Seen and Heard in Norwalk: A contract, a lease, a historical piece

Common Council 100813 007
Seen in Norwalk: Common Council levity. Mayor Richard Moccia stood in mock shock Tuesday when Mike Mushak took the microphone at the lectern to address the council, beginning with the words, “I’m going to be positive.”

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some items of interest that were seen or heard recently in Norwalk, including one news story we haven’t shared with you yet:

Aquarium lease renewed

The new lease for the Maritime Aquarium was approved by the Common Council Tuesday without much comment, as it was on the consent agenda, lumped in with other items council members had agreed to pass.

“I don’t think there was any doubt about the Maritime center’s lease at all, at any point,” Council President Doug Hempstead said.

Mayor Richard Moccia had some thoughts on the topic, too.

“It was under Mayor (Bill) Collins that the ball got started rolling for the Maritime Aquarium,” he said. “I think some of the same concerns were expressed about that project, the traffic, taking of land, other issues, some of the same things. So the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

The lease, good until 2031, lets the Aquarium off the hook for rental payments to the city. In return, the Aquarium will take over maintenance duties for the facility.

The Aquarium’s bond to the city has been paid, officials said last week, without explanation.

Hempstead also reminisced about being on the council in 1984, when there was “high angst” over renewing a $24 million one-year bond to the Aquarium.

“Tonight is a great moment for us to extend this lease out, change it to make it whole over there, because it is truly a wonderful asset for the city of Norwalk.”

Historical quip

Hempstead said council members had observed an important piece of history before the council meeting with a get-together at Mill Hill.

It was the 100th anniversary – “to the day,” Hempstead said – of the first meeting of the newly incorporated city of Norwalk’s first council meeting, which had been held in Mill Hill, then City Hall.

“I want to thank (City Clerk) Erin Halsey because she dug all of this out, went through the minutes. It’s pretty amazing that the first bill the city had to pay was to The Hour for the advertisement about the first meeting,” Hempstead said.

That reminiscence gave the mayor his first opportunity for a quip during the meeting.

“Did The Hour do a poll?” he asked.

“Yes, but it wasn’t online,” was the response.

Reminiscing about outsourcing, with a regret

At the Planning Committee meeting the week before, two veteran council members said they had regrets about the 10-year contract with City Carting for outsourcing garbage pickup.

“I have over the years traditionally voted the terms and not the contract, but there has been subsequent debate about some of the language that is in these contracts, and I question the wisdom of that,” Matt Miklave said. “I almost think you’re right. We need to see the contract, whether it is a contract to enter into services or contract for the sale, we just need to see the contract and understand it.”

“I don’t disagree with that,” Hempstead said. “…. Every council seems to have changed that because I was on some councils that we wouldn’t do a darn thing without the full contract. Then it went the other way … I am in agreement. Anything that big I want to see the line contract. The lease for the beach, or something like that, that’s another thing.”

“But it was a thorn in my side that we never saw the contract for the privatization, the outsourcing of the garbage,” Miklave said. “That was a big contract. We should have seen it.”

“Touche,” Hempstead said.


13 responses to “Seen and Heard in Norwalk: A contract, a lease, a historical piece”

  1. Don’t Panic

    It would be nice if the those minutes were available to the rest of us online.

  2. Tim K

    what debate about what is in those contracts? if you are sooooo concerned, MM, why not request one from the city’s lawyers? isn’t this old news already?

  3. Jlightfield

    This is a periodic reminder to all political flunkies who read this that there have yet to be any savings in the great privatization if garbage and recycling, net to the City. Part if the reason, IMHO, is exactly what is being discussed here. The lack of oversight in the contract leads to cost increases, automatic fee increases and special allocations to cover the shortfall between the finance departments projections and the real operational world. Kinda like bit accounting for garbage collection dates that fall on holidays, or the pass through to businesses and condo associations of tipping fees. The 2010 recycling contract (much ballyhooed then) was riddled with overages. Until I see differently I expect the same on this contract which only shows a lack due diligence in the part of the Common Council.

  4. Tim K

    Huh? Riddled with overageS?

  5. Tim K

    Do tEll Jackie. I never heard of overages? Another coverup I Guess?

