Flatto refuses to discuss Metro Center controversies with RTM
Controversy may still be swirling around construction of the town's third railroad station at the Metro Center, but First Selectman Kenneth Flatto declined to address those issues Monday night in his monthly status update to the Representative Town Meeting on the project.
Instead, Flatto talked about how the low bid for the town's share of the rail project came in about $3 million less than the estimated construction budget of $23 million.
"That's very good news," the first selectman said. "It gives us an ample contingency."
The third train station, on the site of a former foundry off lower Black Rock Turnpike, is part of a joint venture between the town, the state Department of Transportation and private developer Blackrock Realty. The state is providing the bulk of the funding for the train station and 1,500-space commuter parking lot.
Flatto said the state signed off on the bid about a week ago, and construction is starting. The depot -- where the passenger platforms and track overpass have already been built -- is expected to open late next year.
But some residents of Bridgeport's nearby Black Rock neighborhood complained last week about the clearing of trees on the Fairfield side of Ash Creek, which was part of the remediation plan to clean up the former industrial site and create several new wetlands along the border of the property.
And the local residents who call themselves "Concerned Citizens" want to know if, and when, the town's Conservation Department staff will resume their usual role of providing environmental oversight for the project. Conservation Director Thomas Steinke and his staff were removed from that role by Flatto in late 2007 ago after Blackrock Realty complained they were delaying the project and threatened to sue.
An outside consultant, Fairfield University professor and former Conservation Commission member Gary Weddle, was hired by the commission to act as the wetlands compliance officer for the project, a move that prompted the citizen group to file a legal action. A Bridgeport Superior Court judge ruled recently that Weddle's appointment was illegal and ordered him off the job. Weddle is appealing that ruling and the commission has voted to support that appeal.
The commission also asked the town attorney to recommend to Flatto that the town staff be reinstated to oversight of the project.
RTM member Kathy Braun on Monday asked Flatto if he had made any decision about that staff's reinstatement, but Flatto said that was not the purpose of his monthly reports to the RTM and refused comment.