Center Site Proposal: Salce Companies

Salce Companies Center School proposal includes a three-story 104 unit development with commercial space including 185 parking spaces with 73 spaces in a garage below the apartments.
Salce offered $500,000 for the property, and proposed a $28 million development consisting of 42 studios with rents of between $1,175 and $1,350; 31 one-bedrooms at $1,700 to $1,800; and 31 two-bedrooms at $2,250 to $2,450.

The proposal was the only one to include commercial space, though Salce said that could change. He is proposing a coffee shop/café and bar in his proposal. “If the commercial doesn’t work within a year, we’d want the commercial space to be residential,” he said.

Check Out the Full Salce Proposal Here

 

Center School Redevelopment Plans

Four developers vying for ownership of the former Center School property presented proposals to Stratford development officials on Monday at the Birdseye Municipal Complex.

Editor’s Note: There were no architectural renderings of the proposed developments, or information on financing and tax abatements available to residents attending the meeting. District 2 Councilwoman Kaitlyn Shake (whose district the Center School Development would impact) was not given any information before the meeting.

The following represents the company presentations. All companies used East Broadway as the entry point for the developments, with most companies having Sutton Avenue as the exit point. For the entire meeting video presentations, go to the Town of Stratford Economic Development page and click on Center School Development :

Primrose Companies
A Partnership Between John N. Guedes and Biagio Barone, the first presentation was from Primrose’s John Guedes, whose background has been transforming several properties in downtown Shelton from industrial to residential use for more than a decade.

Guedes’ presentation was for an apartment unit having 34 two-bedrooms, 18 one-bedrooms, and 30 studio apartments. Rents for the units would be $1,500 for the studios and $1,800 for the townhouses. Their plans for apartment development also included plans for an early childcare center. The proposal showed 156 parking spaces and did not include any underground parking, which the town asked developers to include.

Asked by Redevelopment Agency Chairman George Perham why there was no underground parking, Guedes’ said it didn’t make financial sense.

“It doesn’t matter who it is, nobody is going to build a public parking garage on this site. The economics are just not going to make it work,” he said. “Generally structured parking does well in communities where the rents are high and taxes are low. That’s not Stratford. You have the opposite in Stratford.”

Spirit Investment Partners
Spirit Investment Partners and Kaali-Nagy Properties. New Canaan-based Kaali-Nagy Properties is currently in the process of developing a former Christ Episcopal Church property on Main Street into an apartment complex.

Spirit’s $39.8 million proposal, called Sutton Place, would be a four-story, 162-unit apartment complex with a pool, community gardens, dog run and public park. The development could also include a community arts center. There would be 21 studio apartments with $1,700 rents; 96 one-bedrooms at $1,900; 41 two-bedrooms, $2,400; and four $3,500 rental homes fronting Sutton Avenue. The underground parking garage will have 198-spaces.

The time frame for the development is expected to be 18 months – providing all required permits and paperwork are met. In order to finance the cost of the garage, pegged at about $6.5 million, the proposal asked for a 14-year tax abatement, which was estimated to total roughly the same cost. The abatement would run out in 2038.

Romano Brothers Builders
Headed by Mark Romano, who was born and raised in Stratford, he told the selection committee he would bring local know-how and commitment to the project. He claims to have the financial backing, and their design, in keeping with the neighborhood, would mirror the Congregational Church.

The development would have 27 townhouses and a public park facing Sutton Place, with a total of 142-units. The remaining apartments would be in a four-story building behind the townhouses.
There would be 20 two-bedroom townhouses, with a rent of $2,900; 14 studio apartments renting at $1,800; 92 one-bedrooms, $2,000; and 16 two-bedrooms, $2,450.
There would be 176 parking spaces with 82 of them below the apartment building. There would be no commercial development, as his goal was to maintain a “walkable” development that would utilize the present commercial development in Stratford Center.

Salce Companies
Salce Companies Center School proposal includes a three-story 104 unit development with commercial space including 185 parking spaces with 73 spaces in a garage below the apartments. Company President Anthony Salce said more could be excavated below.

