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Fairfield Metro Questions Keep Coming

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — The Representative Town Meeting knows its deadline. It must vote by Aug. 30 on whether to approve the $6 million in possible extra funding to finish the Fairfield Metro train station project without running into more costs for delaying the project.

But the five-member subcommittee tasked with gathering information before the vote now might not be able to answer every question the town’s legislative body has about the project. The group met again Wednesday night to get answers from Town Engineer Bill Hurley and former First Selectman Kenneth Flatto , but questions about the project continue to mount.

Hurley came to Wednesday’s session to discuss the improvements to intersections surrounding the train station. Fairfield made upgrades to 13 of its intersections and two in Bridgeport to improve traffic around the station. Hurley said the town is most likely not liable for more than about $500,000 worth of that work, after federal and state grants reimburse the town about $4 million.

The former first selectman faced questions about how he reached an agreement with the state to restart the project in March 2010, and why he left the town exposed to the overruns. Flatto responded with the same answers he has given since his successor Michael Tetreau announced the problem in June.

“From my point of view, we didn’t have a choice, because they were not going to give us the money,” Flatto said, referring to the $19.5 million the state Department of Transportation committed in 2010. “We would have either not had a project, or a project with a bigger liability to the town.”

Some questions will not be answered in time, and the subcommittee will keep working on those into the fall. For example, Rep. Kathryn Braun asked for all emails that the Board of Selectmen sent or received relating to the Metro Center.

Tetreau said the list would be nearly impossible to provide in time. A search through the records turned up as many 3,800 emails. Since each would have to be vetted by Assistant Town Attorney Eileen Kennelly before going public to avoid personal information about town employees being leaked, the committee agreed that the process would be too time-consuming and expensive unless Braun agreed to narrow the search.

The RTM will get answers for legal questions about Flatto’s deal with the DOT and the town’s obligations. Two independent attorneys are preparing presentations. One, which will answer questions relating directly to the need for more funding, will have the answers ready next week.

No matter which questions get answered, the town must make a choice by Aug. 30, or as Tetreau said, “[Fairfield] will run out of money.” If that happens, contractors will stop work on the station, and it would cost even more to restart work later. Still, Tetreau said that the decision is not “rushed.”

“We’ve been working on this for three months,” he said. “This is the highest amount of lead time to a decision that the RTM has ever had.”

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