BOF: Fill pile will cost town almost $1M
FAIRFIELD — The fill pile situation will cost the town almost $1 million, not including remediation fees, estimates the Board of Finance.
In addition to discussing the numbers, the Board heard presentations on additional issues discovered in the town’s work with Julian Enterprises, including the lack of an original contract and faulty credit memos.
Chief Fiscal Officer Bob Mayer prepared an expense summary of costs from September 2016 - when the town began testing the Public Works pile for contamination - through last week.
Legal fees for the town’s ongoing civil arbitration with Julian Enterprises have so far totaled to $137,018.
The soil testing and remediation at the fill site, as well as construction of the berm to cover the site, add up to a total of $786,909.
In a back and forth with Tighe & Bond Vice President Jim Olsen Monday, Board Chair Tom Flynn calculated that the soil testing and preliminary remediation they’ve enlisted from the licensed environmental professional should come to almost $200,000.
That number incorporates the $83,138 contract for testing and some remedial planning at the first eight sites, a contracted $56,600 for testing the additional fields on the town’s list and an estimated $50,000 for the Board of Education’s testing of all other school fields and playgrounds.
These fees, Olsen said, include a fee for the expedited laboratory turnaround times the town has requested.
This would bring the total cost to $976,647, before any remediation costs. So far, the town has decided to remediate four sites: Gould Manor Park, Riverfield, Jennings and Mill Hill. Tighe & Bond has not yet determined how much these remediations, or any further remediations that might be needed, will cost.
The town, said Mayer, will front all the money for both the town’s and Board of Education’s testing. As an unbudgeted expenditure, it’s all currently being charged to the Department of Public Works’ fees and professional services account.
Going forward, the Board will have to decide which of four potential sources to budget these expenses to: budget savings to offset, contingency transfers, last fiscal year’s surplus or the creation of a specific field renovation line item.
Tetreau has said previously that much of this money should be refunded in the town’s legal action against Julian, which is set to resume in September.
“We expect to prevail in that and get our money back,” Tetreau said at last Wednesday’s public meeting.
The Board also brought up the town’s insurance staff to ask them about the risk management situation at hand. Human Resources Director Emmett Hibson said that no insurance claims have been brought against the town as of now, and that both he and the town’s insurer, Chubb, are unwilling to answer hypothetical questions about potential claims.
Hibson said, however, that he believes the cost of remediation and testing will be covered by the town’s insurance plan, which would make a significant difference in the town’s expenditures.
Missing contracts and permits
The meeting featured lengthy discussions about other financial issues in the town’s work with Julian.
Mayer noted that an official contract with Julian Enterprises was never officially issued for their work at the pile back in 2013. Only a request for proposals (RFP) exists, and the town never drew up a follow-up contract for their work at the site.
Mayer also delivered a report on rent payment issues discovered in Bartlett’s affidavit. Bartlett, the document showed, accepted credit memos on Julian’s rent payment of $9,000 per year, which is against the town’s protocol.
In an attempt to understand what went wrong to allow these omissions, the Board approved an independent audit review of the controls and procedures of the Department of Public Works, including a look at contracting and payments.
The Board, led by Flynn, also questioned town officials on the matter, including First Selectman Mike Tetreau, Health Director Sands Cleary and Conservation Director Brian Carey.
The political optics were obvious as Flynn, who is running for Selectman on the Republican ticket alongside Brenda Kupchick, questioned Tetreau, his opponent seeking re-election.
These discussions were somewhat stifled by a memo from town attorney Stanton Lesser. Although he could not be there, Lesser advised town officials involved in the ongoing legal action to refrain from answering questions that might interfere with the case.
Flynn and Board member James Walsh both said they found this off-putting, with Walsh calling Lesser’s direction a “gag order” that interfered with open, public discussion.
Notably, when the Board inquired about the construction of the berm at the Public Works pile, Carey admitted the berm was built without the appropriate state permits to do so. He said they are now in the process of acquiring these permits, and the state has told him they shouldn’t have problems doing so.