Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the General Assembly’s state contractor reform bill three times last year, but Monday almost a week before the election her office, not her campaign, issued a press release saying she will propose stricter contracting standards and establish a position within several state agencies to make certain these contracts are being upheld by the private companies hired by the state to do the work. In order to address these issues a state-employee labor union and lawmakers held a press conference Tuesday at a rest area off Interstate 84 near the three mile stretch of highway in Waterbury that sparked the recent calls for state contract reform.
State Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, said Tuesday the state already has contractor responsibility officers, “they’re called commissioners.” DeFronzo recalled his three attempts to pass legislation that called for state contractor reform. Rell has said she vetoed at least two of those because it would put contractors, some of whom are non-profit agencies out of business. “My office has received many, many calls and e-mails urging me to veto this bill because it would hurt people in need of state services, non-profits, small businesses and minority-owned businesses,” she said in a Nov. 1 press release. But an October 2005 report recently updated by Department of Transportation Engineer Jay Doody and members of CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 claims it would be cheaper to have a handful of the 1,600 DOT engineers do the work than the consultant, Rell refers to in her Nov. 1 press release as a the non-profit and small business. Click here to read the price comparison.In the I-84 debacle MacGuire Group of New Britain was the engineering consultant hired to inspect the road construction performed by L.G. DeFelice. Turns out L.G. DeFelice didn’t do such a great job, but it would be hard to reach that conclusion from reading the reports. Doody said one DOT engineer was assigned to monitor the MacGuire Group’s paperwork, while the MacGuire Group has the job of actually inspecting the work. Doody said in the case of I-84 all the “paperwork was correct, problem is the paperwork was a lie.“In fact it was a state DOT employee who spotted the problems on the more than three mile stretch of highway in February 2006. The employee observed a pothole that turned into a four-by-six-foot sinkhole at the end of the Austin Road on-ramp, a memo from the DOT’s Chief Engineer of Highway Operations to the new DOT Commissioner Ralph Carpenter explains. The memo goes onto explain how a majority of the 280 catch basins on more than three miles of highway were improperly installed. Click here to read more about the situation. Doody said in terms of overhead benefits and pensions hiring a DOT engineer instead of a private contractor is cheaper and would save state taxpayers about $7 million a year. He said it’s 16 percent more expensive for the state to hire an outside contractor. The legislation Rell proposed earlier this week in addition to creating contract responsibility officers, would Rell redefine contract performance standards and allow a five-year ban on those found “negligent or reckless” in the performance of their contracts. Michael O’Brien, CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 president, said Rell’s version of contract reform is “like closing the barn door after the horse already left.” DeFronzo said Rell’s proposal only addresses punishment and again highlights her ability “to act after the fact,” instead of prevent these problems in the first place.