For the second consecutive summer, Ben’s Lighthouse will bring about 20 Newtown high schoolers across the country to assist the victims of a massive natural disaster. From July 27 to August 2, this volunteer group of teens and chaperones will participate in projects to clean up and rebuild from the unprecedented flooding that took at least eight lives and destroyed 2,000 homes last September. The trip is open to Newtown youth who are completing grade 8 through grade 12 this spring. Anyone interested in participating on this trip is invited to attend an information session on Sunday, May 18, at Trinity Episcopal Church. An equal number of male and female participants will be chosen by lottery from among those who decide to sign up for the trip.
As with the spring flowers that emerge in April, construction projects often also start this time of year. Four notable examples of commercial construction projects that are starting, or are about to begin, can be found on Mt Pleasant Road, South Main Street, and Church Hill Road. George Benson, town director of planning and land use, notes that the coming construction season promises to be a busy one with those projects commencing.
Firefighters from three of Newtown’s volunteer companies provided mutual aid to Southbury Volunteer Fireman’s Association early Friday morning. A team made up of officers and firefighters from Botsford, Hook & Ladder, and Sandy Hook responded with two pieces of apparatus to the neighboring town, where other firefighters were already on the scene of a factory fire at 1200 Main Street South. Newtown Fire Marshal Bill Halstead believes 15 firefighters from town responded this morning. Newtown’s firefighters were dispatched around 5:20 am for what was described as a fully involved structure fire. Those responding from Newtown formed a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT), to serve as a firefighter search and rescue team if needed. Some of the Newtown firefighters relieved the first round of firefighters in the building, but none had to act as RIT. The fire was knocked down shortly after 8 am, and the local firefighters returned to town by 8:30.
The Board of Selectmen on April 21 received several updates. Newtown Hook & Ladder representative Rick Camejo reported to the selectmen that he believed the signing of a contract to purchase property from Trinity Church to site the company's new headquarters was imminent. After a wait of several months, a lease was finalized permitting Newtown Parent Connection to begin renovations and to eventually occupy one of several duplexes on the former state hospital campus. The selectmen also briefly discussed a new planned facilities study.
Anna Wiedemann has been selected by the Democratic Town Committee as the honoree for their 2014 Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Dinner. Ms Wiedemann was chosen because of her extensive contributions to Newtown. A resident of Sandy Hook, Ms Wiedemann has contributed her time and talents to numerous groups in Newtown for more than a quarter century. The 2014 JJB Dinner is planned for Thursday, May 15, in The Alexandria Room at Edmond Town Hall. This is a bipartisan event; all are welcome.
The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) has put the Forest Fire Danger Level for Thursday, April 24, at Very High. Forest fire danger levels are classified as Low, Moderate, High, Very High or Extreme. In addition, the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for all of Connecticut, which remains in effect until 8 pm. All open burn permits have been suspended. Newtown’s fire companies have responded to at least eight brush fires since March 26, including one that kept Botsford Fire Rescue and Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue in the area of Great Ring and High Rock roads for a few hours last month.
Amid cheers from local officials and residents who gathered at Newtown Middle School, town polling officials revealed totals from a first round budget referendum that overwhelmingly approved both a school district and town spending package, along with debt service on capital borrowing for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The Board of Selectmen's municipal budget including debt service on bonding passed 2,571 to 738, while the school district request passed 2,421 to 868 Town Clerk Debbie Halstead confirmed late Wednesday. In all, 3,320 ballots were cast according to polling officials.
The first "zero increase" budget in recent memory is now before voters in the annual budget referendum. Qualified voters may cast bifurcated, or split town and school budget ballots, in person today, April 22, at Newtown Middle School, until 8 pm. On April 2, the council endorsed sending a request for $111,066,204 to voters to cover town and school services, along with annual debt service for capital projects, which is carried in the Board of Selectmen budget. While the approved budget request represents a 0.91 percent increase in spending above the current year, because of updated revenue projections, the spending plan requires 0.02 percent less in taxation than the current operating budget — and will require a 2014-15 tax rate of 33.31 mills, representing no change, or what is commonly termed “zero increase.”