They were many, and they were loud. Roughly 2,400 motorcycles rumbled through town Sunday, September 7 on their winding route from Norwalk to Bridgeport during the 14th annual CT United Ride, Connecticut’s largest 9/11 tribute. Through registration fees and other funds raised, the ride benefits Connecticut firefighters, Connecticut law enforcement, and two local United Ways. Newtown’s fire companies suspended flags over the ride, with Dodgingtown and Hawleyville raising one over Route 302 in Dodgingtown, Hook & Ladder and Sandy Hook set up over the roadway next to Amaral Motors Inc, and Botsford Fire Rescue members presenting the colors at their South Main Street station. Those who did not participate in the ride were invited to cheer those riding their motorcycles from Norwalk to Bridgeport on Sunday, and once residents and friends of all ages turned out to line the route in Newtown.
A new state blueprint for children’s mental health services recommends standardized screening and enhanced school services, better training for all caregivers and the “pooling” of hundreds of millions in public funds to more effectively finance vital programs. The Department of Children and Families unveiled the first draft September 5 of a new report due to the General Assembly in October. The document, intended to put forward strategies for a comprehensive overhaul of children’s behavioral health, was ordered by legislators in response to 12/14. “A core finding from all input sources is that the children’s mental health services are fragmented, inefficient, and difficult to access for children and families,” the report states.
Town police are being urged to redouble their traffic enforcement efforts, especially along Main Street, to curb vehicular problems occurring along that thoroughfare. Resident Karen Banks of West Street, which links Main Street to Sugar Street, told Police Commission members on September 2 she supports a Main Street resident’s recent comments about the need for heightened traffic enforcement on Main Street. At an August Police Commission session, resident Sherry Bermingham said that Main Street needs “police help” for a its traffic-related problems, including speeding, congestion, rude motorists, and the presence of wide-load trucks. While the commission would prefer that trucks use Exit 11 and travel through Fairfield Hills before picking up Route 25 when en route to Bridgeport, Police Commission member Brian Budd pointed out that vehicles are legally allowed on I-84 and Main Street. The town cannot force truck drivers to stay on I-84 when hauling cargo, he said.
Police Chief Michael Kehoe has updated Police Commission members about police department staffing matters, including plans to hire two new officers, plus plans for promotions involving the naming of one lieutenant and two sergeants. Chief Kehoe told commission members on September 2 that the department remains two people short of its full roster of 45 sworn officers. Thus, the Police Commission will soon hire two new officers, both of whom would receive municipal police training before entering local service. One of the department's current sergeants could be promoted to lieutenant.
The small, occasionally boisterous but often hushed group of women gathered around a set of tables one recent afternoon at a Newtown restaurant could have been mistaken for any group of friends or co-workers meeting up for some late day chat and a beverage. But a closer listen would reveal the group to be Sandy Hook School staffers discussing their inspired plan to take a national tragedy they all experienced first hand on December 14, 2012, and channel their collective experiences spreading a message about common sense gun law reform and the need for related legislation. The group has since been the focus of a special report by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and its journalists Jessica Boehm and former Newtown Bee intern and town resident Sarah Ferris. And this week, several members of the group were prepping for interviews that will eventually be compiled into a piece by the New York-based news website Buzzfeed.
From the barren, pocked lot where a boxy Shell station once stood greeting residents and visitors exiting Interstate 84 onto Church Hill Road, a new, more aesthetically pleasing Colonial-looking mini mart is about to take shape according to its developers. But to achieve that aesthetic improvement amid a state roadway realignment project, the newest addition to Church Hill Road’s commercial strip is coming with some additional costs. As a result, the owners of the planned Wheels gas station and mini mart — Consumers’ Petroleum of Connecticut, Inc — have begun the process of requesting what is described as a modest, three-year property tax abatement that Economic Development Coordinator Betsy Paynter said will amount to about $10,500.
While driving a larger-than-life bright orange chair through New York City recently, Newtown resident Douglas Calderone soon realized that its eye-catching qualities could do more than raise a smile. He is now raffling off the chair with proceeds to benefit Reach Newtown -- an outreach program enhancing children's lives. The raffle ends on October 1.
With more than a quarter-million dollars remaining unspent in a tax relief fund for qualifying town seniors and those with disabilities, the Legislative Council engaged in a spirited discussion September 3 over setting a statutory asset cap as one of three qualifying criteria for the program. After the council’s Ordinance Committee settled on a $1 million asset cap recommendation, a number of council representatives weighed in during deliberation, some hoping to see the cap increased and others expressing disdain for the measure. But as Council Vice Chair Neil Chaudhary stated as the motion for the $1 million cap was tendered, the ordinance has already been ratified and the council was required to set a cap. He then explained a formula he reviewed with the ordinance committee to try and determine where to set that cap.
Following a discussion among leading town officials about the rollout of a townwide facilities review, the Board of Finance discussed with First Selectman Pat Llodra and school district officials the future capital planning. One of the biggest unanticipated points in the school district’s capital plan review came when school officials revealed that a high school auditorium renovation, which taxpayers already approved for $2.2 million, could cost an additional $1.3 million if officials want to address current code and accessibility violations. At the same time, consultant Charles Boos told finance officials that the town could seek and possibly receive as much as $534,000 or more in state reimbursement because part of the overall improvements will bring the facility up to today’s standards for fire code and handicap accessibility compliance.
The Board of Finance was joined by members of the Boards of Selectmen and Education as well as members of the Legislative Council for the first part of a regular August 28 meeting, which provided an opportunity for officials to learn more about a townwide public facilities analysis that is in the early stages of rollout. Many of the officials on hand also heard from School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, for the first time about plans to supplement the facilities project with details from the latest district enrollment study. First Selectman Pat Llodra told the gathered officials that the facilities analysis, and the appointed committee which would oversee it with consultants’ support, came about because Newtown has so many building projects, needs, and concerns on the horizon, and she was becoming worried that those myriad projects would not align with strategic long-term planning.