Tempers flared Monday as a coalition of municipal officials let the state’s trash authority and the public know it planned to seek legislation to take over central Connecticut’s trash operations.
That didn’t sit well with Old Saybrook First Selectman and CRRA Board Chairman Michael Pace who asked to address the panel after the meeting had adjourned causing a roomful of lawmakers and lobbyists to sit back down to hear what he had to say.
Pace, whose been in charge of the board since the authority lost $220 million to Enron Corp. in 2001, said CRRA worked hard to recover that money for the 70 cities and towns that belong to the Mid-Connecticut Project. Since the Enron bankruptcy CRRA has recovered about $152 million of the $220 million it initially lost and has already paid off the $21.5 million loan from the state.
But East Hartford Mayor Melody Currey, who is leading the efforts to start a Central Connecticut Solid Waste Authority, said taking over the Mid-Connecticut Project “gives us control of our own destiny regarding disposal of municipal solid waste.” She said it will also bring transparency to the process and lower tip fees for member towns. She alluded to the lack of transparency she perceived within CRRA.
Canton First Selectman Dick Barlow said 49 of the 70 towns have expressed an interest in creating a new solid waste authority free from CRRA. Solid waste disposal is a major component of our local budget and 75 percent of the tonnage delivered to the Mid-Connecticut Project is from the towns that have expressed an interest in joining the new authority, he said.
Currey said one of the places the Central Connecticut Solid Waste Authority would save money is on administration. She said the administration of CRRA is about 10 percent and municipalities don’t have voting authority on their board.
Pace said both statements were patently false. He said administrative costs are down to 3.34 percent and municipalities already do have a vote on the CRRA board, which is made up of six voting members from towns and cities of various sizes.
When a vacancy recently opened Pace said he offered the position to Currey, who declined.
While it’s unclear, Pace said it seems like Currey and the Capitol Region Council of Governments want to hand over the Mid-Connecticut Project to the Metropolitan District Commission, a sewer and water agency which currently handles the operations of the trash-to-energy plant for CRRA.
“It sounds like they’re turning it over to the MDC and there’s no savings there,” Pace said.
He said he believes the motive to save money is a good one and as chairman of the CRRA board he’s there to do just that.
He said tip fees are currently $63 a ton and going down. As for the Enron debacle, Enron didn’t just take CRRA and Connecticut for a ride it took the world for a ride and now it’s gone, he said.
Following the meeting, Currey said Pace has done a wonderful job seeing CRRA through the Enron mess.
She said the new authority is about local government. And no one on the panel mentioned the MDC. She said that’s what you do when you want to confuse an issue, you introduce something new that’s not there. The MDC and CRRA have been at odds for the past few years over how CRRA should be paying the MDC for the work it performs at the Mid-Connecticut Project.
Currey said what she wants lawmakers to do is give the new Central Connecticut Municipal Waste Authority control of the trash-to-energy plant the towns paid for.
“We want transparency, so when I call and ask for your salary list you give it to me,” Currey said.
Once the Central Connecticut Solid Waste Authority is created by the towns, then it will also hire an administration to manage the facilities. The towns will appoint representatives to the new board, which will be based on the population of the towns, not on the amount of trash it sends to the facility.