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Fairfield Metro Drives Heated Election Debate

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – The problems with the Fairfield Metro station construction project have sparked heated arguments in Fairfield over the past few months, and Thursday’s first selectman debate was no exception. Candidates Robert Bellitto Jr., Michael Tetreau and Hugh Dolan fired barbs at each other when questions came up about the project.

Dolan, the Independent Party candidate , said that as Board of Finance members Tetreau and Bellitto should have stopped the town’s revised agreement with the state in 2010, which made the town responsible for extra costs for the project. He also pledged to void that deal if he wins.

“I will travel to Hartford, talk to the attorney general, talk to Mr. Malloy, talk to Mr. Flatto, and get it reneged, get it voided out,” Dolan said. I will "put the taxpayers back where we were. Back to 2009, before they negotiated that contract.”

Bellitto, the Republican nominee, responded to Dolan’s charge by saying that he could only rely on then-Town Attorney Richard Saxl’s legal opinion that the Board of Finance could not take action on the contract. He also said he “would explore every avenue” about canceling the agreement as well.

Bellitto also pointed to the vote he cast against spending more money on the project when the $7.5 million appropriation came to the finance board in August. Bellitto said he voted no because he did not feel Tetreau presented enough facts to back up the figure.

“I’m not against the train station project,” he said. “I think it has great potential. However, not at any cost. Not without the facts to back it up.”

Tetreau, the incumbent Democrat, told the crowd that he believes he did give Bellitto the detailed information he was looking for, such as a budget breakdown, at the meetings leading up to the vote. He questioned Bellitto’s absence from Representative Town Meeting and subcommittee meetings when the project was discussed in detail.

“The first thing you have to do as an elected official is show up,” Tetreau said. “You can’t be MIA. And in this case he was.”

Bellitto said he was unable to attend those meetings because of career and family obligations, but he read all the subcommittee reports “cover to cover.” He also said he did not explain his vote directly because he doesn’t like to “grandstand and make huge speeches at Board of Finance level. I let my vote and my questions talk for me.”

Tetreau asked why Bellitto did not offer an alternative when he voted against the plan. He said his plan would cost the town only about $4 million after state grants, as opposed to a potential $20 million alternative if the town went back on the 2010 agreement. He also pointed to 7-1 votes on the Board of Finance and 32-5 on the RTM for his plan.

“They made their decisions between the options that were available,” Tetreau said. “I think that’s what leadership is, and I think that that’s what we need in this town.”

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