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The Bull Hometown News

Danbury School Safety Advocate arrested for allegedly providing pot to students

A Safety Advocate at Danbury High School has been arrested for providing marijuana to several juveniles, which included DHS students, while off campus.  A complaint against Glenn Davis was made to police May 8th.  Following an investigation by the Special Victims Unit of the Danbury Police Department, a warrant for the 41-year old's arrest was granted by the Court.  When he learned of the warrant on Friday, Davis surrendered himself to the Danbury Police Department, where he was released on bond.  Davis is scheduled to appear in Danbury Superior Court on June 25th on two counts of distributing marijuana and four counts of risk of injury to a minor.

Bethel Religious Display Committee continues work on regulations for future exhibits

The Bethel Religious Display Committee meeting earlier this month got off to a tense start when members questioned if they had to start their work over again after it was determined they had not been formally sworn in.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said he wanted the group to be less formal, but the town attorney said they'd have to operate as any other committee.

The group covered a lot of ground in their nearly two hour meeting.  Among the big disagreements was whether a Nativity scene is considered a Christian symbol or if it's considered cultural.  Concerns were raised about precedent and people not knowing year to year where to find the nativity.

Locations could be limited to PT Barnum Square because the traffic island on Main Street is such small area and may not be able to accommodate displays.  Members also noted that there's a difference in visibility between PT Barnum Square, considered a premier location, and placing something in a location like Bennett Park.  Other members note that the law doesn't take fairness into account, only if a decision is constitutional. 

As long as there's a precedent or good reason for a decision, a committee member said it doesn't legally matter the decision is unfair to other displays.  The town would have to prove sound reasons for why the creche works where it does.  There were also questions on whether certain displays could be grandfathered in for particular locations.  They also questioned how long displays could be set up.

Zoning regulations and safety concerns must be taken into account.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says if the original matter of a creche had gone to Planning and Zoning, it likely would have been rejected.  One committee member questioned why the group isn't titled Proper Use of Public Property, and asked who authorized the municipal center lawn for art displays.  Knickerbocker replied that the Board of Selectmen signed off, because it did not involve a constitutional question over religious displays.

The committee was set up to specifically address the time period between Thanksgiving, past New Year's Day.

The Town Attorney will attend the group's next meeting to answer all of their questions.

Judge has fatal heart attack in upstate New York courtroom

Visitation and funeral services have been announced for the 57-year-old Putnam County judge who died after suffering a heart attack in his courtroom.  Judge James Reitz was stricken on the bench Friday morning.

Court officers performed CPR and used an automatic electronic defibrillator to try to resuscitate him before he was taken to a hospital by ambulance.  Reitz died shortly after arriving at the hospital. 

A visitation will be held at the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services building in Carmel from 2pm to 8pm.  A Mass of Christian Burial will take place tomorrow at St. James the Apostle Church in Carmel at 10:30am.  In lieu of flowers the Reitz family has asked that donations be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

The Mahopac resident had been a county judge since 2007 and was also an acting justice with the state Supreme Court. He previously worked as a lawyer in private practice.  He pioneered a Drug Treatment Court program for Putnam County, which gives an innovative way for participants to get a second chance with alternative paths through the judicial system. This was such a success it has been adapted into several other courts across the country and was featured in an Emmy award winning documentary.

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says it's hard to put into words the emotions with the passing of her lifelong friend.  She says his advice was honest and from the heart, calling him a pillar of the community.  She added that his everlasting impact cannot be measured.  Judge Reitz was active in community service and volunteering, giving of himself to many organizations, most notably a long time Carmel Rotarian who epitomized Service Above Oneself. 

Businessman faces sentencing in human trafficking case

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) - A 65-year-old Connecticut businessman is facing sentencing in connection with a human trafficking ring that authorities say preyed on boys and men who were mentally ill and intellectually disabled.

Bruce Bemer, of Glastonbury, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in Danbury Superior Court. Before sentencing, however, a judge is expected to rule on a defense motion for acquittal.

A jury found Bemer guilty in April of several counts of patronizing underage victims of human trafficking and prostitution.

Bemer, the owner of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl racetrack, has admitted he patronized prostitutes, but denies any role in human trafficking.

A prosecutor says one of two other men convicted in the case found the victims at drug rehabs, group homes and other places and brought them to Bemer for sex acts.

Septic system to be installed to bring bathrooms to Parsonage and Hubbell House

A septic system is being installed on New Fairfield town-owned property to allow for bathrooms and a sink at Parsonage and Hubbell House.  The facilities are leased by Preserve New Fairfield and proposed the improvements for the Town owned buildings located behind the Senior Center.  There is currently no water available in either location.  Preserve New Fairfield has been given a private grant to install a septic system and needed approval to tap into the water system near the Senior Center.  The work will be done in accordance with all applicable state, federal and local statutes and regulations. The Board of Selectmen approved the proposal at their most recent meeting.

