1/29/2018 - First Selectman Vicki Tesoro Seeks Building Committee for Police Headquarters Renovation Project
First Selectman Vicki Tesoro Seeks Building Committee for Police HQ Renovation Project
Seeks increased transparency and oversight in use of public funds. Town Council will consider request on February 5, 2018.
January 29, 2018 - First Selectman Vicki Tesoro is proposing that the Town Council establish a building committee to oversee a $1.2 million partial renovation of Police Headquarters, saying that transparency and oversight are essential for projects that use significant amounts of public money. The Town Council will consider Tesoro’s proposal next week during its monthly meeting on Monday, February 5, 2018.
In the past, renovations and repairs of town facilities have generally not required building committees. But Tesoro, in her second month in office, said additional oversight, planning, financial management and public participation are the best course for the town on all major projects, including renovations and updates.
“I support these needed renovations at our Police Headquarters,” Tesoro said, noting that the facility is nearly 40 years old. “One of the positions I ran on last year was the importance of following appropriate processes.
“That’s the guiding principle here,” Tesoro added. “Let’s not spend more than we need to spend, and let’s certainly spend smarter. The best way to do that is to have a building committee watching the process and reporting back to the town through the Town Council.”
The Police Department project will renovate and improve ventilation, plumbing, electrical infrastructure and locker rooms. It will also mitigate lead contamination in the firing range and replace the traditional bars in the cellblock.
Also on the Town Council agenda for the February 5, 2018 meeting is the repeal and replacement of an ordinance passed last November that prohibits people who collect town retirement benefits from returning to work for the town. The only exception is for situations where a former employee is working as a consultant for 90 days or fewer. “It would be unfair to the taxpayers of the Town,” the November ordinance states, “to incur the dual obligation to pay benefits as well as a salary, consulting fees or other payments to the same individual.”
But the ordinance is too sweeping, say Tesoro and Town Council Democrats. While they oppose the practice called “double dipping”—which the ordinance was intended to prohibit—the term, they say, actually applies to benefits recipients who voluntarily retire with the expectation of resuming municipal employment shortly after their retirement, performing the same functions.
Under the replacement ordinance to be considered on February 5th, the focus is narrowed and the terms are more precisely established. It prohibits re-employment if the person’s separation from the town was voluntary, if fewer than 12 months passed since the date of termination, and if the new employment is the same as the prior job.
Town Council Majority Leader Jason Marsh, D-3, said the intent is to guard against double dipping, while bringing more clarity to what the ordinance is trying to eliminate. It more tightly defines the meaning of “voluntary” termination, adding explicit examples. It retains the 90-day exception, and it offers an alternative to prospective repeat employees: the terms wouldn’t apply if the prospective employee accepts lower compensation reflecting the amount they receive in their retirement benefits.
“The absolute prohibition contained in the former ordinance affected many more people than we believe was the underlying intent,” Marsh said. “We want to eliminate double dipping, without constraining the ability of retired employees to serve the Town again in appropriate situations. These individuals have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and can continue to be a valuable resource to our Town.”