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Snow Makes for Slick Ride in Northwest Hills


Temperatures were cold enough in the Northwest Hills Tuesday that the snow started sticking early, covering streets, cars and sidewalks during the height of the evening commute.

Plows were out and so were the shovels. In Torrington, the Prince family makes it a team effort. They were digging out their sidewalkTuesday night with their toddler who was taking advantage of it.

“It’s definitely easier to get ahead of it than just waiting because of the fact that it starts to get heavy on your back,” Shay Prince said. “But she loves the snow. We’ve been playing and having snowball fights.”

There was plenty of time to play with schools dismissing early. Parents say it was a good call after passing several accidents including a rollover on West Hill Road in New Hartford.

The cold snap is now the concern in the hills because they know as the snow stops, the temperature drops.

“It can get really dicey especially when the sun goes down and it starts to get cooler and that’s when things get icy,” Denise Vensel of Harwinton said.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Hartford Faces $32 Million Budget Deficit


The city of Hartford faces a full-blown budget crisis. That's the word from Mayor Luke Bronin at a public meeting Tuesday night.

Bronin announced the city faces a $32 million deficit for the coming 2016-17 fiscal year.

"Hartford has a massive structural deficit. We've had one for years. It's been hidden with one-time revenues like selling parking garages and raiding long-time reserves," said Bronin.

The purpose of the "2016 People's Budget" meeting at the public library was to inform residents about the growing problem and to receive input from citizens on how to slice the debt at a future meeting set for Saturday, March 5th at 9am at the Hartford Public Library. The mayor encourages residents to attend.

Bronin told the audience that the city is already in financial trouble this fiscal year.

"This year we've got a gap of $9 million. I mean this current year ending in June. That means the budget passed last year wasn't really balanced. It might have looked balanced, but it wasn't really balanced," said Bronin.

The mayor already sent out a letter to department leaders to cut back on expenses and issued a hiring freeze for non-essential personnel.

Unless significant and permanent cuts are made, the $32 million dollar hole the city tries to climb out of for the 2016-17 fiscal year only grows with time. Officials say the year after that, the deficit is projected to hit $48 million. It jumps to $63 million the following year and then $67 million.

"The decisions we make in this year's budget together are going to determine whether Hartford is a healthy growing city or whether we accept a future of decline, and I refuse to accept a future of decline," said Bronin.

For now, everything remains on the table. Restructuring government is a high priority and labor will be asked to make concessions. Bronin points out that the key for the city is growth, and with Hartford already home to the highest mill rate in the state, raising taxes is not a future-friendly proposition.

"For our small businesses especially. They're paying twice or more than twice what they could pay in any surrounding town," said Bronin.

Many residents may place the city's financial troubles on a new baseball stadium the city is building. Just last night, the city council signed off on a deal that kicks an extra $5.5 million to finish the Yard Goats stadium. The mayor says while the costs there haven't helped, it's certainly not the main cause of the problem.

Photo Credit: AP

Package Store Owners Pack Capitol Against Bill


Package store owners from across Connecticut filled the hallways and a hearing room at the State Capitol in opposition to a measure pushed by the Malloy administration that would eliminate the minimum pricing law.

The law has been on the books for decades and it provides an outlet for suppliers to have an artificial price floor beyond which their bottles can't be sold in any retailer in the state.

Gov. Dannel Malloy has touted removing the minimum bottle pricing law as a way to promote competition and be more customer-friendly.

"I’m confident that the mom and pops cannot only survive with this but they can thrive" said Jonathan Harris, the Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection, who spoke in favor of the bill Tuesday in front of a General Assembly committee.

Harris, however, was far outnumbered by the hundreds of package store owners like Nish Patel, who arrived at the Capitol in droves to try to drown the bill.

"We don't know what's going to happen with minimum bottle" Patel said, wh owns a pair of package stores in Middletown and Cromwell.

Patel said stores like his are still dealing with the effects of expanded Sunday sales which were approved last year.

“On the Sunday sales the number stayed the same but we picked up on extra expenses and stuff so obviously that effects the bottom line."

Package stores in Connecticut employ more than 5,000 people and bring in more than a billion dollars every year in overall sales.

