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Norwalkers say Moccia administration ‘harrassment’ led them to state for ‘$25K’ hearing

NORWALK, Conn. – One of the people behind a recent request for a public hearing has some advice for Norwalk officials who are complaining of an alleged $25,000 expense: Look in the mirror.

“Be more honest and more open, then you wouldn’t have a problem. If you’re honest and open and never hide anything then what are you worried about? Come right out and say it,” said Pete Johnson, one of 36 people who signed a petition that caused the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to hold a public hearing before renewing the permit for Norwalk’s sewage treatment plant.

The hearing has brought condemnation upon Norwalk environmental activist Diane Lauricella, the target of an editorial and a letter to the editor written by Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E). Johnson and John Frank, another signer of the petition, say that is part of the pattern that led to the hearing in the first place.

The permit issued by DEEP two weeks ago is unaltered from the version drafted in August, before Lauricella submitted the petition in response to a legal notice in The Hour, before the public hearing.

“When this legal notice was in at the end of the summer for a variety of reason I was approached by East Norwalk people to be the front person for a petition. I won’t name them yet. … I did get 30 signatures, I explained it to everyone who signed,” she said.

Deb Goldstein also got signatures for the petition.

McCarthy’s November editorial speculated that the hearing would cost “perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars.” With the hulabaloo over with, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord has put a $25,000 price tag on the hearing, with a similar amount paid by the state.

He does not have any documents to back that up as yet.

Part of the figure is for an outside lawyer, services for which he said he did not have an invoice yet, he said.

Part of the figure is derived from “back of the envelop figuring,” calculating the staff time spent on the issue plus the cost of multiple trips to Hartford. He mentioned Wastewater Systems Manager Ralph Kolb and DPW Operations Manager Lisa Burns.

Last week he said he could not remember any overtime hours stemming from the issue – Kolb and Burns are on salary, not entitled to overtime. In the same conversation he answered a question about the snow budget, saying that overtime hours were the only real concern, as staff members hours are shifted to another category. “That’s straight time, labor, that’s just an allocation of total labor,” he said.

Couldn’t the same thing be said about the sewage treatment plant?

“The point is, what they would have been doing is things that would have been keeping normal operations going or looking at solving the problems. What did we do? We spent months and months and months and how many 10s of thousands of dollars to end up where we were going to be anyway,” he said.

Alvord and other officials have expressed exasperation, saying that the people behind the hearing did not come to the city with their concerns, instead starting a state process that included the hearing.

“I’ve been here 10 years. They have yet to come to a WPCA (Water Pollution Control Authority) meeting. So if nobody ever came and said hey, the levee’s going to blow apart around the thing. … The odor thing – we’ve been through this odor thing I don’t know how many times but nobody has ever come to the WPCA meetings. And then all of sudden, we’ve got signatures of people from Stamford and Silvermine and Wilton and everything else demanding a public hearing and we ended up right where we would have been eight months ago,” he said.

No one ever came to a Public Works Committee meeting to complain about the sewage treatment plant, he said.

Lauricella, Johnson and Frank said they went through city channels years ago to complain about smells, which Frank described as being, on occasion, “really gag-a-maggot bad” at the time.

“All we got was punishment,” Lauricella said.

Johnson and Frank say they went to at least one Public Works Committee meeting back then, when they were both on the Shellfish Commission. Frank, who now lives in Florida, was chairman. Johnson is chairman now. But they say they went to the meeting as residents, not commissioners.

“It was a waste of time because, number one, you’re not allowed to talk,” Johnson said.

Public speakers at city meetings are usually told they can’t speak about anything that is not on the agenda for a meeting.

“Pete Johnson and I went to a public works committee meeting years ago (5 ?)  when we were trying to get somebody to do something about ODOR.   I don’t recall what set him off, but (then-Mayor Richard) Moccia went nuts, screaming at us, me mostly, he claimed that he made me shellfish commission chairman (not true) and he could remove me just as quick as he chose.  I was too startled to respond, with anything I wanted to see on the record, so I kept quiet.   There was nothing in the minutes of that meeting when they were published,” Frank wrote in an email.