Danbury developer gets OK for 150-unit apartment complex on Main Street

Danbury land use boards have approved plans for a 150-unit apartment building on Main Street.  Dan Bertram applied to convert for the former Newstimes site at 333 Main street into Brookview Commons II.  The $13 million dollar proposal includes a six-story apartment complex and a second story outdoor pool.  There will be an entrance to the three acre site from Main Street.  A car bridge and skywalk will connect the new apartment building with Bertram's Crosby Street complex over the Padanaram Brook.  Plans call for one and 2 bedroom market rate apartments renting at $1,400 to $2,600 respectively.  The Newstimes editorial office moved into 345 Main Street when Hearst Connecticut Media Group consolidated most of its business offices at Merritt 7 in Norwalk.

Danbury PAL receives state grant for youth programs

The Danbury Police Activities League will receive a $140,000 state grant to help maintain the youth programs they offer for the next two years. 

The Danbury delegation says the funding is managed by the state’s Judicial Branch Support Services and their Youth Violence Prevention program to assist not-for-profit community serving organizations with effective services directed at local youth residing in the area.  Youth violence prevention programs focus on middle and high school age youths and provide guidance on addressing and changing behaviors that contribute to anger and conflict. 

Programs focus on peer-to-peer relationships to develop the interpersonal skills necessary to decrease and deescalate disagreements before they lead to violence.

“I am pleased to have helped secure this grant for Danbury’s PAL so they may continue providing the vital programs they offer for our youth”, said Rep. David Arconti. “Their commitment to keeping them safe, off the streets and motivated to pursue their dreams is a laudable goal and I truly appreciate their dedication.”

"Kids and cops working together make Danbury stronger and safer. Police officers inspire kids personal growth, train leaders, and teach perseverance and teamwork.  I'm delighted to join in Rep. Arconti's efforts," said Rep. Bob Godfrey.

“I am grateful for all the work PAL does in keeping our youth safe and am pleased to have played a role in securing this grant, so they can continue to offer youth programs for the next two years. Danbury is fortunate to have an organization like PAL that is committed to our youth’s well-being,” said Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan.

Rep. Ken Gucker said, “The investments we make supporting our children and youth are instrumental to their success and to the stability of our communities.  I am glad to lend my support to PAL and thank them for the work they do for our local kids.”

Eversource: Mylar balloons can cause power outages

Many celebrations including birthdays, graduations, and Father’s Day, are happening and Mylar balloons are common decorations.  But Eversource cautioned that Mylar balloons can cause power outages and even pose a significant safety risk. 

The silver metallic coating is a conductor of electricity.  If the balloon makes contact with power lines, it can damage electric wires and equipment, and cause power outages.  In some cases, Eversource says they could cause an electrical surge impacting nearby homes if the silver coating comes in contact with utility lines. 

They suggest making sure the balloons are secured, not released outside and that metallic ribbons aren't used.  People should never attempt to retrieve a balloon that is tangled in electric lines; instead, call Eversource.

Redding Pollinator Pathway event next weekend

A Redding Pollinator Pathway event is being held next weekend. A local entomologist will lead the Pollinators in My Backyard event, discussing the variety of pollinating insects and flowers in the area.  A hike through a wild meadow will follow.  It's being held June 22nd on Cross Highway at the Old Farmhouse from 2 to 3pm.  It's a family event, but organizers request no dogs.  Reservations are requested.

Sandy Hook Promise launches petition calling for safe storage laws

A petition has been started by Sandy Hook Promise calling for safe storage legislation in states across the country.  The Policy Team says in 80-percent of school-related gun deaths, the firearms used came from the shooter’s home, or from a friend's or relative’s.  Connecticut's governor just signed a safe storage bill into law, applying to both loaded and unloaded firearms in homes where there are minors.  A federal version of the bill has been introduced by the Connecticut delegation.

Memorial service scheduled for Kent woman killed in New Milford crash

A memorial service has been scheduled for the 24-year-old woman who died in a crash on Route 7 in New Milford.  The service for Christina Walters of Kent will be held Tuesday from noon to 3p.m. at the Munson-Lovetere Funeral Home in Woodbury.  The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Gov signs bill cosponsored by New Fairfield Representative on municipal reimbursement

Governor Lamont has signed a bill into law to ensure that the Connecticut Department of Correction provides adequate payment to a municipality for ambulance services that are provided by the city or town on behalf of a correctional facility. The measure was co-sponsored by New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith. It passed unanimously in the Senate and with just one no vote in the House.

CT Food Bank Mobile Food Pantry in Ridgefield canceled today

The Connecticut Food Bank Mobile Food Pantry in Ridgefield is canceled for today.  Nearby upcoming Connecticut Food Bank Mobile pantry distributions include June 21st in Southbury and on the 22nd in Norwalk. The next Ridgefield distribution is scheduled for July 12th at St. Andrew's Church, 11am to noon.  Any Ridgefield resident needing access to food can access St. Stephen's Little Pantry, available 24 hours in their parking lot or First Congregational Church food pantry, by appointment.  Ridgefield Social Services says the Town Hall Food Pantry is open  8:30am to 4:30 Mondays through Fridays.

Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act introduced by Congresswoman Hayes

The Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act has been introduced by 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes. The legislation would create a federal grant program to incentivize state and local governments to enact laws requiring a license before a handgun can be purchased. 

