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Some new outdoor dining permits in Danbury will end next month

Some of the outdoor dining areas approved in Danbury as part of the Governor's Executive Orders will be legalized for use in future years.  Danbury Zoning Enforcement Officer Sean Hearty says the order waived a number of requirements, including parking and set backs, so some of the patios will not be allowed to stay.  Those businesses will be transitioned back to indoor only. 

Hearty says the rug won't be pulled out from under them when the Executive Order expires in September. 

The Danbury Health, Planning and Building departments worked with the Fire Marshal's Office to get the existing outdoor permits and the new dining options open as quickly and safely as possible. Hearty credited all city employees for working efficiently together on the opening of temporary outdoor spaces. 

He says the biggest issue now is making sure these facilities turn down the noise late at night, and his staff is working with the police department on that front.


Two vehicles reported stolen from Brewster Ford

Two vehicles were stolen from Brewster Ford last month.  New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation is currently investigating the complaint from the Route 22 dealership.  The vehicles stolen were taken from the sales lot between July 18th and July 28th.   One is a white 2019 Ford F-350, 4x4, Crew Cab.  The other is a Silver 2020 F-250, 4x4, Super Cab. Anyone with information about the possible location of these vehicles or the persons responsible is asked to contact New York State Police at (845) 677-7300 and refer to case number 9731188.


Putnam County Sheriff to request Body Cameras as part of 2021 budget

Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley will be presenting a request for Body Cameras as part of the 2021 budget. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Department is seeking to implement Axon Body Cameras next year. Axon is recognized by law enforcement agencies as the leader in the industry providing the best equipment to capture every detail frame by frame.  Langley says having these body cameras will result in enhanced public trust, improved quality of evidence and the reduction in the number of false complaints. The Sheriff’s Department has been using cameras in all the patrol cars for more than 20 years.  Langley says this has increased documented evidence to aid in prosecution as well as decrease frivolous complaints. 


Police identify two people killed in Housatonic River car accident

Police have identified the two people who died after their car crashed into the Housatonic River.  The accident happened late Friday afternoon off Roosevelt Drive in Seymour.  Police identified the victims as 54-year-old Connie Crowell and her 22-year-old son, John Crowell, both of Monroe.  Police say the pair were rescued from the car after the fire department used a winch to drag the SUV closer to shore.  Resuscitation efforts at the scene were unsuccessful and they were both pronounced dead.  Firefighters commandeered a resident’s boat while other members entered the water in life jackets and rescue suits.  The response came from many jurisdictions because it was a large, complex scene.  The investigation is ongoing.


Danbury schools to open with hybrid model this fall

The Danbury School District will have a hybrid reopening in the fall.  About half of the student population will be in the buildings Mondays and Tuesdays, a cleaning day Wednesday and the other half in classrooms on Thursday and Fridays.  There will be distance learning on days when students aren't in the buildings.  The announcement followed a car rally in Danbury by teachers calling for more state funding to ensure a safe reopening.  Governor Lamont has acknowledged that even though a full reopening was the goal, it's not possible for some schools.  The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, had local chapters across the state host car parades for school safety, including one that ended at the governor’s house.


Greater Danbury braces for possible impact from Tropical Storm

Heavy rain and strong winds are probable for the Greater Danbury area late tonight and tomorrow as a Tropical Storm passes through early Wednesday. 

Ridgefield could expect 45 to 50 miles per hour steady winds with gusts between 50 and 60.  Emergency Manager Dick Aarons says historically, Connecticut sees greater tree and wire damage when winds come from the south rather than the north and northwest as is the case with nor’easters and offshore tropical storms. 

Aarons advises businesses and residents to remove or stabilize tents and secure outdoor furniture and unanchored equipment that could become dangerous missiles in strong winds.  He says Eversource has already warned that its restoration times may be slower than usual because of pandemic precautions.  

New Fairfield officials are also monitoring the track and forecast.  Residents are urged to make sure to have enough non-perishable food, drinking water and prescription medicines to last through an extended power outage-- in addition to supplies such as flashlights and batteries.

Although the scenario is unlikely at this point, New Fairfield officials are advising that the Town's sheltering capability will be limited due to the ongoing pandemic.


GOP congressional candidates pitch anti-socialist message

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — With the state’s Aug. 11 primary fast approaching, some Republican congressional candidates have been bucking conventional wisdom it will be difficult to run in Democratic-leaning Connecticut on an outspoken conservative message this November. Instead, they argue that they’re resonating with a large number of silent voters concerned by what they see as efforts to move the country drastically to the far political left.

They’ve often used words like “socialist,” “radical” or “leftist” in their campaigns to describe Democratic policies and the political positions of the five incumbent Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all of whom are all seeking re-election.

