A growing number of elected leaders representing the Legislative Council, and the Boards of Education, Selectmen, and Finance are calling for taxpayers to turn out April 22 and vote Yes on both the town and school district budget requests. Even Newtown’s new School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi, Jr., stepped up after just two days on the job requesting residents get out the vote — although he stopped short of suggesting how to vote since he was not involved in formulating the district’s proposal. Voters will cast bifurcated, or split town and school, budget ballots by absentee vote now, or in person April 22 at Newtown Middle School between 6 am and 8 pm.
Nearly three dozen local seniors turned out Wednesday evening to learn about the details and ask questions on the proposed updates to a senior tax relief initiative currently being tapped by more than 2,000 homeowners. Several updates to the current program and its related ordinance will be the subject of a planned public hearing on May 7 in the Newtown Municipal Center legislative chambers at 7 pm. The information forum April 16 was the latest in a series of meetings that have been going on across the community for months, as elected officials have responded to private homes and age-restricted communities to discuss and learn more about the concerns and challenges local seniors are facing. Speaking to The Newtown Bee before the meeting, Board of Finance Chairman John Kortze said that during the most recent gatherings, response to the tax relief program and its proposed updates have been well received. “The feedback and input we’re getting has been overwhelmingly positive,” Mr Kortze said. “These meetings are an opportunity to give seniors a voice, and to let them be heard.”
Shortly after reviewing a letter to the editor in this week’s pre-budget vote edition of The Newtown Bee, Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob reached out hoping to clarify what she believes is a lingering misconception regarding the council’s ability to add funds back if the school and/or town proposals fail at referendum April 22. Ms Jacob said that while the issue of whether or not the council can add more money to either side appears to be a point of contention among a few residents, she is concerned that misinformation could still confuse budget voters, or worse, cause them to opt out of casting a budget ballot next Tuesday. Ms Jacob said it is critical for residents and taxpayers to understand the fine print in Newtown's Charter, which only empowers the council to add back funds up to the amount originally requested by the Boards of Education and Selectmen. This year's budget is somewhat of an anomaly because after the Boards of Education and Selectmen made their final requests, the Board of Finance added funds to both budget lines.
Local businesses including Newtown Savings Bank and the Connecticut Better Business Bureau have been busy alerting business owners about the “Heartbleed” security flaw that targets computer servers running the most widely used Internet encryption security system. According to BBB, security engineers discovered that Heartbleed exploits a flaw in OpenSSL, which allowed them to view passwords and user names when they tested the virus. Within 24 hours of the news about Heartbleed, Newtown Savings Bank officials were assuring customers that none of the bank’s sites are or have been vulnerable to the threat. Bank customers were notified, however, that many popular Internet sites have been vulnerable.
An ongoing $6 million state project to replace two Interstate-84 bridges, which cross above Center Street in the Riverside section of Sandy Hook, is about half complete, according to a state Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesman. Matthew Cleary, a transportation supervising engineer, said April 15 that construction work at the bridges resumed in early April following a cold, lengthy winter. “We just started back up for the [construction] season,” he said. Construction records indicate that about one-half of the construction work has been completed, he said. Mr Cleary said that DOT plans to have the bridge project substantially complete by late November, with certain details such as landscape plantings, to be done in the spring of 2015. Work on the project started in the spring of 2013 and continued until late December before halting for the winter.
Three Newtown residents are among the latest to add their signatures and support in opposition to Connecticut Senate Bill 405. According to the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) the bill would eliminate the ability of a planning commission to conduct public hearings on subdivisions to determine whether they comply with applicable law and regulations. Former Newtown Wetlands Enforcement officer Ann Astarita along with Newtown Forest Association officers Guy Peterson and Robert Eckenrode have joined dozens of other individuals, municipalities, forest, land trust, and environmental groups standing against the proposal. One group that is supporting the bill is The Home Builders & Remodelers Association (HBRA) of Connecticut, Inc, who says SB 405 addresses only the unnecessary hearings held to make the purely administrative decision on whether a subdivision application complies with the subdivision regulations.
Newtown was notified April 16 that it is the recipient of a $200,000 grant, which Director of Economic and Community Development Director Elizabeth Stocker said will be applied to assessing nine remaining buildings at Fairfield Hills for hazardous materials. The assessments will help the town estimate the cost of eventual hazmat remediation whether the building in question is slated for possible reuse or for demolition. Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced Wednesday that the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has awarded $3,821,000 in grants to 21 communities to advance the development of brownfield sites throughout the state.
Several accidents occurred in Newtown on Interstate 84 on Monday, April 14, resulting in extensive traffic backups on I-84’s westbound and eastbound lanes, causing motorists to seek alternate routes on local roads, thus creating traffic congestion on those streets. The first accident was reported at 12:42, and involved two vehicles that had been traveling on I-84 East. Both drivers of those vehicles were checked at the scene, and one was transported to the hospital for their injuries. The second accident occurred minutes later, when a Peterbilt tractor that had been traveling on I-84 West veered off the roadway, reportedly to avoid striking another vehicle, and landed on the highway's median, balance on a rock. The driver was uninjured. The need to remove diesel fuel from the truck's tanks before it could be uprighted kept firefighters and DEEP officials on scene for hours, however, which led to the extensive travel delays that afternoon.
Medicines in the home are a leading cause of accidental poisoning. Just as disturbing are the alarmingly high rates of prescription drug abuse among teens. A national study, conducted last year by The Partnership at DrugFree.org and the MetLife Foundation, found that nearly half (49 percent) of teens who misuse or abuse prescription medicines get them from a family member or friend. More often than not, these drugs are found in medicine cabinets. This year’s US Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Take-Back Day will be conducted on Saturday, April 26. Newtown Police will be among the local departments participating in the annual collection event.
The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, Inc is soliciting proposals from qualified groups to support the expansion of public education and training to help those that come into contact with adults and young people in the Newtown community. The foundation is seeking to identify, understand, and respond to signs of trauma, mental health concerns, and/or address barriers that keep those who need mental health services from accessing them. Proposals are also sought to develop, strengthen, or expand therapeutic programs/interventions that assist with the recovery from those impacted by 12/14. The deadline for proposal submission is May 9.