First Selectman provided and update on the project to members of the Monday.
He was joined by attorney Richard Vitarelli of the law firm McCarter & English, LLC, who also provided a presentation regarding the legality of the 2010 Metro Center agreements signed on behalf of the town by former .
This was the same presentation following the Oct. 5 Board of Selectmen meeting.
Here are the topics Tetreau and Vitarelli covered at the meeting:
Station Construction and Timeline
Tetreau announced that the Metro Center train station’s tentative opening was pushed back from Oct. 31 to Dec. 1.
Metro-North inspected the tracks and found a problem with one of the bridges, Tetreau said. The repairs affected some of the tracks, which Metro North is attending to -- thus the opening was pushed back.
The delay in opening the station does not affect the $3 million state grant to help alleviate the cost overruns, Tetreau said. That grant is a reimbursement for costs associated with paving the access road and parking lot -- those projects have been completed, Tetreau said.
He added that the $40.8 million total cost for the project, which was projected as of his Sept. 30 update report, had not changed in the past month.
These portions of the Metro Center still need to be completed, according to Tetreau’s report:
- The UI is scheduled to pull wires for the installed utilities this week, and the water main is being pressure tested.
- Excess soils are being screened and options for remaining material are being evaluated.
- The supplemental grant agreement with the sate is being developed (essentially, it’s a matter of paperwork, according to Tetreau).
- The town and UI still need to execute the project agreement and utility easement before the UI will energize the system (again, paperwork.)
Delays in the last two points can be partially attributed to the two entities the town is dealing with in this project, UI and the state.
“You’ve got the state, who’s used to getting their way, and a company that’s used to getting their way,” Tetreau said.
The contract for the work to build the Metro Center ends Nov. 13. Selectman James Walsh expressed concern over penalties the town might receive due to the delayed completion, but Tetreau said due to and UI/state-induced delays.
The projected number of 1,440 parking spaces for commuters and visitors has been reduced to an actual figure of 1,369, according to Tetreau. The state regulated that there must be drop-off areas for buses and taxis, as well as designated handicapped spots, “which chewed up spaces,” Tetreau said.
While the town Parking Authority oversells the downtown Fairfield train station lot by 1.9 percent (double booking the lot), Tetreau said, the state has yet to issue whether it will do the same with the Metro Center.
Chair Mary Kay Frost addressed the price differences for the Metro Center lot versus the Fairfield Center and Southport lots.
An annual permit for the new center is $420; six months is $210. The yearly cost is $80 more than the $340 annual cost for the Fairfield Center lot.
Frost said the town had no input in the parking rates; they were determined by the state, which set the same rates as surface parking at the Bridgeport train station.
Frost said the parking authority sent 375 letters to Fairfield Center commuters who expressed interest in moving to the Metro Center - - the deadline for those responses on whether those permit holders like to move, stay, or no longer need permits is Thursday, Oct. 27.
Similar letters were sent to 1,000 commuters on the waiting list for the Fairfield Center station, she said. “We will have a better idea after that” regarding how many permits the state will issue for the new lot, Frost said.
McCarter & English Report
Richard Vitarelli presented his firm’s report on the Metro Center 2010 agreements -- the same report as presented to the Board of Selectmen earlier this month.
Ed Bateson, R-3, asked Vitarelli whether his firm’s findings could constitute cause to terminate the 2010 agreements.
Vitarelli said no, his firm did not find reason against contracts' validity.
Bateson, along with Selectman Jim Walsh, requested to see drafts of the report, as they were concerned that town officials may have influenced the final product.
“This isn’t a litigation matter -- what is the benefit to the town to protect these drafts?” Walsh challenged.
Vitarelli said the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act protects drafts. “This is the final document,” he said. “Everything else is a draft.”
He stated several times that the report distributed to the public was purely his firm’s conclusions; the only help from town officials was fact and date verification.
Bateson stood firm in his request to see drafts. “I want to see the first version of this McCarter and English report,” he said to Vitarelli. “I want to see what you thought, not the Board of Selectmen or the First Selectman.
“When it comes to this project, I’m sorry guys, I just don’t trust anyone,” he said.
Attorney Richard Saxl
Former Town Attorney , whose resignation was announced Oct. 3 after the McCarter and English findings were released to the public, is still handling tax appeals matters for the town, Tetreau said.
Tetreau confirmed that Saxl has not, since his resignation, sat in on any meetings or discussions regarding the Metro Center. He has solely been tasked with facilitating the transition with tax appeal cases until a replacement has been found for town attorney, according to the First Selectman.
Several RTM members questioned whether Saxl should be handling any cases for the town at this point.
Joseph DeMartino, R-4, cited the press release issued Oct. 3 regarding the McCarter and English report and Saxl’s resignation, in which Tetreau said Saxl’s credibility had been impaired.
“If you think Saxl’s credibility is impaired, how would you feel if he was handling your tax appeals?” DeMartino said to Tetreau.
It’s a matter of customer service for the residents, Tetreau said. ”You’re worried about dropping the ball [with the volume of tax appeals], and that’s what we were worried about,” he said.
Tetreau added that Chief Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller, Assistant Town Attorney Eileen Kennelly, and the tax assessor’s office are reviewing the appeals with Saxl.
Saxl’s September bill for town services was $30,000, Tetreau said. He said it is expected Saxl will be completely off the town’s payroll by the end of the year.
Saxl will not be making the same salary for the remaining months since his workload has been reduced, Tetreau said, responding to an inquiry made by Elizabeth Hoffman, R-8.