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The Bull Hometown News

Saadi confirmed by State House to continue as DVA Commissioner

Tom Saadi of Danbury has been unanimously confirmed as Commissioner of Veterans Affairs by the state House of Representatives.  The nomination was introduced on the floor by Deputy House Speaker Bob Godfrey of Danbury. 

Saadi said he was truly humbled by the kind words from the legislators who spoke in favor of his confirmation.  He also thanked Majority Leader Matt Ritter and Representative Matt Blumenthal, the sons of two mentors. Former House Speaker Tom Ritter hired Saadi as a Legislative Assistant in the early 1990s and then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal hired him as an Assistant Attorney General in 2000.  

Saadi says he looks forward to continuing to serve Connecticut veterans.

Kent Food Bank in need of volunteers

Kent Food Bank is in need of volunteers. Help is specifically needed during food bank distribution Fridays, 9am to noon. Volunteers are also needed to pick-up donated bakery items at Big Y in New Milford, Fridays at 9am and deliver them to the Kent Food Bank.  Interested residents should contact Kent Social Services.     

Monroe Police searching for man who stole carton of cigarettes

Monroe Police are looking for the public's help identifying a man who stole a carton of cigarettes from the Henny Penny on Route 34.  The suspect distracted the clerk last Monday and ran out of the store towards a gray SUV. The male appears to be in his early 30’s and has a distinct patch of white hair just above his forehead. He appears to be the same person who committed a similar crime in North Branford and North Haven.

Public hearing scheduled on FirstLight proposed Shoreline Management Plan changes

FirstLight Power Resources has scheduled a public hearing for next week on proposed changes to the Shoreline Management Plan.  The hearing is a requirement of its license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Housatonic River Project, which includes Candlewood Lake.  FirstLight is asking speakers at the hearing to to sign in, appear in that order, and that comments be limited to 2 minutes.  The hearing will take place at Heritage Hotel in Southbury Wednesday, February 27th, from 7pm to 9pm.

Town leaders critical of proposed teacher pension shift to municipalities

Governor Ned Lamont delivered a wide ranging budget address.  In his speech, Lamont talked about tolls, changes to sales tax exemptions, an overhaul of the teacher pension system and cost saving moves being made in state government. 

On the tax side. Lamont is proposing an increase in the hotel tax from 13-percent to 17-percent.  He also have proposed a tax on vaping products equal to cigarettes, a 1-and-a-half cent tax per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages, a 19 cent tax on plastic bags and expanding the bottle bill with a 25-cent deposit to include wine and 50 milliliter liquor bottles.

On the operating side of the budget, Lamont pledged to cut back on middle management.  Commissioners have also raised ideas to cut costs and to find efficiencies, including a suggestion to replace the State Trooper auto fleet every five years instead of four and putting civilians on desk jobs to allow more State Troopers to be on patrol.  With over 2,000 forms, less than 5-percent of which can be completed online, Lamont proposed digitizing more transactions.

Lamont plans to honor the Education Cost Sharing formula adopted last year, bringing underfunded districts closer to full funding, while accelerating phase-down.  He also called for an incentive for strategic decisions where larger schools and districts which pool resources, sharing superintendents and back-office functions, would receive priority for new bonding.

Lamont did not proposed raising the income tax rate, which has been raised 5 times over the last 15 years.  He is also leaving the sales tax rate flat.  The Governor also called on Connecticut businesses to step up and partner with him to help the next generation of talent repay their student loans and save for their futures. To kick-start this effort, Travelers and Stanley Black & Decker have agreed to offer their own loan forgiveness programs, to train, attract and retain top talent in the state.

Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker applauded Lamont for tackling hard issues head on, but opposed a move to transfer a quarter of teacher pension costs onto municipalities. A larger percentage would be placed on districts paying over the state average.  Knickerbocker says that doesn't take into account the vast differences in cost of living from county to county.  He understands that this would be on future pension costs, not legacy costs, but it will lead to an increase in property taxes.

Knickerbocker says the towns did not have a seat at the table when these pension benefits are negotiated.  He'd prefer covering all of the pension cost, if the town could negotiate it locally.

Bethel Board of Ed to present budget proposal tonight

The Bethel Board of Education has approved a budget for the coming year. The proposed 3.43-percent increase focuses on maintaining curricular and extracurricular programs, while continuing to make progress towards the goals of the district's Strategic Plan. Superintendent Dr Christine Carver says they are challenged this year with increased enrollment and some shifting demographics.  The budget will be presented to the Boards of Selectman and Finance tonight at 6:30 PM in the Municipal Center.  The presentation will highlight the priorities towards accomplishing goals as a system and continued growth in the district’s primary purpose, to improve student achievement. The $46.7 million proposal accounts for reductions in state funding and a new state graduation requirement that all students take a foreign language.