Carroll Hughes, a lobbyist who has represented package stores for 40 years said removing the minimum bottle pricing law will lead to much lower prices in larger retailers with significant purchasing power, leaving smaller stores with higher prices and fewer customers. Hughes said the issue isn't about prices considering prices in Connecticut are competitive with surrounding states.

“I think we have to look at what is good for the state of Connecticut and the prices we have are almost all within a dollar or two of the other states, take away the taxes.”

Patel said the legislature should stay out of the industry altogether and said suppliers should lower their minimum prices if they want them sold at cheaper rates to customers.

“It comes from the suppliers and it comes from the distributors" Patel said. "So if they want to lower the prices for the consumer, they can just lower the min bottle on their end and then we can just sell it for that.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Flint Plumber Discovers Poison Pipes in His Own House


In the midst of the Flint water crisis, plumbers union official Harold Harrington was among those offering help, sending hundreds of tradesmen to install filters and faucets for free, hand out lead-testing kits and inspect service lines.

He was so busy that he never got around to testing the water at his own home, he told NBC News. But last week, he finally turned samples over to the state lab. Results showed that the level of lead coming through his taps was 151 parts per billion — 10 times above the point at which the federal government says action must be taken.

Harrington thought back to how his dog, Lucy, had gotten so gravely ill in the summer that he had her euthanized. He also wondered if the lead level could explain why his wife Suzan's hair kept falling out or if it had anything to do with the persistent rash on the back of his head.

"I'm mostly upset at myself," said Harrington who, like most of his neighbors, accepted government assurances that the water the city began taking from the Flint River in April 2014 was perfectly safe to drink. "I should have known better. When I seen and smelled the nasty water, I should have known something was up. I never should have trusted them when they said it was safe."

Photo Credit: NBC News
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Police Investigating Reports of Man Offering Ride to Teen


Police are investigating after a 13-year-old girl said a man in a car approached her in Stratford on Tuesday afternoon and offered her a ride.

The teen told police that the man approached her on Cutspring Road, near Pumpkin Ground Road, around 12:30 p.m. and asked if she wanted a ride,

The only description available is that the man was driving a dark color, possibly gray Honda.

Officers patrolled the area, but there was no sign of any vehicles matching the description.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Obama Explains What He Wants in SCOTUS Nominee


President Barack Obama revealed the qualities he is looking for in the Supreme Court justice by posting about it on the SCOTUSblog website. 

The next justice will "have an independent mind, rigorous intellect, impeccable credentials, and a record of excellence and integrity," Obama wrote. The person must be "eminently qualified" for the position, but "would not sit on the court with the purpose of trying to change the law," he continued. 

The vacancy, which opened on Feb. 13 when Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly at the age of 79, has been a contentious topic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would block a hearing on Capitol Hill should Obama decide to nominate someone during this presidential election. 

Democrats, on the other hand, said the Constitution gives the president the right to nominate someone at any moment because of a vacancy.

Photo Credit: AP

Russia Sends 10,000 AK-47s to Afghan Government


A cargo plane laden with 10,000 AK-47s landed in Kabul on Wednesday, the first part of a major Russian military aid package aimed at helping Kabul contain a resurgent insurgency, NBC News reported.

The delivery — which also includes helicopters and heavy weapons — came almost three decades after the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in humiliation after a 10-year occupation.

This is the first direct military assistance to Afghanistan from Russia since the Taliban was toppled in 2001, Afghan National Security Council spokesman Tawab Ghurzang told NBC News. 

Photo Credit: AP

Missing Mass. Woman Found in Conn.


Police say a missing woman from Holbrook, Massachusetts, has been found alive in Connecticut. 

Authorities say someone saw Judith Sales' car in the area of Route 85 in Waterford. Officers responded to the area and found Sales in her vehicle in one of the lots of the Crystal Mall. 

Sales was in good health, but requested to go to the hospital. 

Sales is in the custody of police at this time. 

Sales had been missing since Monday. Her husband Clifford Sales reported her missing after she was last seen leaving her job in Taunton, and failed to pick up their son from daycare. 

Foul play is not suspected.

Photo Credit: Holbrook Police

WH Vetting Nev. Gov. Sandoval for SCOTUS Pick: Source


The White House is considering Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican centrist, as a potential nominee for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, a source has confirmed to NBC News.