“He screamed at me,” Johnson said. “He was insinuating that I was representing the Shellfish Commission so I just said to him, ‘Well I live in East Norwalk and the smell stinks.’…There was nothing in the minutes. They wouldn’t write that in there.”

“Moccia’s administration had lots of people who really worked hard to discredit Dianne,” Frank wrote. “They started rumors (about her) …  A lot of her activism was about environmental issues and the violators were Moccia supporters.  She first came to public attention in Norwalk as a DEP (then-Department of Environmental Protection) employee and I have been with her at DEP and she is well known and has a lot of friends there who worked with her.”

“You couldn’t get anywhere in local channels. They were trying to blackball her anyways, to shut her up,” Johnson said.

Comments

9 responses to “Norwalkers say Moccia administration ‘harrassment’ led them to state for ‘$25K’ hearing”

  1. Yankee Clipper

    Johnson and Frank are so right … if the Alvord, McCarthy & Moccia machine were not always trying to hide, obfuscate, and confuse the public, we wouldn’t have these issues. It is only when some members of the public start making progress, does the AMM machine suddenly want to play by the rules. We have seen this multiple times… the sewage plant is just one example

  2. Diane C2

    To be clear, we have a waste water (sewer) treatment plant that has inadequate means to notify residents of possible shutdowns (Hurricane Sandy); an emergency generator located at or near the flood water line; a Public Works Director who advises residents to use toilet bowl liners (don’t ask); and stench so bad that it makes you gag in South and East Norwalk, yet some people accuse concerned residents of being “irresponsible”, chastising them for “wasting” money on the very public hearing that the state mandates MUST be available as a one of many opportunities for people to share information, express concerns, and ask questions. Mr. Alvord and Mr. McCarthy, it’s kind of the American way…the one you presumably served in our military defend.

  3. Spanner

    Its easy to point the finger of blame to those who trashed anyone who spoke about a clean environment.Why not point the finger at the politicians we still have in Norwalk and State house now.

    The end of Woodward ave got grants but not to test the water coming from Meadow and Woodward ave why not?The State labs in Milford found traces of PCB,s and asbestos in shellfish along village creek.shortly after that transformers and a power station on Wilson ave were taken out an empty lot now sits there.

    Stone cutting operation was given an ok on Woodward ave yet other cities and towns voted them closed dust kills so they say.Junk yards in Bridgeport were closed by court orders so they consolidated on Meadow st.Norwalk politicians stood on city carting land and promised all was safe as they stood on test wells,that was the day Dioctyl Dimethyl was spread all over the place and dumped in storm drains but that was ok.Some of this information given to some who are running for seats in the State house and sitting council members ,the delivery of such material was given out in many ways.

    Oyster Shell park still has its original contamination the other old landfills ignored so bridges could be built and one was built wrong (N Water st)some State reps and Norwalks own had to know they were flawed they were involved in the DPW and Ct DOT.(why it took so long for the road to open,Norwalk built the bridge State wouldn’t take it and open the road until the bridge was fixed right)Thats when the company Norwalk hired had a bridge collaspe in Ct during constuction of Norwalks bridge,another reason it took so long to fix or maybe why it was built with flaws.Norwalk paid for the bridge to turn over to the State for the Danbury line.

    Some of Our schools had dangerous levels of Radon they were taken care of (some by our own school custodians not versed with Radon remediation))yet any testing since? its been a while and not to know its still safe would be a crime.Brooks labs busted for fraud in Ct worked many jobs for Norwalk anyone want to say Norwalk always got what it paid for?

    Norwalk is full of two faced politicians making the rest look bad.Here is something I have never heard asked,if the power plant tested all the time the waterways around village creek to make sure the polution wasn’t the chemiclas they used,who test now that the power plant is closed?They did this so they couldn’t be blamed for things they didn’t create.While our leaders in the statehouse and city are so involved in our health let them show us the finger print IDs of chemicals the power plant used and the ones that came from Wilson ave places of contamination so we can narrow down who has done what.The state in Milford could find the chemicals and asbestos yet had no resources to continue to id the contamination for further liability.

    You would think our State reps would be all over that telling us all what they have done to protect those who live in the South Norwalk canal.Lets not forget the former superfund sites in South Norwalk as well.

