attempted to use the gay panic defense and those men were convicted.  Rhode Island banned the defense last year. Massachusetts congressmen are trying to ban it in federal court.  Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan called the defense a mockery of the judicial system and says it's based on hatred, discrimination, and homophobia.  He advocated for the bill's passage during the legislative session.

Governor Lamont has signed a bill into law co-sponsored by New Milford Representative Bill Buckbee. Under the measure. the Board of Regents for Higher Education must look into creating computer programming courses related to the controlled environment agricultural industry and the construction of highly technical greenhouses at the regional community-technical colleges.

A bill has been signed into law which was co-sponsored by Danbury state Senator Julie Kushner.  It allows continuing medical education in risk management to include screening for inflammatory breast cancer and gastrointestinal cancers, including colon, gastric, and pancreatic cancers and other rare gastrointestinal tumors.

Danbury Representative Bob Gofrey co-sponsored a bill which has now been signed into law by the Governor.  The measure requires the Labor Department and the Board of Regents for Higher Education to jointly establish nontraditional pathways to earning a bachelor's degree through apprenticeships.


Firefighters in New Milford prepare for delivery of new ladder truck

Water Witch Hose Company #2 firefighters in New Milford spent the morning yesterday completing a Ladder Tactics and Operations class in preparation for the delivery of their new Pierce Tower Ladder.  The $1.3 million vehicle was acquired through a FEMA grant and contribution from the taxpayers of New Milford.  Brookfield and Kent Fire Departments shared their trucks as part of the training.  Later this week, members of the Water Witch design committee will be traveling out to the Pierce plant in Wisconsin to go over some final details and inspect the truck before it gets delivered to a dealer in New York to have tools and equipment mounted.


Fire reported Thursday at Days Inn in Ridgefield

There was a fire late Thursday night at the Days Inn on Ethan Allen Highway in Ridgefield.  The West Redding Fire Department along with Redding Fire & EMS responded to the automatic alarm shortly before 11pm.  While en route, dispatch notified firefighters that the sprinkler system at the property was activated.  The fire was contained to a single hotel room.  Georgetown and Ridgefield fire departments provided mutual aid.  There were no injuries reported.  The West Redding fire marshals office is conducting the investigation and the cause is still undetermined at this time.


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