Fairfield RTM approves new Board of Ed building lease
FAIRFIELD — The RTM approved a 10-year lease on a new Board of Education facility, with assurance from the Board of Finance that it will cover the moving costs.
The town can now finally sever financial ties with Julian Enterprises, the owner of the current Board of Education building and subject of two ongoing legal cases with Fairfield.
The first is a criminal case related to its management of the town’s Public Works pile that has led to charges against two town employees and Julian’s co-owner.
Joseph Michelangelo, who served as the town’s public works director since 2012, is accused of conspiring with Scott Bartlett, the town’s superintendent of public works and Jason Julian to allow the company to dump truck loads of contaminated waste into the pile.
Julian then resold some of the contaminated soil as clean fill for construction projects in the town. After testing 60 sites at parks, fields and playgrounds, the town identified eight areas that need to be cleaned up. Removing the materials, including arsenic and asbestos, is expected to cost the town millions.
Additionally, the town is locked in a civil suit with Julian in an attempt to get back the money spent on the fill pile and cleanup.
While the new building at 3400 Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport is more expensive in total by almost $316,000, it is double the size of the current building and has a lower cost per square foot. This will allow the district to consolidate space by moving the maintenance department, transportation department and central storage all to the new facility.
The switch, however, will also incur over $140,000 in moving costs, an expense that had some RTM members worried as they considered the burden this would put on the Board of Education’s budget.
“I would like to publicly urge the Board of Finance to vote in favor of covering the $142,000,” District 2 Representative Bill Gerber said.
Minority Leader Pamela Iacono read a statement from the Republican caucus of the Board of Finance pledging to do just that when they take up the item in November.
“While these [moving] costs might normally be spent from the Board of Education budgeted funds, the Republican caucus believes that because of the late notice to the Board of Education, these funds were not properly contained in their budget,” read the statement from Chairman Tom Flynn, Vice Chairman James Brown, Secretary Mary LeClerc, Christopher DeWitt, James Walsh and David Becker.
They said their caucus fully supports allocating these funds from the town budget and requested the RTM approve the lease, saying it was the right long-term choice for the town.
“The taxpayers in Fairfield will save many times this expenditure over the years by making this wise and well-reasoned plan,” they wrote.
The RTM voted to approve the lease 39-1, with District 5 Representative Ruth Smey voting against it.