    Its disgusting how those mentioned were treated its worse to think the good ole boys are still in business pointing fingers at just a few shifting blame as election time nears.

    So when St Vincents was attacked for its State funding you have to wonder if it was political what St Vs have done for cancer victims alone in South Norwalk has been astounding.

    Norwalk has a envorinmental officer? I assume he can address all I have said so far as nonsense.Then tell us what chemicals if any the State allows King Industries to dump into the sewage treatment plant.I’ll bet they smell just as bad as some of the waste that has come out of city hall over the years.I’ve seen permits given to King but the waste has not always been given a name,a patent on some of its chemicals does not have to be given a name making it an unkown substance a nice way of saying its a secret.Wonder if it smells?

    Brownfields anyone?Another subject off limits if your in Real Estate running for office I suppose.

    Violators were Moccia supporters is only the half of it.We still have a few cunning politicians who have baited those to vote for them leaving out the things that effect the health and welfare of their families I say that without any hesitation.So out with the old and in with the new the Scotts would say.

  4. John Frank

    Outside Lawyer to represent the city in a simple permit renewal ? Why would the City, with it’s own legal department, need to hire another lawyer ? How much did that cost ? Why don’t we ever see a legal notice when the City is going to hire lawyers, or a law firm ? Does this kind of work go out to bid ?

  5. Suzanne

    “The point is, what they would have been doing is things that would have been keeping normal operations going or looking at solving the problems.” This is a funny statement. If you were to address this same statement, out of context granted, to Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Alvord, based on previous articles, there were no problems to look at and solve. (Oops! Mr. Alvord has since retracted that view.) Is Mr. Alvord saying that normal operations cannot be maintained because of public input and requests for information? This is just another thoughtless excuse for not staying on task and getting work accomplished on behalf of the City that needs to be done. WHEN is Mr. Rilling going to replace Mr. Alvord?

  6. Spanner

    With respect Suzanne why would Mayor Rilling want to change the subject the current focus on this.His own police dept needs help when will that come? Lets think back on State and federal politicians who used Norwalk river as a backdrop when seeking votes in Norwalk they didn’t have an interest in clean water clean air clean campaigns they used us took our votes and stayed as far away as they could from all of this.I dont want to take away from any ones thoughts but where has our State reps been?Always there for a picture but when there has been a hint of trouble we have the most unresponsive hacks around.

  7. Suzanne

    With all respect, Spanner, if the principals in this complaint/whine because of constituency involvement are to be believed, many trips were taken to Hartford and presumably state agencies to resolve this issue. That those pesky old voters want to know what’s going on in their neighborhoods in reference to a sewage treatment plant in or adjacent to their neighborhood is such a problem, I suggest they are in the wrong professions which, by their very definitions, suggest that their primary responsibility in addressing such a public issue is to the public.

  8. Mike Mushak

    The behavior of our elected and appointed officials, namely Alvord and McCarthy, over this issue is reprehensible. The constant threats and attacks aimed at the public, not just on this issue but also on Rowayton Ave and before that Beach Road, indicates that the phrase “public service” has little meaning to these two. Just look at the nasty letter McCarthy wrote in today’s Hour attacking me yet again over Rowayton Ave. Why do we have to live in a city that allows this nasty behavior from officials? It is pure intimidation and is ethically suspect.

  9. Oldtimer

    Alvord seems to believe any money he can spend that doesn’t come directly out of the City budget is a big plus for him, regardless of the value of the project. Therefore, he is in favor of spending a lot tearing up and rebuilding, at a different grade level, a section of Rowayton Ave, over the objections of the people who live there. Moccia, and McCarthy, seem to believe Alvord can do no wrong, and support him without question. McCarthy sees no problem with Alvord claiming the sewer plant is very close to perfect in order to get a DEEP permit renewed, and then, in the next breath, list off a lot of work that needs to be done and major parts that need to be replaced as soon as possible. It is not hard to figure he could not have been telling the whole truth when he claimed there were no problems, just as he was not telling the truth about no odor complaints. But McCarthy will continue to support him, no matter the facts.
    It will be up to the voters to replace McCarthy, but Alvord can be replaced any time. Anybody know where he got an engineering degree, if, in fact, he has one ?

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