  6. Tim K

    do You thing they privatized to give more money to a company?

  7. jlightfield

    @Tim K I think the process that Norwalk follows in public works projects suffers from several things. There is not enough department staff to actually do the work to determine the full requirements of a project. Whether it is traffic studies, paving specifications, or the simple analysis of how many multi-family buildings without garages or other storage areas for trash containers etc.
    This then leads to overly optimistic forecasts of the impact a policy will have. Eg. paving RFPS on roads that are heavily trafficked by trucks not getting distinct requirements from less trafficked residential roads. Fairfield Ave. is one I like to point too, since a significant water main lies underneath it. But there are many.
    In the case of the garbage collection issue, I’ll point to Ledgebrook, Winnipauk etc. as prime examples of how the lack of DPW staffing leading to “spreadsheet decision” making without understanding the sites. The failure to account for holiday impact on the schedule, the failure to coordinate with downtown businesses who had daily pickup in advance of policy changes are also good indicators.
    The surcharges, or fee increases come about because invariably the contract specs out a limited responsibility but then the service is not what was expected. In the recycling contract of 2010, DPW asked for special allocations to cover shortfall of projections, contract negotiations and increased tipping fees. All things that may or may not have been caught during a more thorough review of the contract or policy.
    The fact that the common council has yet to figure out how to assign itself a legislative aide who can research policy impacts on these things has been baffling to me. It is further compounded by the years of trimming the staff at City Hall, and failing to upgrade the skillset or invest in tools that would make these types of data driven scenarios possible in each department.
    So despite the DPW Director asking for staff and resources, none are provided. Leading to the chain reaction, such as DPW unable to identify where the water and sewer pipes actually are in many streets, paving work awarded and then suddenly a problem because a pipe is discovered.
    The Council has yet to fund the GPS tools DPW needs to video trace the pipes to get that GIS data. Yet we want roads that aren’t riddled with pot holes, depressions and cracks, caused by heavy traffic and pipe infrastructure that settles or fails.
    My position on all this, is that there is too much reliance on trusting staff projections and too little research and vetting of such projections. Others may conclude other motives, but I’m data geek and know from experience that you can’t manage what you don’t know, and the rush to politicize every policy issue detracts from good old fashioned due diligence.

  8. Oldtimer

    Sounds like the people negotiating for City Carting Co. were smarter than Mr. Alvord and his team. The minute Alvord presented the agreement as a done deal to the council and asked for immediate approval that night made a lot of us wonder. Then we find out the real brains on City Carting’s side, Joseph Fiorillo jr., is a very experienced man in that industry who is not allowed to have anything to do with the garbage industry in NY state because of his personal history in the business with organized crime figures, notably Tommy Milo, twice convicted for racketeering. When Moccia has been asked about organized crime connections in the deal with the City, he gets outraged, but refuses to answer the question.

  9. tim k

    I follow u jackie. It seems likr it us more a policy maker issue than a staff issue. U think a mayor aid would help?

  10. Ryan

    Are we still talking about the garbage contract? Really?
    Take a moment to ask yourself what the City has paid out in Work Comp claims in the last year? What has the City paid for vehicle expenses? Fuel? Insurance? Property damages? Talk to the DPW workers, they are for the most part glad to be rid of the trash. And guess what? I think the service is better. At least if City Carting tells their guys to go back for something they do and dont have to deal with a grievance being filed. Outsourcing was the best thing we could have done.

  11. Mike Rotch

    Almost everything the city does cost us more than it should. Plus, the quality of the service is terrible. When the city collected trash, my garbage cans would still have trash in them and they were tossed in the street. Now, they are empty and placed by the curb like I left them. What else can we outsource?

  12. Oldtimer

    Fuel ? Doesn’t the city buy tax-free fuel as a municipality, for City vehicles, and then allow City Carting Co to fuel their trucks at City pumps at cost ? If true, isn’t that a violation of the law that allows municipalities tax-free fuel, but does not alloy privately owned companies tax free fuel ?

  13. Ryan

    Typical. When tough questions are asked,deflect. The question was how much has the city spent? PS tax free fuel can be used by private entities so long as it is used solely for performing or rendering services to said municipalities.

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