It's unclear if the formal "vetting" process is underway, however, the source confirmed that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid met with Sandoval on Monday.

Sandoval's record matches President Barack Obama's on many key issues, which include supporting the Supreme Court's same sex marriage decision last year and he backs abortion rights.

The former District Court judge and state attorney general, was the first Latino candidate elected to statewide office in Nevada.

The news comes on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's announcement that the Senate would not hold hearings on any nominee in the wake of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Photo Credit: AP

Help Available for Students of Shuttered Marinello School of Beauty


After the federal government launched an investigation into the finances of the Marinello School of Beauty chain, the school shut down three weeks ago, leaving hundreds of students under the dryer. Now students have some places to turn for help.

“Not only did the school close,” said Shyan Turner, "but they told us that our high school diplomas didn't matter, so I had to start all the way over. It's just a longer process and it's stressful.”

To help the students who lost their school, the government brought together 15 other beauty schools to a forum in Hartford.

“I'm looking for the instructors to give me great insight in what I'm going to learn at the school," Joinesha Cash said.

Students were also getting the federal government to forgive student loans used at Marinello, or to move them along to the students' new schools. Some of them, though, paid cash.

"Those students can apply for tuition reimbursement and we will refund their money," Patricia Santoro, of the state government's Office of Higher Education, said.

Get more information on the help available from the state Office of Higher Education.  

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

School Civil Rights Investigation


Community leaders are seeking a federal probe of Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in the nation, and its headmaster as they demand a more thorough investigation into the alleged mishandling of allegations of racism at the prestigious school.

The local NAACP chapter is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate how the school responded when students brought to administrators’ attention racially charged social media posts made by other students.

"Ultimately, what they'll be looking for is a racially hostile learning environment," said NAACP Boston President Michael Curry. "We believe that there is valid evidence of that, and we're hoping that they will end up taking a look at it."

The school was the subject of an internal investigation stemming from seven alleged incidents of racism between November 2014 and January 2016, according to the Boston Public Schools website.

The district's Office of Equity found the school violated its policy in responding to one of the incidents, when a student used a racial slur to threaten toward a peer, the school system said. A male student allegedly made a comment about lynching to a black female student.

"The review found BLS did not adequately investigate the incident, did not adequately discipline the student, nor take appropriate steps to ensure the support and safety of the targeted student," the district wrote on its website.

In another incident, two black students presented the headmaster with a binder full of racially charged social media posts. Four students accused of making the posts met privately with school administrators and "there were no further issues," the school said.

The office issued a set of recommendations to district Supt. Tommy Chang in order to "improve the culture and climate" at the Boston Latin School, which Chang pledged to implement.

"I believe the Office of Equity’s investigation into Boston Latin School was handled with integrity. The NAACP is and will continue to be an important partner of the Boston Public Schools as we move forward to enhance and ensure a safe and respectful learning environment for all students. The district looks forward to working with the NAACP and other community groups," Chang said in a statement Wednesday.

Curry said civil rights leaders and organizations planned to submit the request to the U.S. Attorney's Office of Civil Rights Wednesday afternoon. They are pushing for the ousting of headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta.

"We want her gone," Curry said.

Under pressure to resign, Teta sent an open letter to the school community Tuesday night.

"After weeks of self-reflection and frank conversations, I realize that in important ways I have not succeeded," she wrote. "I am truly sorry."

"Her apology is appreciated, but it's a little too late," Curry said.

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang stood by the original investigation that found only one of seven race-based incidents was mishandled by Latin School administration, saying in a statement, "I believe the Office of Equity’s investigation into Boston Latin School was handled with integrity. The NAACP is and will continue to be an important partner of the Boston Public Schools."

"I don't think a federal probe is necessary," said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Walsh said he thinks there are other avenues that can be explored that will be less of a distraction for students at BLS.

"We're going to have an internal review in the mayor's office separate and independent from the school department," said Walsh. "We're going to have that conversation today and see what the next step will be."

The public school is the oldest in the country, founded in 1635. Some of its famous alumni include John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Murphy Proposes Bill to Prevent Lead Poisoning Amid Flint Water Crisis


A new tax credit bill has been introduced to prevent lead poisoning in Connecticut like the water crisis plaguing Flint, Michigan, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy announced on Wednesday. 