Jonathan Riddle, the endorsed Republican in the 4th Congressional District who doesn’t face a primary challenge, recently accused four-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Himes on Twitter of being a “Marxist in sheep’s clothing bent on supporting the Socialist agenda of Nancy Pelosi, AOC, and their far leftist squad,” a reference to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and three other freshman members of Congress.

A message was left seeking comment with Himes’ campaign about the tweets.

James Griffin, a candidate in the 1st District primary who left the Democratic Party and became a Republican in 2017, has gone further and accused those he considers to be establishment Democrats of supporting communism, not just socialism.

“I can see that my old party Dems, they’re trying to make this country a communist country. And if you’re not awake, you don’t see that,” said Griffin. He contends the “Democratic bureaucracy” in Washington “has progressively moved the country to a chaotic state which is ripe for taking by communist control.”

Republican President Donald Trump has accused Washington Democrats of having a “socialist” agenda, promising during his 2019 State of the Union address to “renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” Yet, Trump, who lost Connecticut in the 2016 presidential election, is not very popular in the state. A May 6 survey conducted by Quinnipiac University showed 36% of registered voters approved of the job he was doing, while 61% percent disapproved. When asked about how he was handling the coronavirus, the results were the same.

While Democrats control all five House seats, both Senate seats, the legislature and all state constitutional offices, including governor, many municipalities are controlled by Republicans and the GOP has made inroads in places like eastern Connecticut, where there are more blue-collar Republicans who support Trump.

Mary Fay, a financial services senior executive who was endorsed by the state’s Republican party in the 1st District primary, has billed herself as a moderate who stands the best chance of defeating Democratic U.S. Rep. John Larson in November. A member of the town council in West Hartford, a Democratic stronghold, Fay acknowledged she is concerned about the “squad” and the factions she believes support socialist policies in the U.S. However, Fay said she votes with the Democrats on the council when she believes it makes sense and opposes them when it doesn’t, an approach she’d like to bring to Washington, D.C.

“I can’t accuse every Democrat of being a communist,” she said with a laugh. “It’s an issue, I just don’t know that campaigning on that is a winning strategy because it just sounds so crazy. Right? So, we’ve got to unite and pull the country together. And I believe leading in the middle is where most people are now.”

Justin Anderson, who is challenging endorsed candidate Thomas Gilmer for the Republican nomination in the 2nd District race, said he believes Trump and his policies are more popular in the state than the polling shows.

Anderson, a retired correctional officer and a Connecticut Army National Guard veteran who served two combat tours in Afghanistan, said voters tell him they’re concerned about what they consider a move toward socialism in Washington. He said they’re also worried about calls to defund police and other issues, but they’re reticent to express their concerns, as well as any support for Trump, because it’s not welcome in Connecticut.

While Anderson said he’s been told by some Republicans he can’t defeat Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, he contends he’s well known in military circles and believes there’s support for his message that the party doesn’t see.

“Eastern Connecticut is going to quietly pull the lever for Trump and go down the line,” predicted Anderson, who quit his federal job as a state intelligence operations specialist to run for the chance to challenge Courtney in November.

“That was a huge decision to walk away from this job. That’s not something you take lightly,” Anderson said. “That’s not something I would do if I didn’t honestly believe I could win.”


Ridgefield Responds Residential Rent Assistance Program ends today

The Ridgefield Responds Residential Rent Assistance Program will end today. The program was put into place in early April in order to help those financially impacted by COVID-19 who needed assistance with residential rental payments.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says he and others heard from many people that this program has been like a lifeline during this very difficult period.  Marconi says the town is grateful to the generous donors who provided the funds to make this program possible.  Those who still need assistance should contact Ridgefield Social Services at (203) 431-2777 to find out about all the available programs.


PUSH to increase participation in the 2020 Census is on

The PUSH to increase participation in the 2020 Census is on.  A regional challenge is underway this week to see which county and major city can generate the greater self-response rate of residents to the 2020 Census.  A Census Mobile Questionnaire Assistance event is being held in Danbury this afternoon at New Hope Baptist Church.  Census takers will begin a soft launch of Census Non-Response Follow-Up operations in Fairfield and Litchfield Counties today, ahead of the August 11th official kick off.  This is the first time that the 10 year population count can be filled out online.  The event at New Hope Baptist Church is from noon to 3pm.  Residents may still self-respond to the 2020 Census until October 31.


Federal inmates settle lawsuit over coronavirus precautions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Federal inmates in Connecticut have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing prison officials of not doing enough to protect them from the coronavirus, including transferring vulnerable prisoners to home confinement.

