Twenty-five Chinese students between the ages of 12 and 17 arrived in Newtown, Friday, July 25, for a three-week stay with host families in the area. The students are with Educational Homestay Programs, a division of Education First (EF).The organization, according to its website, www.ef.edu/ehp/our-locations/new-york/newtown, is “dedicated to encouraging global awareness through cultural exchange and language learning.” Henry Kesner, operations manager for the North American office of EF headquartered in Boston, said that the program was first launched in Newtown in 2012.
Bird habitat is dwindling, according to the Connecticut Audubon Society, and locally, town and private officials are aware of the need for its protection. “Reclaiming existing fields and meadows for this once plentiful habitat is a big job,” said Newtown Forest Association (NFA) President Bob Eckenrode. He notes that migrating birds “have used our meadows as a stopping point to rest and refuel for their long journeys south,” and that these birds “once thrived on the meadows and brushy edge habitat along stone walls from our agricultural past.” The NFA is a private, nonprofit land trust. The Audubon’s recently released “State of the Birds” report states, “Connecticut’s wide diversity of bird species is diminishing and is at risk of continued declines as habitats throughout the state suffer from neglect caused by a lack of conservation management.”
Multiple Charges Police report that while on patrol about 6 pm on July 28, they spotted motorist Louis Deluca, 32, of 9 Frontage Road traveling 50 miles per hour in 25-mph zone near the intersection of Tunnel Road and Barnanabas Road, and stopped him to investigate. Read more about police activity in this week's report.
A local development firm wants to construct an approximately 30,000-square-foot mixed-use building at the current site of Woodbury Hall at Fairfield Hills, which would include a combination of retail uses, office space, and rental apartments. The concept for such a project surfaced in an August 3 e-mail submitted to an electronic mailing list by Advantage Commercial Realty, which was promoting the concept for developer Claris Construction Inc of Newtown. The mailing, however, overstated the status of the project, claiming that the developer has an application pending for the project before the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which it does not. Mike Struna, the Advantage Commercial Realty owner/broker who sent the e-mail, said August 7, “It was truly a mistake on my part” in terms of some erroneous information in the e-mail. A key component of such a project would be rental apartment space, which the current zoning regulations do not allow at Fairfield Hills.
Following discussion at an August 5 Police Commission session, commission members told a two-member town study panel that they do not want the town’s radio dispatching for emergency 911, police, fire, and ambulance calls to change its location from the Newtown Emergency Communications Center at 3 Main Street to either a Prospect dispatching center, which is 25 miles away, or to a Torrington dispatching center, which is 39 miles away. Police Commission Chairman Paul Mangiafico and commission members Brian Budd, James Viadero, Joel Faxon, and Andrew Sachs met with town ad hoc study panel members Jeffrey Capeci and Neil Chaudhary. The two-member study panel plans to submit a report to the Board of Selectmen on the advisability of the town entering some regional dispatching arrangement, which have would Newtown dispatching done elsewhere. The Board of Selectmen is expected to discuss the dispatching issue when it meets on August 18.
A new flagpole is up, the driveway is in, new pavers are on order, and both interior and exterior work at Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Association’s new garage are nearly complete. Clerk of the Works Brian Feeney said the construction schedule runs through September 5. “That is the last day, in theory,” he said. With the way work is going now, he said, “I think we’ll make it.” Association Board of Trustees Treasurer Bruce Herring said they have informal plans for a mid-October opening. The building, complete with two stories, fits in with Fairfield Hills to match older buildings in that area, he said.
Following an hourlong public hearing on July 31, Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members unanimously approved redevelopment plans for the proposed new Sandy Hook Elementary School at 12 Dickinson Drive, off Riverside Road. The new school would replace the former Sandy Hook School, which the town demolished last year following the December 2012 massacre there. The P&Z’s zoning approval marks a major local hurdle for the construction project. On July 28, the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) approved a wetlands/watercourses protection permit for the project. On July 9, the Aquifer Protection Agency (APA) issued a “finding of no significant impact” in terms of the project’s effect on the underlying Pootatuck Aquifer, a major underground source of potable water. Plans for the school project are still subject to review and approval by state officials.
Newtown Parks & Recreation Department announced Tuesday that Dickinson Park Playground is closed until further notice. It was the second time in a week that the announcement had to be made. Signs that had been put in place alerting the public to the closure have been disappearing, according to Parks & Recreation Director of Recreation RoseAnne Reggiano. “Everyone has to stay off” the new equipment for a little longer, she said. If park visitors and the weather will cooperate in coming days, the playground could be open as soon as next week.
The town project to replace the Poverty Hollow Road bridge, which crosses over the Aspetuck River near the Redding town line, has encountered some construction delays, resulting in the project probably not meeting its targeted August 15 completion date. At the construction site on August 4, one of three segmented box culverts, which will form the bridge’s foundation, had been assembled in place, but much work still needs to be done, making it unlikely that the project will be finished by August 15. Work started on June 9. The construction company hired by the town to build the new bridge has experienced delays in obtaining the required pre-cast concrete culvert segments from their manufacturer, Town Engineer Ronald Bolmer said August 6. Mr Bolmer said it is thus unclear how long the bridge project’s completion may be delayed.