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Tetreau on Metro Center

'...It appears that any overruns would be the responsibility of the town'

Editor's note: The following letter was received from First Selectman Mike Tetreau:

Fairfield Metro Center Part 1 – Discovery and Disclosure

Serious issues with the Fairfield Metro Center project have set off alarm bells throughout our town. Elected officials and residents alike are demanding to know how the town’s largest construction project could be facing a projected deficit of up to $6.4 million.

Since being sworn in as first selectman on June 9, I have been working closely with the town managers and staff to determine where we are and what we need to do next to ensure the best and least costly outcome for Fairfield.

Here is an update on what has happened:

What is the town required to do?

The contracts we signed in April 2010 obligated us to follow the state Department of Environmental Protection’s plan for cleanup of the site.  A company called LEA monitors our compliance with this requirement. In addition, the town is obligated to prepare the site to the specifications laid out in a 90-plus-page contract addendum complete with topographies, site grading and required elevations. There is also a second project for several million dollars for implementing off-site improvements to surrounding intersections and roadways.

What are the financial obligations?

Blackrock Realty as part of the April 2010 revised agreement put in approximately $5.2 million. The state agreed to provide $19.4 million. And the Town was supposed to use the balance of the $6 million originally approved back in 2003, or approximately $5 Million.

However while the other two partners provided funding, only the town had to deliver on the contract commitments of a clean site and a site that matched the 90-plus-page plan documents. So it appears that any overruns would be the responsibility of the town.

The revisions to the Parking Revenue Payments – allowing the state to recoup approximately $970,000 a year in addition to all operating costs before the town gets the first dollar of payments – weren’t included in the revised 2010 contract. Rather, this clarification was included in a “side letter” (editor's note: see attached pdf) that did not get approved by the Board of Selectmen. There do not appear to be any pro forma or estimated operating costs for the new station to show clearly the likelihood of the town collecting any revenues under the revised format.

Why are we having these overruns?

The simple answer is too much contamination on the site. It is obvious that the original estimates for the project were way, way off. The testing and site inspectors have made certain we met the state Department of Environmental Protection requirements.

We learned that the town attempted to bid the project as a “lump sum” job but was then required by the state Department of Transportation to use a “unit cost” method instead. This means the contractor didn’t bid an overall price but rather bid a dollar amount per cubic yard or some other unit of measure. If there are more cubic yards of soil to be excavated than estimated in the bid documents, the town is left responsible for additional costs.

The town should not have signed a contract with this much undefined risk. The town should have included a “not to exceed” clause in the bid as we often do on other town projects. On a site with a known history of contaminants, the town should perform its own due diligence and have more extensive testing done before agreeing to this type of risk.

In addition, a management summary or list of contract changes should be included with the contract documents to make it easier for everyone to review and understand the revised agreements.

On a project with this type of risk exposure, we should have a full time construction manager representing the town. We should not be asking department managers - without the required background or the available time - to manage these two very important projects. The most qualified member of the town’s senior financial management team – our town chief financial officer - should not be kept to a minimal role on a project with this maximum financial risk.

How to report this to the public?

I am committed to getting all town bodies the information they need to make informed decisions as early as possible and as complete as possible.

The update to the Representative Town Meeting on June 27 was more detailed and more thorough than any in the past. The goal was to give everyone a complete picture of where the project stood, what might happen if all went well and what the financial risk was if all didn’t go well. We wanted everyone to understand exactly where every major aspect of the project stands.

What is next?

We are now in the problem solving phase. We will take the next 4 to 6 weeks to get firmer estimates, evaluate the different possibilities available to us in order to minimize the costs to the town and provide all the information that the Board of Selectmen, the RTM and the Board of Finance need to make an informed decision.

With any significant problem, the sooner you are aware of it, the sooner you can start pulling together the resources needed to solve it in the best possible way for the town.

