RTM approves panel to probe Fairfield Metro woes
The Fairfield Representative Town Meeting got on board the Fairfield Metro review express Monday night, approving a new committee to investigate how construction of the town's third railroad station has soared millions over budget.
The RTM also approved an additional $15,000 for the Board of Finance audit on the train station project. The legislative body acted in a special session that lasted about one-half hour.
"The questions are detailed and complex" about the cost overruns, said RTM Majority Leader James Millington, R-9, who sponsored the resolution to establish the five-member Metro Center Special Committee along with David Becker, R-1. "We all need to work together to answer those questions."
Those questions Millington mentioned arose after the RTM and the Board of Finance learned that the train station project could be anywhere from $2 to $6 million over budget, and that those cost overruns are the town's responsibility under an amended agreement signed by then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto in exchange for an infusion of $19.4 million in state money to jump start the stalled project.
"What we're trying to avoid is having these lingering questions answered," Millington said, creating a logjam when a special appropriation request to cover that funding gap comes to the legislative body at the end of this month.
More InformationMORE METRO LAWYER BILLS An outside law firm has been hired by interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau to help with the ongoing review of the Fairfield Metro Railroad Station and how its construction has run millions over budget. Two lawyers from the firm of McCarter & English will conduct the review regarding legal issues. Tim Fisher, who focuses on construction law and contracts, will review the three-party contract on Fairfield Metro project, while Rick Vitarelli will analyze the municipal law issues. Fisher will be paid $475 an hour, while Vitarelli's rate will be $400 an hour. Both those rates are "discounted," according to the law firm's agreement letter to Tetreau. Those rates will remain in effect until Sept. 30. Tetreau said he hired the firm that has not done any work for the town previously. According to the letter, the firm will review contracts with the state Department of Transportation and Blackrock Realty, and an "analysis of the actions of the town and its officials in connection with the project and the efforts to obtain funding for the project." Total legal fees over the course of the decade-old project top $4 million.
The committee, which was approved unanimously, is charged with assisting interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau in disseminating relevant information, making sure questions submitted by RTM members are answered; addressing and forwarding any concerns of the RTM relative to the project to appropriate town bodies and officials; review and receive correspondence from the finance board regarding the audit subcommittee, and making a report and recommendations to the RTM.
Millington said Tetreau is willing to cooperate with the new committee, and Flatto -- who left in May to take a state administrative job -- has indicated he would make himself accessible.
Minority Leader Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-6, said the Democratic caucus also supported the resolution.
The RTM had already appropriated $20,000 for the Fairfield Metro audit arranged by the Board of Finance, but board Chairman Thomas Flynn said that money is nearly expended because of the volume of work the audit requires. If the additional funding was not approved, he said, work would stop on the audit. "We're not going over budget on this," Flynn said.
He said the goal of the audit subcommittee is to have a report ready for town officials by Aug. 22, with presentations to the selectmen on Aug. 24 and the finance board on Aug. 26.