"We’ve got to start thinking about ways to prevent a crisis like Flint from happening in Connecticut," said Murphy. "In Connecticut, there are still hundreds of thousands of old homes that have lead paint and old pipes, and if we don’t do anything to remove them now, we’re going to pay the price down the road."

The introduced legislation would lower the cost of cleaning up lead and other toxins for homeowners. 

The Healthy Homes Tax Credit Act, provides homeowners with a maximum tax credit of $5,000 to pay for lead, radon, or asbestos abatement, Murphy's office said. 

In February, lawmakers in Michigan unanimously approved $30 million to help pay Flint residents' water bills after aging infrastructure contaminated the the city's water with lead.

Photo Credit: AP

Vegas Jackpot: How Trump Scored Nev. Win


Donald Trump's near-landslide victory in Nevada early Wednesday is the result of support he enjoys from almost every key segment of the electorate, according to the NBC News Entrance Poll. 

As in the past three contests, the real estate mogul performed best among Republican voters who were looking for a candidate who "tells it like it is," receiving 86 percent of their support.

He also did very well among those who want the next president to come from outside the political establishment, getting 70 percent of this group's vote.

Trump took 59 percent of the vote among caucus-goers who wanted a candidate who could bring about change. He was also on top among voters whose top issue was the economy (47 percent), terrorism (37 percent) and government spending (36 percent).

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images
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East Windsor Out of Casino Contention


East Windsor has been taken out of consideration for a new casino facility in Connecticut, the Mohegan Tribal Council and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council said. 

"We’ve spent the last several months going through this process, trying to figure out the best way to preserve Connecticut jobs and revenue," said Kevin Brown, Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council.

Brown said one of the East Windsor sites was removed by the developer and others were not submitted by the property owner which made pursuing a facility "extremely difficult."

East Hartford, Hartford and Windor Locks are the remaining towns to be considered for a third casino in  the state.

The Mohegan tribe and Mashantucket Pequot tribe will meet with officials from each town to discuss a detailed proposal.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

3 Pregnant Women With Zika in Fla.


Three pregnant women in Florida have tested positive for Zika virus after traveling from outside the U.S., state health officials said Wednesday.

Officials aren't releasing what counties the women are from or any other information out of respect for their privacy.

The total number of Zika cases in Florida is 32. All of them are travel-related and only three cases are still exhibiting symptoms, officials said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has asked the CDC to send 250 additional Zika antibody tests to the state following Wednesday's news.

"Following the news that three pregnant women tested positive for the Zika virus after traveling to Latin America, we have requested additional antibody tests to ensure we keep a good supply of resources to keep our families safe," Scott said in a statement. "I appreciate that the CDC has previously supplied Florida with these antibody tests and I ask that the CDC take immediate action to fulfill this request so we can continue to stay ahead of the possible spread of the Zika virus in Florida."

The Florida Department of Health recommend that women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant postpone travel to Zika-affected areas.

Symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to ten days, according to the CDC.

Anyone seeking information can call Florida's Zika Virus Information Hotline at 1-855-622-6735 or visit floridahealth.gov.

Photo Credit: File – Getty Images

Colin Powell: Closing Guantanamo in America's 'Best Interest'


Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center is in the "best interest" of the United States and the nation's moral standing in the world, NBC News reported.

"Do we really need to keep this place open for 50 remaining detainees who we can easily move to a secure facility in the United States?" Powell asked on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Republicans are taking legal steps to prevent the White House from closing the U.S. prison facility in Cuba, telling reporters on Wednesday that Congress has enough votes to override any veto. 

Photo Credit: David Bohrer/U.S. National Archives via Getty Images

Parent Comments Lead to Shelter in Place Order for Middle School


A parent's comment lead to a shelter in place order at John Wallace Middle School in Newington on Wednesday, the superintendent said. 

The Department of Children and Families was contacted after a fifth grade student told a school counselor about concerning incidents going on in their home, superintendent Dr. William C. Collins said.

When the mother of the student found out the DCF was contacted, she threatened to harm the assistant principal and her children. The mother told the assistant principal she was on her way to the school, according to Collins. 

"You learn to kinda decipher what are real threats and what are idle threats and when something crosses line to something you’re more concerned about we don’t take any chances at all," Collins told NBC Connecticut.

