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Bateson On Fairfield Metro Center: 'I Just Don't Trust Anyone'

RTM members heard an update from the First Selectman on the Metro Center, as well as the McCarter & English report -- and challenged much that was said.

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.

Parking Permits

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.

Fairfield Resident October 26, 2011 at 12:05 PM
Hey Town of Fairfield................. When are you going to do something that will actually help commuters like building a second level of parking at the current train station?? I've been on the Waiting List for a parking permit for 5 YEARS and have at LEAST another 3 years to go before I can get a permit. Good job Fairfield.......
Jim Eastwood October 26, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Good Morning Fairfield AH !!!!! The Train Station !!!!! Why would anyone at this time trust anything that is said ?? Is it True that the Town will receive NO Money Back from this project ?? Oh But the Taxpayer will Pay and Pay !!!! What ever happened to TAXPAYING property ???? We worry more about Kids walking to school then we do about the Mismanagement, Inside deals??? and poor politics which surround the "Station" and many other issues with in the Town. And What about the Cost of the Cleanup behind the Main Fire Station???? Just how much is that going to cost??? Mis Management again ?? Don't worry the Taxpayer will just pay and Pay !! Selctman Mike---You steeped into a Hornet's MESS---Can you clean it up and get us Back On Track before we get RUNOVER by the Train ?? The stimulus here Must be to HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIT ACTIONS!!!! Have a Great Day You ALL !!!
Fairfield Resident October 26, 2011 at 12:16 PM
Hey Jim........ Can you enlighten me on what is going on behind the fire station? I walked by it the other day and noticed personal cars parked on the ramp in front of th fire station and in a no parking zone on the street in front of the fire station. I also saw that their parkig lot behind the station was roped off. Thanks for any insight you may have.
Fairfield Resident October 26, 2011 at 12:16 PM
"parking" lot My Bad.
Kenny October 26, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Old oil tank is leaking into the ground....should run the town around $400,000 to fix, but you don't hear anyone talking about that!
John Jameson October 26, 2011 at 01:04 PM
There was a story in the Fairfield Citizen a few weeks ago about the tank removal.
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) October 26, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Paul Hiller updated the town on behalf of the DPW at the RTM meeting regarding the fire tank removal from the Reef Road station: Immediately upon attempting removal, the crews encountered a major fuel leak. His estimate right now is that the overage to cover the leak will run in excess of $365,000, but they won't know for sure until after the holidays and more is assessed on the damage. Right now, funds are coming from the public works department budget to cover what it can but they won't be moving forward with appropriations and requests until they know the total cost.
Kenny October 26, 2011 at 01:46 PM
Thanks for the update Caitlin! Never saw the article in the Citizen, sorry John.
tonypct October 26, 2011 at 01:57 PM
Agree with Bateson: I don't trust anyone who says anything about this boon-dockle (sp?) called Metro Center. And still, no one is held accountable. How truly pathetic.
S. Frank October 26, 2011 at 02:29 PM
So, Saxl resigned but is still hadling matters for the town and got $30,000 for one month's work. Question 1. How can you resign from a job and still get paid for working for your former employer? Question 2. If Saxl regined and was replaced by a new town attorney, but Saxl is earning from the town, are we taxpayers now going to be paying much higher legal fees, some to the new town attorney and some to Saxl?
steve sheppard October 26, 2011 at 02:55 PM
From a commuters point of view just sad. All we wanted was an overhead walkway and elevator to comply with ADA regulations and instead we got a 40 million waste of money. I'm afraid the whole Metro Center is going to cost us a bunch going forward as a cost center with only adding pressure to our roads, schools, and infrastructure. My property taxes have almost tripled in 11 years I wonder what the next 11 years will bring.
R. Ludlowe October 26, 2011 at 03:33 PM
This thing is just a joke at this point. Whatever happened to renaming it? I assume that idea fled with Flatto as well.
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) October 26, 2011 at 03:50 PM
S. Frank - I can't answer all those questions, but I can tell you that Saxl hasn't been replaced yet. Mike Tetreau said the Town Attorney position is still vacant, and Assistant Town Attorney Eileen Kennelly is helping out with the transition (as is Saxl, with the tax appeals).
kylie October 26, 2011 at 06:32 PM
This is what happens when non-professionals are running a town, or as some say, a $226 business. Let's stop electing people who will put their political adversaries in high positions with no vetting. Enough. Hire professionals and let them to their job.
Matt Prohaska October 26, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Unfortunately the parking waiting list bifurcation between the two stations was apparently not addressed in the meeting or here yet. As one of the 1000 that received the letter asking which list to stay on, I was told several times over the past six months that I would get on either Metro or Fairfield or Southport, whichever came first. That is now suddenly not the case as I need to guess with limited data to decide on where to go. If I leave the Fairfield/Southport list after 4.5 years, I need to add myself back on if Metro does not work out, going to the back of a now-7-year-line. But I don't know yet how many will be available on Metro vs. Fairfield after the shift of those that choose to switch. And the 6-month turnover at Fairfield being moved to 1-year means longer waits for getting off the list because according to the town "we don't have the staff resources" anymore to handle the processing. So we are penalized for two agencies not being able to coordinate one list. Here's a free simple solution - put a password on Google docs and share one list. Not that tough. Extremely disappointing coordination and communication from the town here.
