NEON status questionable; Norwalk takes over Ben Franklin light bill

Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON)

NORWALK, Conn. – The future of Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) is still undecided, state Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) said Tueday. Meanwhile, the city of Norwalk is taking over electric bills formerly paid by the teetering South Norwalk anti-poverty agency.

NEON’s status up in the air

There is no board meeting planned as yet for NEON, Communications Director Scott Harris said. Although NEON board Chairman Mike Berkoff said after an aborted board meeting last month that NEON could continue under “emergency status,” Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) spokesperson David Dearborn said that didn’t quite ring true.

“In a nutshell, I believe that, in the case of business dealings with DSS, proper constitution of the board would be necessary.  Otherwise, we would not have auspices over whether the chairman indicates that the organization is in emergency status and operating,” Dearborn wrote in an email.

NEON bylaws call for a board meeting at least every 10 weeks. There has been no board meeting since Dec. 21. The NEON website ha been taken down and replaced by a message saying it is under construction.

NEON officials are considering bankruptcy. Duff said Friday that nothing had been decided. “I think they’re doing their due diligence internally before any recommendation comes down through DSS to NEON,” he said.

Duff said Tuesday evening that there was no new word from DSS.

NEON’s status in a nutshell?

“Stable at the moment because people have been paid — at least paid to a certain extent. But challenges remain,” Duff said. “Stable with challenges.”

Ben Franklin sparks

A special appropriation is expected to be made to cover the electrical costs at the Ben Franklin center, Finance Director Thomas Hamilton said.

“We have taken over the utilities effective Feb. 1, I believe,” Hamilton said last week at a Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting.

NEON was running Head Start in the city-owned building before the federal government took the program away and installed Community Development Inc. (CDI) as Head Start manager.

“It was a problem for a number of months because of operations in there. … NEON was the one paying the bill under our lease with NEON, except the bill wasn’t getting paid. We had multiple shut-off notices, where we were within hours of having the electricity shut off in that building. Which was a problem because it’s not just their programs, it’s also a problem for the city programs,” Hamilton said.

The Crystal Theater also has space in the Ben Franklin center. There is a church using the building and a  school readiness program run by the Norwalk Housing Authority.

The Housing Authority has since been awarded the new contract to run Head Start in the fall.

The electricity bill is now in the city’s name, Hamilton said.

“We may or may not be charging the Housing Authority,” he said. “That deal is still being negotiated and finalized, if you will, but at this point we’ve assumed the gross expense needs to be in here.”


9 responses to “NEON status questionable; Norwalk takes over Ben Franklin light bill”

  1. spanner

    Maybe someone should tell us all about the fire thay had at the Ben Franklin school a couple of weeks ago.The fire dept should of told us about it,or at least Bob Duff the new spokesperson could of explained things so no one could speculate there might of been a problem a few weeks ago in the running of the building.The light bill would of been the least of Norwalks problems if things like insurance and proper supervision isn’t current with a building of that size.

    Of course if the electric was shut off how would of the alarms would of worked,What do I know I’m just speculating at this point.

    Maybe Finance Director Thomas Hamilton knew all about the fire I’m sure someone knows about it.

    Maybe another interestig subject can be talked about by our state reps

    Statewide, two new charter schools are set to be created next fall, and it will be the state Board of Education — not local boards — that decides.

    Bridgeport seems to have issues on the money coming into the city for charter schools taking away from public schools another subject thats seems to be at the State level. Hate to think Norwalk is taking all of these great grants then will be forced to bear another mandated or uncompensated bill from the state with no say.

    Unless Norwalk takes a stand like Bridgeport it would be possible for Norwalk to be chosen from the sounds of it.

    Once again the new transparent administration seems to have a dark cloud over it.

  2. The Norwalker

    At CTE now known as NEON at Stamford Senior Management is in the same building as program directors and staff. Senior management was not sequestered behind security doors. There should be enough room in the Ben Franklin building for all of NEON’s remaining programs to be housed under one roof.

    NEON also needs to look at how top heavy their Administration staff is and if they have people doing the right jobs that would insure record keeping and development.

  3. YankeeC

    What’s wrong with charter schools?

  4. Dawn

    the name is now NEON of Stamford.

  5. Loveforthecity

    Would this agency just go away!

  6. spanner

    @ YankeeC never said they were bad, as if you were to suggest public schools were.I know you didn’t.

    Our State reps work in formulas,our Mayor is fighting for funding for our public schools yet I havn’t heard it explained the way it was in Bridgeport.Taxes for some in Norwalk are rising doesn’t mean we can’t sharpen our pencils to make sure we don’t lose as we gain funding at the State level.I simply am passing a thought on to suggest after reading whats below that I don’t like Charter schools would be wrong.

    Would of been nice hearing this from our own State reps then again I could of missed it.I have children in school as well so the subject in the past has interested me.

    Ct Post

    Although the state pays the per-pupil cost for charter schools and does not subtract funding from districts for students who leave, the districts must pick up the tab for transportation and special education costs. That’s what worries interim Schools Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz, who was at one time a state Department of Education officials who oversaw and approved charter schools.

    “I can’t imaging finding $13 million to fund (transportation and special education costs over the next few years) out of our budget,” Rabinowitz told the board.

    She also has specific concerns with the Bridgeport proposals, citing a suggestion in the Capital Prep application that it would meet required special education plans for students 85 percent of the time.

    “That’s not good enough. They have to be met 100 percent of the time as a baseline,” Rabinowitz said. “While we don’t have the ability to approve or not approve these applications, I hope the state would look at those things.”

    Maybe yo could add to this and help me understand it better.Has our State reps been involved in protecting Norwalk from something like this.Its not always about slamming our elected officials.

    The fire was also a concern was it as well to you?

  7. WOW!

    WOW! There’s a church operating out of Ben Franklin. Who is collecting the rent, the city?… NOT! NEON, that’s my bet! NoN, could you verify? NEON has free space, free utilities, and may actually be subletting and collecting rent from a church. Why is NEON even at Ben Franklin?

  8. Casey Smith

    “Meanwhile, the city of Norwalk is taking over electric bills formerly paid by the teetering South Norwalk anti-poverty agency.”
    I knew it. I KNEW IT!!! It was just a matter of time before the City ended up financially covering for NEON. What’s happening with the repayment of the loan for the HVAC system? Bet we’re going to have to eat that one, too. Let’s not prolong the agony. File for bankruptcy and be done with it!!!!!
    “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” – Laurel and Hardy…..

  9. Stamford

    People of Norwalk forgot one major thing, Norwalk had to pay for the debt that CTE had when the merge happen. So who do you think paid for that? Who do you think is still being paid. All the reps of Norwalk is fighting for what and Stamford if staffed and moving. Norwalk lost a lot of programs, who is now trying to come from the back door meetings and help the community in Norwalk because from young to old there is nothing there.

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