Notice of the agreement involving inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury was filed in U.S. District Court in Hartford on Monday and must be approved by a judge.

The settlement calls for the Bureau of Prisons to promptly identify inmates who are medically vulnerable to the coronavirus and release them to home confinement, said David Golub, a lawyer for the prisoners, who also were represented by the Quinnipiac and Yale law schools.

The lawsuit was filed in April, at the height of the pandemic in Connecticut, by four inmates, including three women and a man, claiming prison officials were not taking seriously a directive by Attorney General William Bar to maximize transfers to home confinement. The suit sought to protect all medically vulnerable inmates.

Since the pandemic began, 89 inmates and 61 staff at Danbury have recovered from the virus, and one inmate died, according to the Bureau of Prisons. As of Tuesday, one staff member was infected, but no inmates were infected. The prison houses about 1,000 inmates.

“We are gravely concerned about the well-being of people incarcerated at FCI Danbury during this pandemic,” said Quinnipiac law professor Sarah Russell, who also represented the inmates. “We are hopeful that the process set forth in the agreement will mean more medically vulnerable people will soon be safely home with their families.”

In May, U.S. District Judge Michael Shea ruled prison officials were not moving fast enough to protect inmates and ordered them to implement a process to move as many prisoners as possible to home confinement.

About 400 prisoners in Danbury have been identified as medically vulnerable as part of that process, including many who have since been released to home confinement or community placement, Russell said.

In a statement, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham commended the Bureau of Prisons and Danbury prison staff for containing the outbreak and said the settlement preserves coronavirus protections already in place at the prison.

Last week, a federal judge approved a settlement of a similar lawsuit filed by inmates in Connecticut state prisons.


DOT proposes Route 39 expansion by Danbury High School

The state Department of Transportation will be holding an informational hearing tonight about a proposed expansion of Route 39 in Danbury.  The intersection improvements to Clapboard Ridge Road will be made at Beckerle Street and East Gate Road, to address left-turns during peak hours. 

The public comment period is open through August 12th. 

The informational meeting at 7pm via Microsoft Teams, and will include a live Question and Answer session.  The live event will be recorded and posted for viewing during the comment period.  A written Report of Meeting will be posted following the event that captures the Q&A session, including responses to the questions by the design team.

The DOT issued a certificate to the City in 2016, agreeing to make operational and safety improvements along Route 39 if the proposed expansion to Danbury High School was completed.  The crash histories for these intersections show a pattern of rear end collisions.

The proposed improvements include minor widening of Route 39 to allow for the addition of exclusive left-turn lanes on the southbound approaches. This work will require minor modifications to the existing drainage system. The widening also impacts multiple driveways which will require reconstruction. Route 39 will be resurfaced by milling 3” and paving 3” and the traffic signals at both intersections will be replaced or modified for the new intersection configurations.

This project also proposes tree clearing to address substandard sightlines. There are right-of-way impacts four properties, which will require easements: two sightline easements (including tree clearing), one slope easement, and an easement for traffic appurtenances.

The estimated construction cost for this project is approximately $ 4.1 million. This project is anticipated to be undertaken with 80 percent Federal Funds and 20 percent State funds.


Ridgefield Library, League of Women Voters to host voting webinar

The League of Women Voters of Ridgefield is co hosting a virtual discussion tonight about the upcoming primaries. The League typically holds in person voter information session sessions in advance of primaries and general elections, but with the restrictions on crowd sizes, tonight’s event is virtual.  The Ridgefield Registrars of Voters and Ridgefield Town Clerk will address some of the concerns that have been raised about voting access, security and safety during the pandemic for the upcoming elections.  The program is called Voting During the Time of Covid-19.  Registrants will receive the Zoom link in their confirmation and reminder emails.  Registration can be done through the events page of the Ridgefield Library's website.


Danbury Mayor concerned about Uber boat drivers on Candlewood Lake

The Danbury Town Park and some nearby inland state swim areas remaining closed during this hot summer has resulted in some unintended consequences.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says more people are staying closer to home because of the pandemic, so there’s increased use of Candlewood Lake. And an increase in litter.  While there's nothing illegal about using the lake, Boughton says he's gotten reports about Uber boat drivers running people out to the islands for $10 a ride.  They're bringing coolers, there's alcohol consumption and fights break out.  Boughton says it's been rough out there for enforcement.  He also discouraged people from swimming illegally in reservoirs and other private bodies of water.


