HARTFORD, CT — On the campaign trail Gov. Ned Lamont promised to get the Valley Regional Fire School built, but he didn’t put the $14 million it needs to get started on the state Bond Commission agenda Wednesday.
“What you need is a governor who makes a decision and gets the job done,” Lamont said during a Nov. 2, 2018 press conference in Derby. “And that’s what Susan and I mean to do in terms of the fire training facility. That’s what we mean to do in terms of transportation right here on the rail line as well.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, was left wondering what happened when the item didn’t make the Bond Commission agenda.
She said Lamont promised to allocate the funding to the Valley community days before the election.
“The intent of this press conference was more than merely appealing to the needs of the Valley Fire community; it was to firmly assure the entire fire community of Connecticut that their longtime need of a Valley Regional Fire Training School to be constructed in Beacon Falls would finally come to fruition, should they be elected,” Klarides said.
The General Assembly has authorized $26 million for the Valley Regional Fire School and $14 million must be approved by the Bond Commission. The governor and the governor alone is in charge of the Bond Commission agenda.
Department of Administrative Services Deputy Commissioner Noel Petra said the improvements to the Valley Regional Fire Training School was recently put back out to bid.
Rep. Chris Davis, R-East Windsor, asked when the bid would come back to be put on an agenda.
“We’re evaluating our options at this point,” Petra said.
Lamont said the funding for the Valley Regional Fire School depends on whether they have to bond $750 million for transportation.
“If that’s the case we’re going to have to be very selective going forward,” Lamont said.
Lamont was referring to the $750 million Republicans would borrow in lieu of tolls.
“At the end of the special session I’ll be able to tell you what our capacity is at and what appetite we have for projects like that,” Lamont said.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Klarides said the fire school has nothing to do with transportation funding.
“Let’s be clear the only reason it was not on the bond commission agenda is because he chose not to fund it,” Klarides said. “Even though he came to this town and gave his word to the people that this would be funded.”
All the other regional fire schools received funding except the one in Klarides’ district.
Asked about whether it was retribution, Lamont said “I think the phrase is ‘prioritize progress,’ Mark,” in response to a question from reporter Mark Davis. “And that means you’re going to have to prioritize. And boy we’re going to have to be really tough on our priorities if I put $750 million on the GO bonds.”
He denied taking action against his political adversary.
“That’s absolutely wrong. I have to set priorities in terms of what are the most important things we can do to get this state moving again,” Lamont said.
Rep. Chris Davis said it almost sounded like Lamont was withholding money for this training school because it’s the Republican leader’s district.
“That’s very unfortunate if that’s truly his intention,” Rep. Davis added.
Lamont denied he’s playing politics.
“Right now we don’t have the money to fix all the roads and bridges that are not in a state of good repair right now,” Lamont said. “We have an obligation to put them in a state of good repair. That’s a public safety issue.”
Lamont said he would know within the next 10 days when the General Assembly will return to approve the annual bonding and school construction bill. There’s no date scheduled for a special session on tolls.
Lamont, who has promised to put the state on a debt diet, went forward with his second Bond Commission meeting Wednesday and allocated $287.8 million in general obligation bonds.
That’s far less than his predecessor.
At this point last year Connecticut had already allocated $769.14 million in general obligation bonds. Lamont’s total for the year after two meetings is $403.8 million.
The projects approved by the commission Wednesday included:
• $1.99 million to fund the reconstruction of collapsed retaining walls, and the deteriorated entrance portico and related projects at Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam;
• $5 million to replenish the Minority Business Revolving Loan Fund and $1 million to the Minority Business Initiative Advisory Board;
• $4 million to replace damaged and rotted timber piles and hardware at both the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury and the Chester-Hadlyme ferry landings;
• $4.5 million in funding for various improvements to courthouses and jails;
• $1.3 million for dam repairs, and;
• $1.5 million for a generator, fire pump and soil remediation for the Eastern Connecticut Regional Fire Training School in Willimantic.