Council notes: Might Norwalk get stiffed for $170K?

Councilwoman Sharon Stewart (D-At Large) confers with Councilmen Jerry Petrini (R-District D) and John Igneri (D-District E) at the Jan. 14 council meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – If Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) goes into bankruptcy, as is expected, Norwalk may be one of the creditors listed.

The city loaned NEON $190,000 in May 2011 to replace the aging chiller at the Ben Franklin Child Care Facility. NEON had 10 years to pay it off at a 5 percent interest rate, according to minutes of the May 10, 2011, Land Use Committee meeting. About $25,000 has been paid, according to Norwalk Building and Facilities Manager Alan Lo.

NEON officials have said that they are considering bankruptcy. Board Chairman Mike Berkoff has since declined to comment, promising that a press release will be sent out when a decision has been made. There has been no board meeting this month.

The topic of the loan came up at Thursday’s Health, Welfare and Public Safety Committee meeting. Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) brought it up as part of a discussion about authorizing the Norwalk Housing Authority (NHA) to begin operating Head Start and School Readiness programs at Nathaniel Ely and Ben Franklin centers on Feb. 1, while management agreements and/or leases are negotiated.

“It wasn’t too long ago that the city lent money to NEON for a chiller for Ben Franklin, where they were supposed to make payments back to us. I’m going to presume that whoever takes over that facility will honor that agreement, that we’ll get back that money that we loaned for the chiller. Or is that gone?” Petrini asked Norwalk Assistant Corporation Counsel Diane Beltz-Jacobsen.

“That’s very much an issue,” Beltz-Jacobsen replied.

Lo said one payment had been made. “The next payment due I think is coming April or May. It’s probably about $170,000,” he said.

“So there’s been no discussion about that,” Petrini surmised.

Mayor Harry Rilling, who was sitting in on the meeting, responded. “There’s been discussion but no resolution,” he said.

Committee will study housing issues, Stewart says

The NHA was also on the agenda of the Planning Committee’s Wednesday night meeting, where Councilwoman Sharon Stewart (D-At Large) sought answers to her concerns about Section 8 project-based vouchers.

Stewart and other Democrats voted to approve vital paperwork for the NHA at the last council meeting on the condition that the voucher system be scrutinized further. Stewart, a NEON social worker, said people are stuck in housing projects and NHA has not been helpful in getting residents into home buying programs.

Stewart said Thursday that a committee will be formed to look into it as a result of discussions at Wednesday’s meeting. Members of Norwalk’s social service network are interested in being on the committee, she said.

She asked NHA officials a lot of questions, she said.

“I wasn’t happy with the answers because they came in, trying to explain regs and different things, and that wasn’t answering the questions,” she said. “But I did propose that we should create a sub-committee. We could establish within that committee goals and a plan and how we’re going to educate (people), utilize workforce development procedures to help get people that are in project-based Section 8 apartments out of the projects and into home buyers’ programs, or self sufficient on their own without the use of DSS or living in projects.”

Candace Mayer of NHA said one person has lived in a Norwalk project for 28 years, according to Stewart.

Stewart referred to the 10-year plan to end homelessness, which was formed under former Mayor Richard Moccia.

“The plan is to end homelessness in 2017,” Stewart said. “Maybe we can all get together and do something, because if we can move those lists, people won’t be homeless anymore. They can move into housing. Then we can do what we need to do to get them out.”

Let your phone find parking for you

Coming to you this spring is a parking experiment: a smart phone app that will tell you where you can find an available parking space in SoNo and the Wall street area.

If there are any — at least in the spaces in which the technology is installed.

This topic came up at the Jan. 7 Public Works Committee meeting, where Petrini asked Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord about an item on his project review list – a smart parking/technology pilot program scheduled for implementation and installation in the spring.

“We’re going to test some sensors that go into the pavement that will tell people when the space is empty or occupied so that we can then put an app on a smart phone,” Alvord said. “For example, someone is coming into town, they want to go to the Black Bear Saloon. They can look at the map on their iPhone and see if there is an open space available in front of wherever the heck they’ll be.”

The city already has a pay-by-cell phone app for its parking meters. In addition, Alvord said that people entering the SoNo railroad station from State Street now see a sign that informs them where there are empty spaces in the garage.

“So we’re starting to implement those things across the city,” Alvord said. “I think there’s 100 or so spaces that we’re going to do this with, but we’re going to implement other technology as well, so I don’t remember what the number is for just the sensors in the pavement.”


4 responses to “Council notes: Might Norwalk get stiffed for $170K?”

  1. Piberman

    Looks like City politicians are more concerned about being out of pocket than organizing an oversight committee to guide NEON into a credible organization and demonstrate that the politicians really do care about providing essential services to the needy other than asking for votes at election time.

    The ongoing NEON saga stains the City’s reputation and that of its politicians who seemingly can’t be bothered. This us the New Norwalj promised by Mayor Rilling ? Here’s a chance to demonstrate caring and concern. Not same old indifference.

  2. YourDaddy

    Bad to get stiffed for $170,000, but less than 1/2 of 1% of the approx $35 million the Aquarium owes the City.

  3. Steve Serasis

    Once again Nancy…If every politician, and key Norwalk leader from both sides listened to me, and took heed from my detailed and specific warnings to investigate NEON in 2007, and every year leading up to this exposed debacle, none of this would have happened. I wasn’t on the council in 2011 but I adamantly warned them all not to make this loan. A sad fact, in which I’m not happy to have been 100% correct, and on target.

  4. piberman

    Mr. Serasis is on target. We need remember that our Common Council members served as Directors on NEON’s Board. Their derelection of duty to oversee properly the well functioning of NEON’s highly paid management has been costly to the City and NEON’s audience. Mayor Rillings recent appointment of the former NEON Board Chairman to the BET shows how little “respect” our politicians have for capable public service.

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