Confidential reporting forms about COVID regulation compliance online

The Danbury Department of Health & Human Services has created a confidential reporting form for residents to fill out online if they have any concerns about how businesses are operating during the COVID-19 crisis.  City officials say the health department can follow up appropriately and ensure proper protocols are followed. 

https://www.cognitoforms.com/DanburyHealthDepartment/COVID19ReportOfBusinessConcerns

The State also created a Business Complaint Form.  The state form is more comprehensive and is intended for complaints that pertain to requirements of the Sector Rules only.

https://appengine.egov.com/apps/ct/COVID-19/Reopen-CT-Business-Complaint-Form

On the City report form, in addition to basic information about the business, complainants are asked whether the business should not be open, is allowing food self-service, is allowing dine-in service above capacity, or a blank to explain another reason. 


Danbury to honor Marian Anderson with mural at Kennedy Park

Danbury plans to honor City native Marian Anderson.  Mayor Mark Boughton says they're still working out the details, but the plan is to honor the singer with a mural on the building at Kennedy Park. 

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged to have Anderson performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the capital. 

The current mural has been up on the building for more than a decade. The City plans to put out a call to artists soon.   Boughton says the location is fitting considering that Anderson sang at John F. Kennedy's inauguration. 

The Danbury Museum and Historical Society owns the Marion Anderson studio.  They have a number of dresses in storage, many of which she designed and created herself for her performances.  The Museum will make the dresses available for viewing to the selected artist. 

The City plans to partner with Savings Bank of Danbury to pay for the mural.  Boughton says he was waiting to time the mural with Anderson's likeness appearing on the $5 bill, but that's been delayed. 

WCSU is also tying to raise money to put her name on the West Side performance hall.


USDA sponsored distribution truck coming to Danbury

Some Danbury officials have partnered with Friendly Hands Food Bank to bring a USDA sponsored distribution truck to Danbury on August 5th.  State Representative David Arconti, Board of Ed member Joe Britton and Councilmen Roberto Alves, Frank Salvatore and Farley Santos worked with The United Way, Danbury Public Schools and Travis Tanuis for the distribution event.  They'll be giving out 1,400 boxes of fresh produce to the Danbury community. It will be comply with COVID-related social distancing guidelines and contactless.


Himes touts House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act

The U.S. House has passed the Great American Outdoors Act, fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund.  4th District Congressman Jim Himes says the $900 million dollars dedicated to the LWCF support the $887 billion outdoor recreation industry, one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, and protects natural areas from development, an important element of climate stewardship.  In the past, the LWCF has provided funds to help Connecticut acquire or expand treasures like Sherwood Island, Weir Farm, Carwin Park, Oyster Shell Park, the Stamford Nature Center, Johnson Oak Park, Jennings Beach, and many other outdoor recreation spaces.  Himes says this renewed, dedicated funding will lead to opportunities to acquire and protect more public land for Connecticut families to enjoy.


Local lawmaker pushes state to allow hybrid school reopening plans

State Senator Will Haskell, whose district includes Bethel, Redding and Ridgefield, has sent a letter to Governor Lamont urging his administration to give more flexibility to local school districts in developing COVID-19 plans.  Haskell says individual school districts should determine how and when to re-open for in-person classes.  He wants them to be allowed to put in place hybrid plans that reduce the risk of infection without falling behind on valid school days.


Connecticut House approves police accountability measures

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut House of Representatives on Friday morning approved a wide-ranging police accountability proposal after an all-night debate that was marked by a failed attempt to strip a contentious section that would remove some legal immunity for police officers.

The House voted 86-58 in favor of the bill and sent it to the state Senate, a day after hundreds of police officers rallied at the Capitol to protest portions the legislation. The Senate is expected to take up that and three other bills on Tuesday.

The police accountability bill, originally negotiated between both Democrats and Republicans, calls for reforming police practices and training in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people. It includes a new inspector general to investigate police use-of-force cases, periodic mental health screenings for officers, new limits on circumstances in which deadly use of force is justified, mandatory body cameras for all departments and training on implicit bias.

The most contentious section, opposed by police and municipal leaders, would strip officers of qualified immunity in some circumstances when they violate someone’s civil rights, allowing them to be sued and held personally liable. Police leaders say the provision would prompt many officers to resign or retire and deter people from becoming officers.

An amendment to delete that provision from the bill failed on a tie vote.


Newtown shares PURA guidance on Residential Shut-Off Moratorium

Newtown officials sharing guidance from the Public Utility Regulatory Authority about the Residential Shut-Off Moratorium, which is scheduled to end for the majority of customers on September 9th.  That's when the Governor's Public Health Emergency Executive Order expire.  Un the meantime, PURA is encouraging people to familiarize themselves with the details of the COVID-19 Payment Program and to call their utility to enroll no later than November 1st, if the customer would benefit from a flexible payment arrangement.


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