Public Information meeting in Danbury on bridge work

A Public Information Meeting is being held in Danbury tonight about improvements to the Triangle Street bridge over the Still River, the Crosby Street connector bridge and the Kennedy Avenue bridge.  A design presentation will start the event at 6pm.  A question and answer period will immediately follow the presentation.  The meeting is at the Danbury City Hall Council Chambers.  Residents, business owners and other interested individuals are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to discuss the proposed projects.  Plans are available for review at the Danbury Engineering Department.

New Milford to apply for housing rehabilitation loan program

The Town of New Milford is applying to the Connecticut Department of Housing to reactivate the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program, which financially assists home owners with repairs such as the correction of health and safety violations, energy conservation, lead paint mitigation and code compliance measures. 

Funding for this Program is contingent upon award of grant money from the Department of Housing.  To show the Department of Housing that there is a need for this Program in New Milford, Mayor Pete Bass is asking potentially eligible home owners and property investors to complete a pre-application and submit it to the town's Grants & Compliance Specialist. 

If awarded, qualified New Milford home owners may receive a 0-percent interest deferred payment loan to complete the approved work.  Eligibility is based on the gross annual income, though other factors such as equity and property tax status will impact loan eligibility.  More details can be found on the town's website.

Redding officials to study community center HVAC system

During budget discussions in Redding at the latest Board of Selectmen meeting, the HVAC system at the community center was brought up.  First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton says it's been so cold this month that program participants had to wear coats, while in the summer they had to bring in air conditioners because it was too hot.  The Selectmen agreed to study the building’s heating, ventilation and cooling system.  Redding will make a formal request for proposals for an engineering study and then voters can then decide if it should be fixed.  Pemberton noted that there have been HVAC problems since she took office in 2013, but that it goes back well before then.

Opioid crisis roundtable discussion in Bethel Friday

A roundtable discussion is being held in Bethel on Friday about the impact of the opioid epidemic.  The discussion will be led by state Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan and Lt Governor Susan Bysiewicz.  Among the panelists will be first responders, law enforcement officials, health care professionals, and members of local advocacy groups.  More than a thousand peopled died in Connecticut last year from unintentional drug and opioid overdoses.  The roundtable discussion Friday is at 9:30am at the Bethel police station.

Domestic violence survivor shares story during Women's Center event

At it’s recent annual “Hearts of Hope” Breakfast fundraiser, the Women’s Center honored John Royce with the organization’s “Service Above Self” Award.  Royce, the owner of several banquet halls in the Greater Danbury area, was praised for his ongoing commitment to the Women’s Center and his role in creating the organization’s “Men Against Domestic & Sexual Violence” group. The group is comprised of prominent male community leaders whose mission is to raise awareness of the critical domestic and sexual violence services provided by the Women’s Center.  Guest speaker, Lisa Whelan, a Ridgefield kindergarten teacher, shared her personal story of domestic violence, the subsequent outpouring of support she received from friends and family, and her message of hope.


Redding teen seeks to raise funds to create skate park

A Redding teenage has gotten approval from the Board of Selectmen to do private fundraising for a Skate Park to be located next to the Community Garden.  Joel Barlow High School Senior Aidan Sheehan told the Board that Parks & Rec has set aside a location and will be responsible for insurance and maintenance.

The goal is to raise $200,000 by the end of 2020 for a 5,000 square foot park, and for construction to be complete by 2022.  Sheehan has collected 300 signatures from residents in support of the proposal. 

First Selectman Julia Pemberton asked what Sheehan’s response would be if questioned why a skate park is needed in Redding since there are others in surrounding towns.  Sheehan noted that some towns have moveable skate parks which require more maintenance than the concrete type park they are planning.  He also said that the tight-knit, young, skateboarding community is required to travel far out of Redding to use such a park currently. 

A Special Use Permit would be required for large events such as competitions.

New Fairfield officials weigh in on proposed Shoreline Management Plan changes

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen is looking into becoming an intervener in the drafting of a new Shoreline Management Plan.  First Light's permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requires review of the plan every 6 years, which is now underway.  New Fairfield officials are concerned about the proposed changes to buffer gardens and health issues.  The Board is supporting the Candlewood Lake Authority comments, with the exception of proposed changes to a section pertaining to Vegetated Riparian Buffer Areas.

New Milford officials propose budget for coming fiscal year

A slight increase in spending is being proposed in the New Milford budget for the coming fiscal year.  Mayor Pete Bass has introduced a plan calling for $103.4 million, about $1.4 million more than the current year.  Municipal spending would be down to about $39 million.  Health costs will be lower, but New Milford will add a police officer and a civil engineer.   

