Last night, in a move that is baffling, the Planning and Zoning Committee referred the sale of the Hatch Building, located on Washington Street back to the Common Council with a neutral recommendation. Who is the building being sold to and for how much? That is what is baffling. Before referring the sale back to the Common Council the resolution was amended so that both the purchaser and purchase price were blank.
For Sale for ???
How could a planning and zoning committee refer any sale agreement back to the Common Council with anything but an unfavorable recommendation when the purchase price is unknown? Especially when there have been groups right here in New Britain that have expressed a desire in purchasing that property.
By leaving the purchase price blank, if passed by the Common Council, it would allow the Mayor to virtually give the property away to anyone he desired with no oversight from the Common Council.
History of the Hatch
The Hatch building is an extremely run down building. Simply selling it to whomever is not a good idea for the city. It is going to take a good deal of investment to make sure that the building can renovated and restored. When the Historical Society of New Britain indicated they had an interest in the property they put together an extremely detailed proposal outlining the benefits the property would bring to the city as a historical center.
Is there some third party that has indicated a desire in owning the Hatch? If so, they should come before the planning and zoning committee and lay out their detailed proposal for the site. We should not simply be looking to offload the building to someone looking to make a quick buck, neither should we be giving this historical icon away to any organization.
Building for a Better New Britain
The Hatch building is in the center of downtown New Britain. Why is it that the council is looking to simply pass the building off to an unnamed party without proper oversight and public input? We have the chance to help grow the image of New Britain and to improve the quality of downtown, but only if we fill our downtown with quality destinations that will contribute to the very fabric of our community.
I hope that the Common Council does not simply allow this “blank check” to be handed to the Mayor. The taxpayers and the citizens of New Britain deserve more out of our leaders.
Categories: Press Release
The Citizens’ Property Owners Association of New Britain announced today that they would be withdrawing their Freedom of Information complaint against the city of New Britain. The complaint, filed last month, was over a request made in September by CPOA President Nicholas Mercier regarding certain revenue streams in the city budget. They Mayor’s office took nearly a month to produce the documents and Mercier only received the requested information after filing his complaint with the state FOI commission and complaining to the Common Council.
The complaint centered around the city’s failure to acknowledge receipt of the request and to respond with an estimated time needed to fulfill the request. “They simply neglected to follow the law, said Mercier. “The law is clear on the timeline to acknowledge receipt and the city wasn’t even close to compliance.” Communication Director Phil Sherwood admitted to the city’s oversight in a letter to Mercier saying, “[Y]ou were correct about the city not contacting you within in the 4 days to acknowledge your FOI request.” Sherwood went on to add, “It was a miscommunication between myself, Corp Counsel, and the Finance Department.”
Mercier said their apology and explanation is, ultimately, why he elected to withdraw his complaint. “The city is claiming it was a miscommunication and I am willing to accept that reasoning this time. Though it is still puzzling why they waited till October 9th to run a report for a request received on September 13th.” Mercier said he hopes the city would put into place clearer policies to enable more effective handling of such requests. “It is important that government be as transparent as possible. The FOI laws were written to allow citizen oversight of government.”
As to the request itself, Mercier was troubled by what he learned. “Originally this request was written to see if the Mayor’s office was on track in terms of their budget. They added several untested revenue streams this year and it is important to know where they stand.” From what he found Mercier said the picture isn’t good. “Each of the concerning revenue streams I looked at have generated little to no revenue.” While some of those streams, such as police and fire hot spot fines are tied to recently passed legislation Mercier said it doesn’t matter in terms of the overall fiscal picture. “All that means is the city has less time now to generate enormous amounts of projected revenue. Each day the budget clock is ticking down.”
Categories: Press Release
To the Editor;
I typically attempt to write measured letters that seek to inform the public of areas of concern. Typically when baseless accusations are directed toward me I ignore them and attempt to rise above the petty behavior. I understand that by putting myself out there as CPOA President I am somewhat of a public figure, and as such am opening myself to public criticism. That being said I take extreme exception at the comments made toward me by Mr. Sherwood in the October 23, 2012 edition of this paper.
In an article regarding the Fitch bond downgrade and the shift to a negative outlook Mr. Sherwood stated that I was the one who “created these problems.” In that regard, Mr. Sherwood is not only dishonest, but he shows a lack of integrity that makes him unfit to serve this city. While on the Board of Finance and Taxation I did not approve or forward a single budget that relied on one-time revenues to balance the city’s finances. In fact, the use of sale of property as a legitimate means of structural revenue is an issue on which Mayor Stewart and I routinely disagreed. The Board of Finance and Taxation is not a “leading decision-making” body that Mr. Sherwood claims. It is, primarily, an advisory body whose advice has been routinely been largely ignored by both the Common Council and the Mayor’s office
In another comment Sherwood implied I was being dishonest and that I failed to “disclose” my involvement in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 budgets, yet in the same breath he fails to mention that while I served in an advisory capacity on those budget that he, as an alderman, voted in favor of them. Mr. Sherwood may continue to wish to “spin” the downgrade however he wishes, but the downgrade is certainly not a sign that the city is headed in the right direction. And I think Mr. Sherwood would have a hard time selling that argument to anyone.
Nicholas Mercier – President CPOA
Note: This letter was submitted to the Herald on the day that Mr. Sherwood’s inaccurate and disingenuous comments were published.
Categories: Press Release
The Fitch Rating Agency announced last week that they had downgraded New Britain’s bond rating a notch. Along with the rating downgrade also came a change in the rating outlook from Stable to Negative. “This downgrade demonstrates just how much this administration has damaged the city’s image,” said Nicholas Mercier, President of the Citizens’ Property Owners Association, who earlier this week predicted the downgrade in a letter to the editor. “We are talking about New Britain receiving the first ratings downgrade it has faced in close to a decade.”
Over the past eight years of Mayor Stewart’s administration the bond rating for the City of New Britain has either remained stable or increased every year, but the Fitch report found too many concerns to maintain the high rating. The factors that led to the downgrade included 13% unemployment, higher than state and national levels as well as what the report labeled a high debt burden.
The Fitch report notes that while the city generated a $3 million net operating surplus, that the city would not have had a surplus if they had not relied on $8.4 million in one time transfers. Regarding the surplus, Mercier repeated a quote from his editorial. “The administration took out an $8 million car loan and is claiming they have a surplus because they only bought a $7 million car. You don’t have a surplus at that point, you have an $8 million debt.”
Regarding the future outlook the Fitch report stated that “continued use of transfers to support the general fund is unsustainable and not fiscally prudent.” Mercier noted that this year’s budget continues to rely on exactly those types of transfers. “If you look at the budget the Mayor is pulling millions of dollars from various funds, the cemetery fund, the water fund, the Stanley Golf course fund, and others, to cover municipal operating expenses. What Fitch says we shouldn’t be doing is exactly what this administration plans on doing.”
You can read the full Fitch Agency press release here.
Categories: Press Release