Editor's note: The following letter was received from Alexis Harrison, a member of the Representative Town Meeting from District 8.
The fallout from “Flatto’s Fiasco” is just beginning.
Over three years ago, members of Concerned Citizens tried desperately to warn the citizens of this town about the fragile foundation on which the Metro Station project was about to proceed. Time after time, then First Selectman Ken Flatto and Town Attorney Richard Saxl rebuffed our concerns as “silly and ridiculous" and others did the same, characterizing us as obstructionists and "anti-train station” or worse.
When we tried to bring our concerns to the Fairfield Ethics Commission, its members turned a blind eye to the obvious facts we brought to their attention. Well, the chickens these refusals bred, in failing to seriously consider the real issues, are now coming home to roost – all $6 million of them, not to mention the loss of parking revenues for who knows how long.
There are two root causes for the enormous financial exposure the town now faces: First, the failure of Town Attorney Richard Saxl to address an obvious deficiency in the original Tri-partite Agreement among the town, the state and Blackrock Realty. While Blackrock had promised to build the internal road and remediate the land under the road as well as to build the train depot, the agreement provided that it would not be obliged to do that work if it did not get a state grant. Absolutely nothing was said about who would do that work if Blackrock did not get the grant. Well, Blackrock did not get the grant and therefore had no legal obligation to do that work. If that real possibility had been addressed before the agreement was signed, what followed might have been avoided. As a result of this contractual deficiency, the state was forced to issue a bond for over $19 million to be used to build the road, etc. Otherwise it would have been left with “a bridge to nowhere.” When it did so, it was made clear to Flatto that the state would not contribute more and it was now up to the town to see the project to completion.
Second, Flatto’s removal of the town’s Conservation Department from all oversight of the project. As early as 2004, Conservation had discovered serious violations of town regulations by Blackrock and again in 2007. When Blackrock complained, Flatto was quick to remove the department from oversight of the project and install a non-professional wetlands compliance officer, an action the Superior Court found to be illegal. Had the Conservation Department remained on the job, we would have had the expert, independent oversight of our town’s own professional staff to protect Fairfield’s interests and we would have been well informed at each stage of the project long before this.
Now that Flatto is gone, it is time to re-install the Conservation Department to oversight of this project before the town is subjected to further financial or environmental exposure.
In conclusion, the Concerned Citizens believe it is essential that the Representative Town Meeting and/or the Board of Finance promptly appoint an independent commission to investigate all aspects of the town’s involvement in the Metro Center project. This latest revelation may be the only the tip of the iceberg and Fairfield should not wait for further surprises.
Representative Town Meeting, District 8