Updated 11 p.m. with addition information and quotes.
NORWALK, Conn. – Unpaid electric bills may be making things even darker for Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) – literally.
The embattled South Norwalk anti-poverty agency, which announced layoffs of about 100 employees Wednesday, owes about $37,000 each to two electric companies, board Chairman Mike Berkhoff said. NEON has until Wednesday to come up with $18,000 for South Norwalk Electric & Water (SNEW), he said. He hadn’t heard anything from CL&P, he said.
SNEW provides service for 98 South Main St., while CL&P provides service for the Ben Franklin Center.
Berkhoff said NEON is trying come up with the money to keep the lights on in the South Main Street building. “We’re hoping that if we get money that is owed to NEON we will be able to do that,” he said, referring to grant money that he said NEON expects to receive.
NEON shares that building with the South Norwalk Community Center (SoNoCC). The center has plans to renovate its space and has recently received the $100,000 in federal Community Block Development Grant (CDBG) funds that was approved by the city, but needs NEON to move out of the space it is using on the first floor in order to begin. The plans include a separate SNEW electric meter and an electrical contractor was at the center Wednesday looking at the schematics, SoNoCC Deputy Director Pat Ferrandino said.
So how will SoNoCC be affected by NEON’s potential loss of electricity?
“We don’t know,” he said. “SNEW has not informed us of anything, and to say that communications with NEON have been difficult would be an understatement.”
The Second Taxing District considered NEON’s unpaid electric bills in an executive session at its Tuesday meeting. Commissioners did not return emails requesting comments.
A source said they felt they were in a bind – cutting off electricity to an agency that provides services to disadvantaged people would be distasteful, but asking South Norwalk taxpayers to foot the bill would be unacceptable, the source said.
Wednesday evening, Berkhoff did not have exact figures for the amounts owed, but said NEON owes about $37,000 to SNEW and the CL&P figure is “very close” to the same.
He again blamed Mayor Richard Moccia for the problems, mentioning the $2.6 million in Norwalk funding that has been denied over the past two years.
“The mayor of Norwalk cut this thing off and that was it,” he said.
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