Hayes says Connecticut’s permit-to-purchase law has saved lives and should be replicated on the federal level.  She called it a commonsense approach to firearm sales. 

Connecticut is among the 10 states that currently have permit-to-purchase laws on the books. 

Earlier this week, the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research released a new white paper detailing the effectiveness of handgun licensing – including fingerprinting and in-person applications – in reducing gun violence.  Using mortality data from the Center for Disease Control, a 2015 study by Johns Hopkins University determined that when comparing to similar states with no PTP laws, Connecticut’s PTP law reduced firearm homicides by 40 percent. In 2007, Missouri repealed its requirement that handgun purchasers obtain a PTP and statistics show their state’s gun homicide rate rose by 25 percent.

Head Start employees asked to resign over alleged fraud

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the federal Office of Inspector General are investigating cases of Head Start staff members in Danbury admitting 5 unqualified children into the federally funded program.  According to the Newstimes, an internal investigation of operations was launched after the arrest of Director Monica Bevilacqua for alleged embezzlement from a Brookfield PTO.  The audit didn't turn up wrongdoing on her part at Head Start, but the fraud by 4 others.  One staff member has resigned and three others are being asked to resign.  If they don't CEO Jim Maloney says they'll be fired.  He told the Newstimes it was done as favor to the families, and there was no evidence of bribery.  He declined to name the employees.

Ex-day laborer gets 22 years to life in socialite slaying

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) A former day laborer accused of bludgeoning a socialite to death at her family's suburban New York estate has been sentenced to 22 years to life in prison.

Esdras Marroquin Gomez was sentenced on Thursday after pleading guilty in May to killing 83-year-old Lois Colley at her 300-acre North Salem estate in November 2015.

Authorities said Gomez hit Colley with a fire extinguisher during a confrontation. They said he said he had been injured at the family's property, Windswept Farm, and had been pursuing a worker's compensation claim.

He fled to his native Guatemala and then Mexico before he was apprehended. Before he was sentenced, Gomez said he made a mistake and asked for forgiveness from God.

Colley's husband amassed a fortune by owning dozens of McDonald's restaurants.

DOT schedules Newtown highway ramp closures

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled Exit 9 and 10 ramp closures on I-84 West and Eastbound in Newtown, for five separate nights.  All of the work will be conducted 10pm to 5am.  The Exit 9 westbound closure will be June 18th and 19th.  The eastbound closure will be June 20th. The Exit 10 westbound closure will be June 17th.  The eastbound closure is scheduled for June 21st. 

Putnam County Sheriff drone operators help in missing hiker rescue

A drone helped in a rescue operation over the weekend.  The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office has provided assistance in the Hudson Highlands State Park. Two hikers had called for help after becoming stranded on a steep precipice, half mile south of Breakneck Ridge in the Town of Philipstown. 

The hikers were located around 5pm on Sunday, but the extreme terrain prevented immediate rescue. Emergency responders with expertise in dangerous “high-angle” rescue operations couldn't adequately evaluate the terrain.  In order to reduce the risk to rescuers, who would have to descended from above on ropes, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office drone operator was called in. 

Two drones provided a live-feed to inspect the terrain and help finalized their plan.  5 hours later, firefighters descended the cliff and recovered two male hikers. Neither was injured.

(Photo: PCSD)

Four  members of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to pilot unmanned aircraft during public safety emergencies. They operate three specialized Unmanned Aerial Systems, purpose-built for lifesaving missions. The aircraft are equipped with advanced GPS systems, cameras, thermal imaging sensors, powerful search lights and public address speakers.

Danbury man charged for April crash involving utility pole

A Danbury man has been arrested for causing a serious crash on Franklin Street Extension two months ago.  Police arrested Edgar Patricio Farfan-Lazso last week on charges of driving without insurance, having a suspended license, traveling unreasonably fast and failure to drive right.  The single car crash on April 22nd involved a utility pole near the intersection with Raymond Place.  The road was shut down for hours and the 38-year old and his passenger were hospitalized.  The pole snapped at the base and downed a transformer.  Farfan-Lazso told police a rubber floor mat got stuck under the pedals, but witness statements to police suggested speed was a factor. He was released on bond for arraignment on June 17 at Danbury Superior Court.

Siting Council approves plan for Candlewood Mountain solar project

The development and management plan for the Candlewood Mountain solar project has been approved by the Connecticut Siting Council.  The Newstimes reports that the group also clarified its ruling from December 2017, stating the project would have little visual impact on the neighboring properties and the town park. 

The clarification was requested by the courts as part of a lawsuit appealing project approval. 

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection rejected the stormwater management plan in March even though the Siting Council said the project would not have a negative impact on the environment.  The development and management plan approval is conditioned on DEEP’s approval of the stormwater permit.  The company plans to refile its stormwater permit application with DEEP. 

Ameresco plans to install and operate 60,000 solar panels on the mountain to generate 20 megawatts of power that will feed into the New England ISO through the nearby Rocky River substation.  About 70 acres of trees could be clear cut.

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