Focus of RTM's Fairfield Metro probe at issue
Updated 10:49 am, Thursday, August 11, 2011
A Representative Town Meeting subcommittee established to investigate the financial problems besetting the Fairfield Metro train station spent much of its first meeting Wednesday night making sure its efforts will stay on track.
"I was hoping you could clarify for me what you were hoping this committee would accomplish," said committee member Patti Dyer, that won't be accomplished by an audit of the project that has been commissioned by the Board of Finance.
The subcommittee, made up of five members from the Representative Town Meeting, was established Monday by the legislative body after many members asked dozens of questions when they learned several weeks ago the project is between $2 million to $6 million over budget. That budget gap apparently will have to be filled by the town under terms of the contract with the state and a private developer.
David Becker, who co-sponsored the resolution establishing the new subcommittee and was elected chairman Wednesday, said the main objective is to make sure the list of questions submitted by RTM and finance board members are answered as completely as possible before the legislative body is asked to approve additional money to finish the train station.
Until now, the RTM moderator has referred nearly 60 questions from RTM members to the first selectman's office. "I think that's where we could come in and take charge of that and make sure it's being properly vetted," Becker said.
First though, another committee member, Michael Herley, will try to organize the questions into categories, and an email will be sent to all RTM members asking them to review the list. If any questions are not answered to a member's satisfaction, or they have additional questions, they will be advised to send them to Becker.
Dyer said that Becker might want to make sure that members of the RTM's Republican caucus know that the new subcommittee is the place to turn for answers prior to the RTM meeting on Aug. 30 when a vote is expected on a request for additional funding. Particularly, she said, the ones "that are asking the most questions and not often in the most productive manner."
"This is obviously a resource," Becker said. "We're hoping that they come to us ... It's really not our place to insinuate they shouldn't ask questions."
Dyer responded, "I just don't think it would hurt to reiterate it."
The subcommittee, which will meet again at 7 p.m. Friday, plans to question Economic Development Director Mark Barnhart at the session. Barnhart was assigned by then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto to oversee the Fairfield Metro project.
Dyer questioned the purpose of having Barnhart come to the group's second meeting. "What do you think is going to happen between now and two days from now?" Dyer said. "We could sit here and grill him, but that's not our job."
She said the subcommittee should be clear and let Barnhart know ahead of time what information is wanted from him. "I'm looking for a general synopsis of the whole process," said Harold Schwartz.
It was pointed out to the subcommittee that Barnhart has already done that in written form for the Board of Finance's audit subcommittee.
"I just want to make sure it's productive," Dyer said of the planned meeting.