Wittek wants to make a Metro deal: $3M for new parking deck
Updated 1:25 pm, Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The principal of Blackrock Realty, the private developer that partnered with the town and state on the Fairfield Metro project, says he is willing to kick in $3 million toward the $7.5 million funding shortfall on completing construction of the town's third railroad station -- on condition the state agrees to let him build a parking deck over the station's commuter lot.
An email from developer Kurt Wittek to the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting members appears to contradict statements made last week to the selectmen and finance boards by in terim First Selectman Michael Tetreau.
Tetreau said Blackrock Realty basically told the town to "go pound sand" when it asked him to help resolve the overruns in construction costs for Fairfield Metro, which initially was expected to cost about $34 million.
Wittek, however, claimed that is "wholly inaccurate" characterization.
But Tetreau said Tuesday that Wittek's proposal is 6 months old, and his negotiations on the deal are with the state, not the town. "Kurt has an obligation to help us clean up the site," Tetreau said. "We've made them (Blackrock Realty) between $50,000 and $100,000 because he was in foreclosure with a contaminated site, and now it's going to be a clean site."
The state has already agreed to supply the town with up an additional $3 million to help alleviate the shortfall. The RTM was scheduled to begin meeting Tuesday night on the $7.5 million bonding request and is expected to take a formal vote on the issue when it meets at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Board of Education offices on Kings Highway.
"Our proposal would eliminate the $2 million expense the town currently faces to remove excess soil from the site and provide an additional $1 million cash contribution to the town," Wittek wrote in the email. He said Blackrock Realty proposes to take the excess contaminated soil unexpectedly discovered on the former industrial property and moving it to portion of its property originally designed for an underground parking garage.
Wittek's offer, however, is contingent on the state Department of Transportation allowing Blackrock Realty to build a parking deck over the railroad station's commuter parking lot as a replacement for the underground garage spaces.
Tetreau said the soil disposition issue is between the town and Blackrock. "He's bringing the state in and holding the town hostage," the first selectman said. "We're not involved in his negotiations with the state."
"Blackrock and the state DOT have already agreed to a 45-day good faith negotiating period to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to allow Blackrock to build the replacement parking deck in order to solve the excess soil problem," according to Wittek.
Tetreau said Wittek doesn't want to pay market price to the state for the air rights over the commuter lot. "He's very good at negotiating, and I have a great respect for how well he negotiates," Tetreau said.
The state last year infused $19.1 million into the project after Blackrock Realty went into foreclosure.
Wittek's email said the Board of Finance's audit subcommittee's auditor "found that the cost overruns now facing the town are primarily the result of the actions and inactions of the former first selectman in managing the project" and that at the time of the amended agreement and the $19.1 million contribution, he "strongly urged" then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto to hire a project manager. That, however, was not done.
When the tripartite development contract for the Metro property was amended in 2010, the onus was on the town to manage the project and be responsible for any cost overruns.
"Blackrock Realty shares (interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau's) frustration and is committed to working together with him to find a solution to getting the project completed in such a way as to minimize the exposure of the town to additional costs," Wittek said.
Should Wittek contribute the offered $3 million that could reduce the town's additional Fairfield Metro costs to $1.5 million -- possibly as little as $500,000 because the $7.5 million figure includes $6.5 million for construction and a $1 million contingency.