Selectmen scrutinize Fairfield Metro contract changes
Updated 1:38 pm, Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Town officials' review of the Fairfield Metro Railroad Station and its budget overruns continues to chug on.
In the latest round of discussions, the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday agreed to examine the process that led to changes in the town's agreement with the state on the project, as well as the issues contributing to what appears to be a shortfall of $2 million to $6 million in constructing the depot.
The Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting have already approved hiring an independent auditor to examine the financing and accounting for the town's third train station.
An amended contract negotiated by then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto imposed the liability for cost overruns on the town, in exchange for an infusion of $19.4 million in funding from the state for the stalled project.
"When is a contract a contract?" interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau said at Wednesday's meeting.
Was the change brought to the board a little over a year ago an updated document or a new amendment, he said.
"I'm wondering how the $19 million got approved," Tetreau said. "So I'm wondering, do we ask the town attorney to come back to us with the definition of what a contact is and when things need to be approved?"
"I think it needs to be discussed," Selectman James Walsh said. "Some of the discussion and representations made by the prior first selectman about not advising boards about the revenue changes is concerning."
At what point, Tetreau said, do changes to a contract "step over the threshold" and make it "a new animal?"
Walsh suggested the selectmen should conduct a special meeting, with that as the only item of discussion to "let the three of us focus" on that.
Tetreau said he will get copies for Walsh and Selectman Sherri Steeneck of the "side letter" that indicated that the repayment of the $19.4 million bond by the state would be taken out of parking permit revenues at the Fairfield Metro station.
"I would like to get a copy of that letter," Walsh said. "This is the first time I'm hearing about a side letter agreement. I'd like to get that as soon as possible."
Walsh said he'd also like to know what the first selectman is authorized to do when a bond is issued. For example, he said, can attorney fees for litigation involving a specific project, whether it is the train station or the girls softball field on Hoyden's Lane, be taken from bonds approved for that project.
"It may be we need to bring bond counsel in," Tetreau said, noting that the Board of Finance has been specific in the language for recent bonds as to what the money could be spent on.