The Newtown Police officer who has not yet returned to work since the 2012 school massacre because of post-traumatic stress disorder urged Connecticut lawmakers on Tuesday to expand the state’s workers’ compensation law to cover the condition. Thomas Bean, a 38-year-old married father of two, said he’s unable to return to his law enforcement career and faces an uncertain financial future. He told members of the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee on March 11 that he has experienced depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts since responding to the December 14, 2012, mass shooting, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead. Bean is receiving about half of his base pay through Newtown’s long-term disability insurance plan, but that policy is due to end in June 2015. If he were receiving worker’s compensation benefits for his PTSD, Bean would get more than 66 percent of his net pay, including an average of overtime pay, tax-free. There are two bills moving through the legislature this session that would require worker’s compensation coverage for mental trauma in the wake of intentional violent events such as 12/14.
Riding 400 miles from Newtown, 26 bicyclists hoping to change the nation’s gun laws faced some strong headwinds on their way to Washington, D.C. When they reached the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, they faced even more — of the political kind.It’s been nearly a year since a bill that would increase FBI background checks on gun buyers failed to clear a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. The House has not taken up any gun control legislation and doesn’t seem inclined to do so.But for the members of Team 26 and their allies in the Connecticut congressional delegation, things are on track. “Some said the Connecticut effect would not last, and they are right,” said Monte Frank, an experienced cyclist who heads Team 26, a group of activists from Newtown and other towns that have suffered from gun violence. Frank and many of the riders who pedaled through Ridgefield and Greenwich, Harlem, Doylestown, Pa., and Baltimore to reach the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building Tuesday did much the same thing a year ago, wearing the same green and white windbreakers that honor Newtown’s 26 victims of gun violence.
Legislators will get to hear feedback on the rollout of the Common Core Curriculum Wednesday during a public hearing at the State Capitol complex. The noon event is the result of a move by Republican minority legislators to force the reluctant leaders of the Education Committee to hold a hearing on the bill that would put implementation of the state’s new academic standards on hold. Two days before the hearing, 52 people have already submitted testimony, most of whom oppose the new standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010. The state’s largest teachers union — the Connecticut Education Association — recently called the state’s roll out of the standards “botched” and “mishandled.” The CEA says a survey of its members shows teachers overwhelmingly want a moratorium on implementation of the standards. Supporters meanwhile have scheduled a press conference before the Wednesday hearing.
Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity (SHOP) has selected Melissa Lopata of Newtown as the marketing coordinator for Sandy Hook Village. Ms Lopata will be introduced at the Sandy Hook Village Action Planning Workshop on Wednesday, March 12. Ms Lopata moved to Newtown in 2011 from Brooklyn and is working as a part-time marketing consultant for Two Coyotes Wilderness School in Newtown. In her new position she will utilize the new Sandy Hook Community Brand Identity Guidelines and tools to create powerful and effective marketing pieces for Sandy Hook Village businesses, and will manage SHOP’s new website and expand the use of social media to help current merchants succeed and to attract new business to the area. She will begin her new post on March 17.
Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. testifying against a bill that he says would erode the Freedom of Information Act.
In testimony delivered in quick succession Monday to two legislative committees, Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, strongly condemned post-Newtown legislation that would restrict public access to 9-1-1 recordings, police photographs and names of witnesses in drug or violent crimes.
“If enacted, this would result in an unprecedented denial of previously available information, with no necessary relation to witnesses being threatened or endangered, and no relation to the security of an investigation,” Williams said. “It is a suppression of information for its own sake.”
The Board of Education approved a budget statement that was passed on to both the Board of Finance and the public during a special meeting Monday, March 10.
On March 4 meeting, the school board voted to have its Communication Subcommittee write a budget statement in anticipation of the Board of Finance’s March 12 meeting.
“It has been requested that we put together a statement regarding our decision on the budget ,” said school board Chair Debbie Leidlein on March 4.
The Assessor’s Office will be accepting applications for the Elderly and Disabled Homeowners Programs through May 15. Applications are accepted at the Assessor’s Office, at Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 am and 4:30 pm. Homeowners who are currently on the program and need to reapply will receive a notice by mail.
More than 20 disabled skiers participated in Leaps of Faith (LOF) Adaptive Skiers’ Snow Ski Clinic at Mount Southington in Plantsville on February 25 for a full day of snow ski and snowboarding instruction. “We had a great turnout,” said Zeisler, president of LOF Adaptive Skiers. Ages ranged from 6 to 65 and disabilities included leg amputations, stroke, spinal cord injuries, blind and visual impairments, and others, he said. The majority of skiers were first timers, “and a few were apprehensive about going down the mountain. But everyone ended up skiing downhill multiple times, surprising themselves and making us incredibly proud." All adaptive equipment is provided for the clinics, and no experience is necessary to participate. Clinics are free of charge and are open to children, adults, and veterans with disabilities.
Saint, the town police department ’s new German shepherd, has started work with K-9 Officer Felicia Figol, resuming the dog-assisted patrols which had ended in the middle of last year, when former police dog Baro was retired from service. Last September, the police acquired Saint, a nearly all-black shepherd who is smaller than Baro. Saint’s full name is Saint Michael. Officer Figol, who handled Baro, will continue in her role by handling Saint, most often on the police shift that runs from 4 pm to midnight. The dog started patrol work about seven weeks ago. Besides the dog’s keen sense of smell, which helps it find missing people or fleeing suspects, its nose helps it detect certain illicit drugs. Saint is trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Also, Saint’s sensitive nose is able to detect the residual human scent on an object, such as a handgun, which has been thrown into a field, she said. The dog’s keen sense of smell allows it to track a scent in wet areas, she said. Saint is also trained to apprehend, and capable of making full-mouth bites on command.
A safe boating course may be the only sign of spring hidden in this month’s frigid forecast. Sandy Hook-based Leaps of Faith (LOF) Adaptive Skiers is hosting a Boating License Course on Saturday, March 22, from 8 am to 4 pm at the Newtown United Methodist Church, 92 Church Hill Road. Completion of the course will qualify registrants for their Connecticut Boating & Personal Water Craft License.