Metro Center reality check
Surprise: another step forward for the new train station, and another round of criticism from the same handful of "concerned" critics.
Anyone who doesn't understand the economic reality of the Great Recession hasn't been paying attention. Blackrock Realty has been affected by this malaise along with everybody else. That's the reality. The best way to deal with that reality is to accept it and move forward.
The immediate benefits of opening up the new train station will be to lessen the number of cars on Interstate 95, clean up a long abandoned industrial site, clean up a portion of Ash Creek and to provide an ADA compliant train station so that Fairfield center will not have to be decked. In the longer term the private project will produce added tax revenue.
A handful of "concerned" critics seek to pin blame on the Ken Flatto administration for what they claim are shortcomings in the contract. When Blackrock Realty purchased the site and negotiated the first contract with the town, former First Selectman John Metsopoulos and Gov. John G. Rowland were in office. What the Flatto administration inherited was a bad deal. We reduced Fairfield's taxpayer obligations from $24 million to $6 million. This will be further reduced by state guarantees of reimbursement of up to $6 million from parking revenues.
The revised contract and land use permits were approved by some 70 selectmen, finance, conservation, Town Planning and Zoning and RTM town officials, and it was scrutinized intensely. DeeDee Brandt, one of the critics fought the train station concept and the plan from the beginning as member of the RTM. Other "concerned" critics fought the plan at conservation and TPZ hearings. These "concerned" critics ought to do the math. The taxpayers of Fairfield have already saved about as much as ConnDOT's new bonding. Ultimately, the town will spend little on a project that will benefit Fairfield immensely and will eventually raise millions of tax dollars annually.
ConnDOT is building the bridge across the railroad tracks. You can see it now along with portions of the platforms. In this economic environment Blackrock Realty cannot perform all of its planned work. No amount of words in a contract could make that happen. ConnDOT, understanding that the goal to complete a project that is so vital for commuters and for the public, asked for and received supplemental funding that will make the third train station a reality in a year. The town will hold up its end of the bargain. And yes, there will be a train station. And there will be an economic boom in the Grasmere section of town. And the town will grow its grand list.
Meanwhile, the "concerned" critics seem to have forgotten their antics over the last two years: multiple ethics complaints against good public officials that were twice rejected by the Ethics Commission and subsequently thrown out of court; dismissed FOI complaints; and even personally lambasting the governor and attorney general at the bond commission hearing. Although their dose of negative letters remains unabated, the bottom line is that they have been wrong about almost everything.
ConnDOT and the town are moving forward and are pushing the developer to do more in this difficult economy. The developer will not get a free pass. Town and state money will be used exclusively to develop only the public portions of the project. And it will be done right. The entire town will benefit from the train station. I call that progress!
Richard H. Saxl is the Fairfield town attorney.