Around the State

Traffic Alert

The CT Department Of Transportation began replacing the guard rail system and cutting trees on Rt. 59 on April 16th. This work will continue for about a month and a half between the hours of 9am to 3pm. Monday thru Friday. Please expect delays during these times along different parts of Rt. 59. We have included a map of the different areas of Rt. 59 that will be affected. Work will most likely begin in the area of Rt. 59 and Church Rd. It is recommended that you find an alternate route around these areas during the next 6 weeks.

RES OMers Compete

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
― Maya Angelou
On Saturday, March 17, several teams of RES students will join kids from around the state to compete in Odyssey of the Mind State Finals at Southern Connecticut State University.Odyssey of the Mind (OM) is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.

There is a rich history of Redding students from RES, JRMS and JBHS participating in O M. Several teams have gone on to the world finals. RES teacher Matt Farina took over the helm of local participation after Francine LaMonica retired.

Each team is required to do almost every aspect on their own without “Outside Help” from parents and coaches. This includes building props, sewing costumes, painting sets, writing the scripts and solving the problem presented by the Odyssey of the Mind organization.

An exception for adult involvement is, of course, driving the students to procure their materials and to the competition. Judges are always watching when the team arrives at the school to make sure only the students unload the materials. Officials have been known to circulate in the bathrooms and waiting areas to ensure that the students are doing all preparation such as hair and makeup on their own.

Their budget must be strictly followed and documented. Even items like the clothes worn from home while in the presentations are given a value.

Christine Schwartz and Trang Stuart are coaching a team of first time competitors ranging from first to fourth grades. The team consists of Miley, Lilia, Keaton and Chloe – all in third grade, Olivia who is a fourth grader, and Jacob in second grade. They call themselves the “Redding Color Squad.”

The Color Squad chose Triathlon Travels as their challenge. In this problem, the teams will ride on and drive an original vehicle in an Odyssey-style triathlon. They will try to score in “curling,” hit the right targets when “jousting,” and “run track” by navigating a course in two directions. Between these events, the team will entertain the audience and the vehicle will change appearance. All of the action will take place in a team-created performance that features the vehicles’ triathlon travels, a commentator, and a coach.

The other problems presented this year are called: Emoji, Speak for Yourself; Classics… Mockumentary! Seriously?; Animal House; A Stellar Hangout with a Primary (K-2) problem called We’re Cooking Now

Christine and Trang are very proud of their team. Christine said, “Students learned about the brainstorming process, took democratic votes on each decision, and worked together to make it all happen. The kids learned how to use a power drill, how to cut PVC pipes and wood with a saw, discovered the wonders of zip-ties, made costumes and most of all learned how to become a unified and supportive team.”

“Spontaneous” is a part of the competition where team members get to think on their feet and outside of the box. The teams drill constantly to learn the critical skills needed for Spontaneous; but they won’t hear the problem until they enter the room.

The nature of these problems vary and could be Verbal, Hands-on or combined. Teams who have already completed the question are sworn to secrecy until the day is over so as not to provide an unfair advantage to the teams that come after them.

In between competing, the students have the opportunity to visit the science labs at SCSU. The day culminates in an awards ceremony. Two teams from each Division (grade level) and Problem go on to World Finals in Iowa in the spring.

Good luck to all the Redding teams!

The Redding Color Squad getting ready for Triathlon Travels
Olivia, Keaton, Jacob, Lilia, Miley, and Chloe.

Transportation Forum

by Jennie Brown, hello Bethel

A transportation forum on March 5 drew a full house to Danbury City Hall but provided few answers for the many people who stepped up to the microphones with their questions and concerns. At issue was Governor Malloy’s proposed bus and rail fare increases and service cuts as means to address a $60 million transportation budget shortfall.

Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker began the forum with a 15-minute overview of the current fiscal situation. He explained that a significant historical factor that has led to this moment is the gas tax reduction in 2000. Since that year, the 25 cent per gallon rate has remained flat. If indexed for inflation, Redeker explained, the gas tax would now be 39 cents per gallon. Along with that loss of potential revenue over the past 18 years is the fact that the money has been diverted away from the Special Transportation Fund to fund non-transportation projects. Redeker added that factoring in the rising cost of debt service and the significant cuts already taken by the Department of Transportation (e.g., 15% staffing reduction) will force officials to work hard to find ways to cut costs and increase revenue just to maintain the transportation system. Redeker voiced his frustration over the fact that his department’s short- and long-range plans to improve and modernize the state’s aging infrastructure are postponed indefinitely. (Refer to this 12-page list for a town-by-town summary.)

During 90 minutes of public comment, concerns ranged from train affordability for daily commuters to bus schedule limitations for local riders. One commuter talked about the “decrepit” physical state of the trains on the Danbury line. Members of the community who regularly use SweetHART buses were vocal in their opposition to the proposed schedule cuts and fare increases, pointing out deficiencies in the system that currently exist. One commenter mentioned that night buses don’t travel as far as daytime buses, forcing people to either walk home or stay home in the evening. Another SweetHART rider explained that he has to be seated in his wheelchair at rear at bus, the bumpiest part, and wondered if the bus could be scheduled more efficiently since he is often the only rider. A SweetHART bus driver spoke of the inability of her riders to get to their jobs if service cuts went into effect.

Several people in the audience proposed solutions, ranging from advertising on buses to finding a more equitable, state-wide solution to the budget problem. The legislators at the forum sympathized with the commenters but only proposed one idea for creating a revenue stream. Speaking for the panel, Fred Wilms (R-Norwalk, New Canaan) said that the Legislature is proposing to speed up the timetable for redirecting car sales tax revenue from the General Fund to the Special Transportation Fund. “In terms of how we’d pay for that,” Wilms said, “we would look at spending reductions in general budget. That’s one option we’re working on.”

    

When other members of the panel were asked by audience members for specific remedies to the transportation budget shortfall, they did not provide details. Stephen Harding, one of Bethel’s Representatives, said, “Outside of garnering revenue, there are other areas of the budget we can address. Priorities have to be made. One of the biggest has to be transportation throughout this community. Bethel’s downtown is built around a successful train station.”

Harding also thanked Raghib Allie-Brennan, 2nd District State Assembly candidate, for advocating against the governor’s proposal. When reached for comment, Allie-Brennan, who helped bring Commissioner Redeker to Danbury for this forum, pointed out that “Metro-North riders already pay the highest commuter rail fares in the U.S. Without daily trains, houses in communities on the Danbury Line like Bethel, Redding, and Danbury will be less desirable and property values will decrease, affecting local taxes. In my hometown of Bethel we have been working to develop the area in and around the train station, investing over $100,000 already. Cuts to the Danbury Line service will affect this investment, our downtown economy, and our hardworking residents who commute to work everyday.”

When reached for comment, William Duff, 2nd District Representative, deferred, stating that he wanted to focus on the bipartisan efforts in the legislature. Harding did not respond to comment for this article.