Mike Tetreau

First Selectman

Fairfield, CT

Jim Eastwood July 13, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Mike and All It's NOT your fault nor is it the States Fault The Fault lies with all of us No One questioned except severa(Very few) neighbors questioned the Attack on the Conservation director.. He and others who have lived in the Town OVER 20 years tried to tell King Kenny and Prince Dickie that there were issues with the site. Why didn't anyone listen?? Full Steam ahead !!!!!! Got to get my name on the building !!!!! Got to sever the Communters and the "New to Fairfield set"--3-5 years and Gone !1!! What are we doing to bring Taxpaying property into town??? Was that Station going to pay taxes -----Black Rock Reality ???/ Yah Right !!!! So as we look at another example of Mis Management in Town, Eye candy for the Yuppies--I ask who is going to pay the Bill ?? We are all to blame , we voted in trusted officials, they took the 10 year retirement $$$ and ran !!!!!!!!!!! We truely have met the enemy and he is us.!!! Mike, I like you and I truely would understand that if on this and other incidents, that you would decide NOT to run !!!!! For you don not need what is coming!!! Closed to the Public Sessions, 6 plus millon dollar over runs ???? all equal Taxation WITHOUT Representation -----Is that the reason we are an Indepentant country?? Think You all before you Vote. . Hold those who serve us Accountable, and listen to the AVERAGE voter in the Town !! The spirit of 76 shall arise again
Laura July 13, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Mike, thanks for your explanation. It's the clear explanation I’ve heard that describes the current situation we face in Fairfield over the train station mess (although would still like to understand why, when it’s conservation issues that are problem, our prior administration refused to involve the conservation dept). I have to say, I am appalled at what is being discovered and what appears to be the irresponsibility of our prior first selectman. The only exception I take to your letter is how you say “The contracts “we” signed in April 2010”. Let’s be clear – the contract Ken Flatto signed in April 2010 obligating the citizens of Fairfield. I just re-read the Patch article "Flatto: I knew Nothing of Metro Center Cost Overruns" and am amazed at what he claims in that article vs. what you have laid out and the copy of the agreement he signed obligating all of us as taxpayers. Is there no accountability for actions? Enough already. I believe it's time for all the facts to be aired about this project and the citizens of this town given an opportunity to have Mr. Flatto and Mr. Saxl explain their actions face to face. I agree with Stanley above, you know, in business there is no way this type of activity could occur without repercussions - there has to be some accountability here.
S. Frank July 13, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Yet another town managed fiasco. But, let's not blame the incompetents that control our town. It is the fault of taxpayers that allow the abuse to continue. We complain, sometimes loudly, but the outcry dies down and it's on to the next waste of taxpayer money.
maryHelen Melnick July 13, 2011 at 03:00 PM
mr. wintteck who under bid the project like he had done to several other towns all over the country should be make to explain himself along with mr. saxl on poor guidance and flatto for signing the contract. the taxpays here here should not be made to ;pony up one more cent for poor management.
kathryn braun July 14, 2011 at 05:19 AM
Who gave the legal opinion that our Town is on the hook for the overages? The auditors just started this week and it seems that Step 1 of any legal opinion should be to see if Flatto was authorized to enter into new contract without BOF/RTM approval since it changed the funds the Town would be obligated for. Second step would be seeing who did the 'way, way off' estimates- can we recoup from any of the contractors or consultants? Also, can't we look to the private landowner whose land the Town is cleaning up? Finally, why is our new First Selectman continuing with the old First Selectman's policy of removing entire Town Departments from their normal oversight duties so we have at least some experts of our own on the ground going forward?
Faith July 14, 2011 at 08:18 PM
Like the way you think! How about a woman for 1st Selectman? I'll vote for you Kathryn!
ghostofht July 15, 2011 at 12:46 AM
Faith, let's not jump the gun...this is the same woman who and I quote "doesn't know what eating lunch has to do with health"- those were her words in the Sherman School Lunch Room funding meeting.
kathryn braun July 15, 2011 at 05:26 AM
I am happy to discuss any of my votes, but first need to know with whom I am speaking- can you provide your name? That will start the discussion on a note of transparency, which I am all for.
Amy Ulness July 15, 2011 at 06:21 AM
I also reject starting with the premise that the town is on the hook for the overages. This should be the conclusion only once everything is carefully considered and other sources are looked to as having some financial culpability in this fiasco. Was the series of events that brought us to the point just gross incompetence on the town's part, on the part of other parties, or some sort of fraud? Those are the only possible scenarios. I think that if it is determined that the town is on the hook for all further costs related to this project, we need to seriously consider whether we can afford it and whether it's worth it because the costs could easily run into the tens of millions. It's far too much money to just say "oops, sorry guys we'll do better from now on". If there is going to be an expenditure of this size, I'd like to see it looked at as something new that will be debated. I'm telling you, whatever they are saying the taxpayers are on the hook for, it's going to be at least double that which is almost always the case.
Hugh Dolan July 15, 2011 at 11:02 AM
THanks, S. Frank. My position is crystal clear : The Town Taxpayers should foot not one dollar of theis fiasco. The secret deal, orchestrated by Mr. Flatto and Mr. Saxl for the benefit of the private developer, is illegal and void. The State of Connecticut, was not bargaining in good faith when it ordered the Town's chief executive to NOT TELL the taxpayers what he was doing. This is a violation of the trust we had in him, of his oath of office, of their fiduciary responsibility, of the Town Charter, and of State Law. Period.. The revenues from the parking either come to the town, or we install toll booths on all the access roads leading to the site. The taxpayers will not be hit for this under a Dolan Administration. I will meet taxpayers Friday and Subday evenings, and Monday Morning, at the Circle Diner, 7:00-9:00.
S. Frank July 15, 2011 at 12:55 PM
I didn't leave the comment to which you are referring, but you ask for Transparency. Are you one of those who wanted closed door sessions? Have you participated in any of the many closed door sessions that Fairfield has had? Where's the transparency there? Or, is it only a one way request?
Faith July 16, 2011 at 12:02 AM
The explanation that Ken Flatto has made as to why only he and Dick Saxl were privy to the contents of the new contract was that the state required it. My first question is who at the state level required that this contract was signed in secret and why? My second question is whether they "required" it or not, was Ken Flatto able to override the original financial contract which was vetted by the RTM without their approval? An outside legal opinion would be needed as our town attorney is too deep in this fiasco to have an unbiased opinion.
ghostofht July 16, 2011 at 02:01 AM
Although S.Frank makes a good point, I was not asking you to explain anything Ms. Braun I was simply stating a fact to another poster(who also doesnt use her full name). What you said is what you said I am not interested in your spin on it.
tonypct July 16, 2011 at 02:23 PM
I will give Tetreau the benefit of the doubt and assume that he wants a solution that is best for the town and for us, the taxpayers. But I also don't want him saying anything like "we signed the contract" and covering Flatto's rear end when it was Flatto who bears the ultimate responsibility for this. If this was an intentional effort on Flatto's part to deceive the RTM and us, the citizens of Fairfield, then this is a lot more serious than any of us consider, and maybe a criminal investigation is in order here. My biggest fear is that no one will be held accountable and Flatto, Saxl and whoever else was involved in getting us into this mess will get off scot free.
maryHelen Melnick July 17, 2011 at 01:30 PM
what about Kurt winteck og black rock reality. have him at a RTM meeting and have him explain why he on purpose under bid the project like haehas done all over the country and then sticks the over costs to the town.

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