Hamish October 26, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Bump the train spots up to market, say $1200 a year, from $400, you will not have as many people holding on to them. The turnover will be more fluid. Also, with $80M spent on the "Fairfield Metro Center" stop, there is not a Train station building to stand in during imclement weather, Genius........
John Jameson October 26, 2011 at 10:05 PM
A few things. It was the state DOT's decision on the name for the station--yes, they let the town have its little survey, but I think that was more to placate residents. They'd already made up the "Fairfield Metro" signs before the survey was taken. The town's Parking Authority is not managing this new parking lot, it is the state DOT, which has contracted the firm which manages its lots in Stamford and Bridgeport. Nope, there's no waiting room per se at the new station. That's the way it was designed by the DOT, which wants somebody else to build it. There is, however, space to wait inside out of the elements.
Joeseph Biff October 27, 2011 at 12:09 AM
Let's all pray that we can get some competent leadership in this town for a change! From what I'm reading and hearing from the candidates running for various positions,it's going to be the same old thing,a bunch of clueless boobs running our town and all of it's various departments,while wasting money like there's no tomorrow.That goes for the Selectman, RTM,BOF,BOE (spend,spend,spend) etc. and etc. Meanwhile,we the tax payers pay the price with more tax increases.Brace your selves folks,they are going to go through the roof.
JM October 27, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Mahatma, besides uttering the same inflammatory ideas, did you actually watch any of the BoF/BoE events, or attend any, or contact any candidates? And you say "we the tax payers" as if these candidates running for office don't live here as well and pay as well....
Joeseph Biff October 27, 2011 at 12:50 PM
JM, In order to satisfy your inquisitive mind,I have attended several meetings and have gone up to the podium to speak. I also watch the televised meetings as well on a regular basis..Weather you believe that or not is up to you. As far as we the tax payers,I was primarily referring to property owners .For example,I believe Tetreau rents his living space,which doesn't phase me.Correct me if I'm wrong.That's his choice and I could care less if he owns or rents.That's his business..I have also emailed several different board members past and present ,including Flatto,members of the BOE and RTM.I'm also an avid reader of the Citizen News and other local papers.So in closing,your comment to me is not to an un informed Fairfield citizen.Rather,it is to one who is very concerned about the future of our wonderful town and the direction it is taking.
Gerard Speno October 27, 2011 at 03:01 PM
See This RTM Meetin 10/24/2011 on Cablevision Ch 79 or Video On Demand http://fairtv.pegcentral.com
Stanley Simpleton October 27, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Thanks for providing the link but the latest RTM Meeting does not appear to be on the site.
G Hoffman October 27, 2011 at 06:45 PM
I'd like to know whether Fusco is being paid to manage the parking lot or has purchased a concession. If all they are doing is parking management, couldn't the Town do that for the same 'fee' and get the revenue from the State?
JM October 27, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Great; all our citizens should be as informed. But you group every single candidate under the title of "clueless boobs"? They're all clones? Not one has distinguished himself or herself as having any idea concerning absolutely anything?
Matthew Hallock October 30, 2011 at 11:16 AM
Why is it a surprise and numbers have to be reconfigured to account for handicapped parking, and bus & taxi access. I don't see any bike spots, either. I test-walked there from several directions and the lack of sidewalks - including right in front of the station - are hazardous, too. The whole project is not very green or progressive -- like all they thought about were cars. Plus there are mostly single-lane traffic roads in most directions, with a poorly designed traffic circle nearby. It seems like a traffic nightmare waiting to happen, which will only get worse if and when they build a hotel and offices. My poor town, victim to developers in smoke-filled rooms.
Patricia L. Ritchie November 17, 2011 at 04:40 PM
I brought this up several years ago, but here's my suggestion once again: Why not look into working with the US Postal service regarding the Post Road location and see if the town can lease or obtain the land in back of the Post Office (between the P.O. and Blinn's? It's vacant. No one uses it. My understanding is that the Post Office on Post Road is planning to close. Now's the time to see about building a tiered parking lot not only for train commuters, but for all the retailers who would like more space for their employees and customers. Just a thought. Patricia L. Ritchie, President/Fairfield Chamber of Commerce.
tonypct November 17, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Patricia, excellent idea. But parking structures seem to be opposed by so many people in this town who always bring up the fear of becoming "citified." Well, folks, guess what. Fairfield is a small city! We need more parking for downtown, the train station, the library; any number of locations. When will we stop meeting the needs of the few and not meet the needs of the many in this town? Keep fighting, Patricia.
SL November 17, 2011 at 07:08 PM
Take a look on the Town of Fairfield Website under Rail Commuter (Link below) - Looks like there are still 500 available permits at the new station. The majority want to stay at the old station! (Link: http://fairfieldct.org/documents/2011/Parking/FAQMetro.pdf).

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