The running soap opera As The Bridgeport And Trumbull Magnet Turns took a new twist last week when Mayor Bill Finch proclaimed the Parks Department building on land that became a boundary switch from the city to Trumbull was never part of the equation. Hold on a minute, said Trumbull, Finch is reinventing promises made on this deal. The communities had agreed to a boundary switch, with state approval, so that Bridgeport would become the host community of a regional science magnet school. Trumbull expected that the parks building was part of the deal and trotted out a news release on Wednesday to bolster its case.
STATEMENT FROM TOWN OF TRUMBULL OFFICIALS CONCERNING THE RECENT STATEMENTS OF BRIDGEPORT MAYOR BILL FINCH CONCERNING THE RECENT LAND TRANSFER AND PROPOSED MAGNET SCHOOL TO BE LOCATED ON THE BRIDGEPORT/TRUMBULL BORDER
TRUMBULL — Three town officials who joined First Selectman Timothy M. Herbst in Hartford for a meeting concerning the proposed magnet school and property swap on April 1, 2011 are now claiming that Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and his administration are blatantly misrepresenting what was discussed and attempting to renege on an agreement reached in good faith. The April 1, 2011 meeting took place in the State Capitol with representatives from Bridgeport, Trumbull, Governor Dannel Malloy’s office, as well as representatives of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Department of Education.
Trumbull officials are referring to recent statements made in the Connecticut Post by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch concerning the recently approved property swap between Bridgeport and Trumbull. In the July 10, 2011 edition of the Connecticut Post, it was reported that “Finch said he does not recall discussing anything specifically about the building during the talks in Hartford.”
Town officials on the other hand claim that the Parks and Recreation Building was specifically discussed in the meeting. “The Parks Department building was most certainly a point of discussion in Hartford,” stated Daniel Nelson, the First Selectman’s Chief of Staff. “After that meeting, the First Selectman telephoned Trumbull Public Works Director John Marsilio from his car on the way back from Hartford to ask him to begin the process of reaching out to Bridgeport Public Facilities Director Charlie Carroll to discuss a timeline of transferring the building. I recall the Mayor saying that ample time would be needed for transitioning Parks and Recreation Department employees out of the Quarry Road facility, and the Town was agreeable to this request.”
The First Selectman’s Chief of Staff went on to state that this latest reversal of position by the Mayor was a further example of the prior practices and actions of the City of Bridgeport which led the First Selectman to decline to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with the City of Bridgeport. “Given the City’s current financial condition, the First Selectman firmly believed that the Finch Administration could not honor the financial commitments it made in the proposed inter-municipal agreement,” stated Nelson. “Clearly, the First Selectman’s concerns have been validated by the fact that the Finch Administration is now attempting to change the terms of the agreement that was reached in good faith at the April 1, 2011 meeting in Hartford.”
“I specifically remember Mayor Finch telling First Selectman Herbst in that meeting that he would need a period of time to relocate the Bridgeport Parks Department to another location,” stated Attorney Nicola. “During this same conversation, First Selectman Herbst suggested that the transfer of the building and the period of time needed to transfer Bridgeport employees to another facility coincide with the school’s construction, which was estimated to take 12-18 months to construct. For Mayor Finch to now claim he doesn’t recall discussing anything about the building and to claim that it was never part of an agreement is disingenuous, at best. The Finch Administration is attempting to alter an agreement reached in good faith.”
Correspondence sent to the Governor’s Office by Nicola confirms that the building was a point of discussion. On April 5, 2011, Nicola sent a letter to Anthony Jannotta, Deputy Legal Counsel to Governor Dannel P. Malloy. In that letter, Nicola wrote, “I wanted to follow-up concerning the steps necessary to accomplish a transfer of the 20 plus acre parcel together with the structure located thereon from the State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to the Town of Trumbull.” Nicola’s letter referenced the meeting of April 1, 2011 held in Hartford.
First Selectman Timothy M. Herbst indicated that the Malloy administration has been supportive and collaborative in making the property swap and magnet school happen. “Governor Malloy’s administration has worked very hard in making this happen. The Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel, Andrew McDonald, has been a true gentleman throughout this process. The Governor certainly has a lot on his plate in dealing with the budget, yet he has made this a top priority. For that, I am grateful and I offer my thanks to the Malloy administration. Trumbull’s concern is not with the leaders of Hartford. Trumbull’s concern is with the leader of Bridgeport.”
Town Treasurer John Ponzio was also present in the meeting held in Hartford. “When you come to the bargaining table on behalf of the community you lead, when you give your word, you keep your word. Integrity should be the order of the day,” stated Ponzio. ”Mayor Finch has not kept his word and has not told the truth regarding the elements of this deal.”