NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Common Council members unanimously rejected a proposed Department of Public Health fee schedule on Tuesday evening for one reason only — to send a message to Norwalk department heads.
The fee schedule had been the topic of a Department of Public Health public hearing but had not been vetted by the Health, Welfare and Public Safety Committee due to scheduling problems, Committee Chairwoman Michelle Maggio (R-District C) said. No one from the Health Department was present at the council meeting to answer questions. Council members said that was disrespectful.
“All legislative bodies rely on their committees to do the nitty-gritty work,” Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said. “Whatever the circumstances are something as important as a set of fees for a health department has to be vetted thoroughly. I can understand scheduling problems sometimes but … But I can’t remember an instance where there were scheduling problems where something did not go to committee yet there was no one here at the council meeting to answer questions.”
Mayor Harry Rilling said Director of Health Tim Callahan is out of town but agreed the department could have sent someone else.
The fee schedule would go into effect without a council vote, Maggio said. Therefore, simply withdrawing the motion to approve the fees would have no effect, Council President Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said. Although there is a deadline for the fee schedule, Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola said the clock would halt with the vote to reject the schedule and resume when it is resubmitted.
If it’s voted on in the next council meeting on June 25 it will still make the deadline, Maggio said.
“We all had a lot of questions,” Majority Leader Jerry Petrini (R-District D) said. “… Out of respect for us they should have been here. We could have asked our questions. That’s the reason we’re all feeling we need to reject this tonight.”
“As legislators, we can never be taken for granted. Ever,” Kimmel said. “… I think we ought to make a statement. We will eventually get things straight, but I think it’s very important to let the folks who work in this building know you got to come to us, we’re the ones voting on it.”