Ray Oneglia, vice chairman of the Torrington-based O&G Industries, responds to community critics following a state judge’s order for it to “immediately cease and desist from the use and maintenance of a recycling, concrete crushing, storage and stockpiling facility at 1225 Seaview Avenue” in the East End. In a commentary that also appeared in the CT Post, Oneglia asserts “for those intent on building walls rather than bridges, I ask that you take another look from a more balanced perspective at O&G and what the company is providing to Bridgeport.”
Oneglia commentary follows:
O&G Industries finds itself in the crosshairs of city officials and residents as it moves forward in the design of a new state-of-the-art, enclosed materials processing facility and moving our Seaview Avenue operations to a new industrial site in the city’s West End. During this past week, efforts to vilify us increased following a court ruling that upheld a 2016 Bridgeport Zoning Commission Order.
The repeated attacks against O&G may lead the people of Bridgeport to believe that we have somehow wronged the city–and that we have deliberately recreated a modern “Mount Trashmore” (the term references a 1980’s episode in which the Connecticut Building and Wrecking Company abandoned 30,000 cubic yards of solid waste in Bridgeport’s East End). Nothing could be further from the truth.
First, O&G has been a responsible corporate citizen in Bridgeport going back four decades. And unlike the many companies that have left the city, we believe in and, more importantly, are investing in Bridgeport. Our work here includes asphalt production, ready-mix concrete production, water-dependent barging activities and the sale of residential and commercial building products.
In the past two years alone we’ve built a brand new 12,000-square-foot showroom at our mason supply store on Hancock Avenue and invested heavily in our Bostwick Avenue asphalt and concrete plants. At Bostwick Avenue we also replaced an old, badly deteriorating dock and removed several thousand tons of contaminated silt from Cedar Creek Harbor for disposal in an approved out-of-state landfill, thereby improving a pre-existing environmental hazard.
Second, we are sensitive to residents’ criticism regarding the appearance of our Seaview Avenue facility and concerns raised about future crushing operations proposed for the Howard Avenue site. While not easy for the public to see, over the past year O&G has reduced the quantity of materials located at Seaview Avenue by half. And as mentioned above, we have plans to invest in a smaller, fully enclosed processing facility with covered product storage on Howard Avenue. Recent changes to the design of the proposed facility is in large part the result of O&G listening to and responding to its critics.
Over the past year O&G has been engaged in an ongoing dialogue with various neighborhood groups, including the “No to O&G” group. And moving the Seaview Avenue operations to an underutilized, derelict parcel on Howard Avenue will provide two significant benefits to the city: it will put to productive use a truly blighted site while at the same time making the Seaview Avenue site available for development consistent with the city’s long term plans for the Seaview Avenue corridor.
Third, we are proud of the economic value we’ve brought to the city. Some say it’s not enough, but over the years we’ve employed hundreds of city residents in good paying, full time jobs. We pay property taxes on our equipment and facilities in excess of $500,000 each year. We have also made payments to Bridgeport suppliers and subcontractors that amounted to nearly $10 million last year alone, thereby helping to sustain additional jobs for city residents.
While the vast majority of O&G’s “customers” are contractors, municipalities and the State of Connecticut, the general public is the end user of the products and services our company provides. Be it the roads that drive our economy, the schools that educate our youth or the hospitals that care for the ill, we all benefit from having local suppliers of the materials that are used to build and maintain our infrastructure.
Lastly, giving back is a cornerstone of our business. We’re proud of our support of local nonprofit organizations that includes not only monetary and material donations, but also our staff donating their time and expertise to organizations within the city.
Getting back to our Seaview Avenue operations, we don’t accept any solid waste or trash at the facility. The material is “clean fill” as defined by the State. This includes construction materials such as broken concrete, bricks, rocks and small amounts of asphalt fragments. To insure that O&G does not accept solid waste at the facility, O&G educates haulers on materials that are not appropriate for our facility and our staff inspects all incoming loads to ensure unacceptable material is not disposed of at our facility.
This facility performs an essential function by taking in suitable material and processing it into subbase that is used under roadways and as backfill for structures such as bridge abutments. Not only does this lower costs to taxpayers and reduce the need to mine virgin materials, it preserves valuable landfill space for solid waste that needs to be properly disposed of. Perhaps most importantly for the City of Bridgeport, the presence of the processing facility assures that piles of concrete, brick and asphalt paving fragments won’t end up filling Bridgeport’s abandoned lots or being dumped at the end of dead-end roads as has been the case in other cities.
Finally, for those intent on building walls rather than bridges, I ask that you take another look from a more balanced perspective at O&G and what the company is providing to Bridgeport. As a bridge-builder–both literally and figuratively–I am convinced that by working together we can accomplish more for the city and its residents than can be accomplished from behind walls.