NORWALK, Conn. – The Grasso Companies LLC was greenlighted Tuesday for a $3.4 million paving contract, over the objections of some of its neighbors.
The conversation sparked a testy exchange between Council member Travis Simms (D-District B) and Mayor Harry Rilling.
“This is one of the more difficult decisions I personally have faced up here,” Common Council member Tom Livingston (D-District E) said, beginning the discussion by recounting his research into the topic.
The Grasso Companies LLC is a separate entity from The Original Grasso Construction, which owes Norwalk perhaps $270,590 in property taxes, Livingston said. The Grasso Companies LLC, with Joe Grasso Jr. as its principle member, is also not guilty of numerous Zoning violations, as other Grasso companies, owned by Joe Grasso Sr., he said.
To deny Grasso the contract would be “asking the son to pay for the sins of father,” he said, and “if that is the case he would never be able to bid without being turned down.”
Livingston suggested adding a provision to enable the city to offset any violations during the course of the contract by issuing a penalty, which he said Grasso’s lawyer had agreed to, and to have the option to terminate the contract if there are violations.
Council member Travis Simms (D-District B) called giving Grasso a contract absurd, accusing Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola of pushing the contract.
Coppola later recounted the questions he had been asked.
“We did not issue conflicting decisions nor did we at any time push for you to hire Grasso,” Coppola said.
Simms returned to the issue later, asking why, “The corporation counsel, the mayor and some of the folks on the Council are so adamant about giving this contract” to Grasso.
“Do not put words in my mouth because I have not expressed an opinion,” Rilling said.
Simms talked over Rilling.
“The presiding officer has the floor,” Council member Eloisa Melendez (D-District A) said, but Simms kept talking.
“I have not been in discussion with you or anybody else on this issue,” Rilling said.
“I see where all this is coming from,” Simms said.
“What you see is your imagination, as it usually is,” Rilling replied.
“This has gotten personal,” Council member Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said, calling that not allowable under Council rules.
Five minutes later, Council member Faye Bowman (D-District B) told Grasso that she didn’t want to penalize him indefinitely, but the company has not been a good neighbor.
“I have every intention of being a good neighbor. We want this behind us,” Grasso said.
The contract was approved with a 10-4-1 vote; voting against it were Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large), Doug Hempstead (R-At Large), Shannon O’Toole Giandurco (R-District D) and Simms. Bowman abstained.