The Board of Ed reduced the Superintendents proposed spending plan, which was then reduced further to $64.4 million. 

The overall budget represents a 1.35 percent increase over the current year.  The tax rate would increase by about 2 percent. 

Bass is restoring the town's contribution to the fire department’s capital fund, which was cut in half this year.  New Milford will also allocate more for tree removal, chip sealing, and stormwater and drainage projects to address icing. 

Natural gas usage at John Pettibone Community Center prompted additional money set aside for utilities.

3 arrested for October home invasion in Danbury

Danbury Police have arrested three people for a home invasion that took place several months ago.  The incident happened October 22nd when a person reported hearing a knock on their door around 5am.  When they answered, two men and a woman allegedly forced their way in, armed with a large kitchen knife.  About 12-hundred dollars was reported stolen.  Police arrested 27-year old Alexis Brown of Niantic last  month.  34-year old Rowan Kolamneo of Danbury was charged earlier this month and 34-year old Orlando Cruz was arrested last week.  They were all charged with home invasion, conspiracy to commit home invasion, larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny.

Police file new charge in boating crash that killed teacher

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut man is facing a new charge in connection with a boating accident last summer that killed a middle school teacher.

Authorities say 66-year-old Gary Morrone was charged last week with criminally negligent homicide after investigators found `glaring inconsistencies' in his statements regarding Wanda Tirado's death.

The 38-year-old mother of two from Waterbury died at a hospital after suffering serious injuries June 19 while boating with Morrone on Candlewood Lake in New Fairfield.

Police say Tirado's injuries were consistent with being struck by a moving boat propeller.

Morrone is free on bond after previously pleading not guilty to charges including reckless boating and failure to report an accident.

Dad sues, says college didn't keep his daughter safe

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut father has sued his daughter's former college, saying the school failed to keep her safe.

The Connecticut Post reports that Paul Lisi, of Monroe, says in the suit that his daughter was assaulted twice while attending Albertus Magnus College in New Haven.

He alleges she was repeatedly bullied during her freshman year, but nothing was done. He also says a male student pushed his daughter into a dresser in her dorm room.

The lawsuit says the woman lost confidence in the administration's ability to make her feel safe. She has since withdrawn from the school.

Lisi says in the suit he was refunded a fraction of room and board charges, but is seeking another $11,000.

College spokeswoman Andrea Kovacs says she cannot comment on student conduct matters.

Bethel students raise $7K for Scotty Fund

Bethel students were able to raise $7,000 for the Scotty Fund during Kindness Week last week.  The Bethel-based organization provides financial and family support to children with life threatening illnesses.  The students also helped to fill the Brotherhood in Action Food Pantry, supplies for the shelter of the Women’s Center, and collected over 80 gift cards for Scotty Fund families in need.  At the an assembly Friday, Superintendent Dr Christine Carver spoke to the students about how individuals and groups can demonstrate kindness in grand gestures, as the week demonstrated, and small gestures like sitting with a peer who is having lunch alone, make the world a better place.

New Milford lawmaker wants to make it easier for responders to fight forest fires

New Milford State Representative Bill Buckbee has testified before the Public Safety Committee in support of a bill adding a layer of public safety and preserving the environment.

Ultimately, the new law will allow all qualified forest firefighters within Connecticut to fight forest fires in the most effective way possible.  Currently, some firefighters may not legally be allowed to help fight the flames. 

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection administers training for forest firefighters and state statute requires them to be employed by DEEP.  If this law were to pass, Buckbee says qualified forest firefighters, regardless of employer, would be able to help fight in the event of an emergency.

The National Forest Service is able to request Connecticut to assemble a team of these qualified firefighters to assist with fires in other states.  According to Buckbee, having a sufficiently trained team of mobilized forest firefighters would provide the state protection from the potential outbreak of a devastating forest fire.

Area legislator calls for more progress on Positive Train Control implementation

A local lawmaker is calling for fully operational Positive Train Control.  State Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes Newtown, says it's a necessary component a proposed bill about all commuter rail infrastructure projects. 

Hwang says Metro-North should be efficient and, most importantly, safe. 

Ten years ago, Congress passed legislation that all railroads in the United States must install Positive Train Control technology that helps avoid deadly rail accidents.  A computerized network of GPS, sensors, transmitters and other equipment reduces the potential for human error.  The federal government gave the MTA $1 billion to complete the task, but a decade later, Hwang says it’s still not finished. 

While it's fully installed, the system is not yet fully operational.

The Bull At Night
6:00pm - 12:00am
The Bull At Night