Police found the woman on her way to the school and she is in central booking. 

The fifth grade student and a sibling have been removed from the home. 

The shelter in place has since been lifted, the superintendent  said.

Newington Police reported to the school to make sure students and faculty were safe, Collins said. 

The mother, who has not been identified, faces breach of preach charges. 

Abbey Niezgoda contributed to this report. 

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

John Kasich Says Campaign Critics Need to 'Chill Out'


Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday said those calling on him to end his presidential run need to "chill out," NBC News reported.

"I'm staying in because I think, at the end of the day, I'm going to accumulate enough delegates to win," Kasich told a voter asking about the future of his campaign in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Kasich finished last among the remaining Republican candidates in Tuesday's Nevada caucuses.  

Photo Credit: AP

Ex-Marine Admits Killing Girlfriend


A retired U.S. Marine has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his girlfriend, a Southern California woman whose remains were found on a remote island near Panama.

Brian Brimager will be imprisoned for the murder of Yvonne Baldelli after entering a guilty plea Wednesday at the San Diego federal courthouse.

Baldelli vanished five years ago when she traveled to Panama with her boyfriend, Brimager, a retired Marine formerly based at Camp Pendleton. The couple left Dana Point, California, in September 2011 to stay on Isla Carenero, an island off the coast accessible only by boat. Baldelli was last seen at a restaurant with Brimager on Nov. 26, 2011.

Brimager admitted Wednesday he stabbed Baldelli in the back on Nov. 27, 2011, then used a machete to dismember her before dumping her remains in the jungle. He also admitted to using a computer in an effort to convince family members that Baldelli was not only still alive but had traveled to Costa Rica with another man.

Authorities said Brimager withdrew money from Baldelli's bank account and sent emails from her laptop, including messages to her family saying Baldelli was happy.

According to court documents, Brimager used the laptop to search for information on how to remove blood stains from a mattress. He’s also accused of stuffing Baldelli’s belongings into garbage bags and disposing of the bags on a dock outside the couple's hostel.

Prosecutors said Brimager lied to investigators about Baldelli’s disappearance and told them she took her laptop while traveling. In 2012, he was found with the computer in his possession, at which point Brimager changed his story but said he never used it to send emails.

Baldelli’s remains were found in 2013 on a small island off the Isla Carenero coastline. Scientists identified her body using DNA analysis on her skull and bones. Her DNA was also found under the handle of a machete, prosecutors revealed last week.

Brimager has been in U.S. custody since June 2013 on charges of obstruction of justice, giving false statements to a federal officer and falsifying records.

In April 2015, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego on a charge of foreign murder of a U.S. national. Brimager initially pleaded not guilty.

Just last week, court documents were filed revealing a machete was the weapon in this grisly murder, and that blood found under the handle of that machete contained Baldelli's DNA.

Photo Credit: Justice for Yvonne Baldelli/Facebook

Hartford Police Crime Center Updates


Hartford police use more than 200 Department of Public Works cameras to catch criminals and soon they'll have 500 eyes on the streets, controlled from a "real-time crime center."

Sgt. Johnmichael O'Hare supervises special operations there. He showed off some of the fruits of the efforts of police and civilian analysts Wednesday afternoon.

For example, a pattern of burglaries in Hartford and Bloomfield plotted on electronic maps generated predictive analysis and led to an arrest.

The center has radio access to all officers in the field so it can send them pictures and records. O'Hare said, "With all this, we are no longer fishing with a net. We're fishing with a spear."

Police said all the gear doesn't cost that much, and the money comes from federal government grants and criminal asset forfeiture money.

"Taking from criminals to be used against future criminals," said Chief James Rovella, "and to protect my public!

O'Hare told of confronting a suspect with video evidence of his crime and winning a confession just 35 minutes after the event.

"It's gonna be awesome!" said Hyacinth Yennie, a citizen looking over the array of screens. She is sure the public will appreciate the surveillance.

"I think they're gonna love the fact that they know that Big Brother's watching them, OK? You don't got much privacy any more and that's ok - if it keeps us safe that's fine," she said.

Besides the camera system, the Shotspotter sound detector system is expanding. By April it'll cover more than eleven more square miles of Hartford so police can go right to where shots are fired.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
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