Salce offered $500,000 for the property, and proposed a $28 million development consisting of 42 studios with rents of between $1,175 and $1,350; 31 one-bedrooms at $1,700 to $1,800; and 31 two-bedrooms at $2,250 to $2,450.

The proposal was the only one to include commercial space, though Salce said that could change. He is proposing a coffee shop/café and bar in his proposal. “If the commercial doesn’t work within a year, we’d want the commercial space to be residential,” he said.

The selection committee consisted of Economic Development Director Mary Dean, Redevelopment Agency Chairman George Perham, Town Planner Susmitha Attota, James Millward of the Architectural Review Board, Ryan Erenhouse of the Historic District Commission, and Patrick Carleton, deputy director of the Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments.
The roughly three-acre property off Sutton Avenue has stood vacant since the former school was demolished in late 2018, attracting lukewarm interest from developers when the town has issued requests for proposals in the past.

The Town Council has the ultimate say on what will happen with the property. Dean said early in the day. The selection committee could make a presentation to the council in September, but said later that the committee could ask two of the developers to tweak their proposals to present more of an “apples to apples” comparison for further review.

OOPs: Meeting Mix-up

The May 21st Stratford Crier misidentified two Stratford Town Council meetings.

The Stratford Housing Strategies Special Meeting on May 10th was assigned the incorrect minutes (Special Ordinance meeting notes).

Both articles are now corrected.

Thank you for your patience.
Your Frazzled Stratford Crier Editor!

The public hearing to discuss the results of the 2021-26 Housing Strategies For Stratford report prepared by the Stratford Housing Partnership committee which also included results of the Housing Partnership town wide survey conducted over several months.

Two speakers weighed in on the results of the report to the Stratford Town Council:

The first speaker, Kathleen Callahan remarks were:
My reason for calling in tonight is to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Stratford Housing Partnership for their rigorous work on the recently endorsed Housing Plan. Your efforts demand recognition. While reading the report, I was impressed by the depth of the survey, analysis, and recommended strategies. In days of deep partisan divide, this was a much-needed respite.

To the Council, mayor, and her administration, I ask you to accept the plan as endorsed and begin the hard work required by its recommended actions. As Councilwoman Shake wrote in a piece published today, there is no timeline defined for implementing solutions. I support her call – “for the sake of our seniors, our entry-level workers, and our insecure homeowners” – to act and act now.

Housing is always on the agenda of local governments but over the recent years it has become a controversial, partisan issue across the country and the state with the general assembly currently debating zoning legislation. I remain hopeful that my town of Stratford can see this as the Partnership did and begin to define implementation steps based on the needs of all residents.

I have found that when people are honest with themselves, we recognize that our sources of information for addressing a problem are usually ones that validate our initial opinions. Does inclusionary zoning improve the goal of affordable housing? I could search Google right now and find studies and data with outcomes that fit whatever I already believe, whatever any of you already believe.

I worked at our local homeless shelter for a brief time 6-7 years ago, while also working at a residential treatment center. My focus was on addiction services and what a surprise it was to learn of the Housing First model! Since Sobriety First was my view, this was a full-on paradigm shift for me… one that seems so obvious today. Housing is one of the most researched social determinants of health: there are improved personal and community health and economic outcomes related to better housing options and access.

I cannot imagine there is anything but agreement here that every Stratford resident deserves the dignity of a place to call home.

The second speaker was Barbara Heimlich, who spoke to the document’s findings:
If you are going to consider zoning changes it should be across all of the residential zones, just not in selected residential zones, e.g. any changes should apply equally to all those districts.

“You can still retain the character of the zone, even though every one of the 12 local districts build homes that did not meet our current zoning regulations on size.

We can’t build thousands of units to meet the states affordable housing goals without tear-downs, the town of Stratford does not own/have the land to do it. The state is calling for 4,000 units, that would call for something dramatic, again, we have no land.

Why isn’t the state not realizing we probably have more affordable housing per person than any town in Fairfield County.

The reason we are so affordable is because we went from being a small quaint New England community to being a “mill town” in the late 40s and 50s. Our housing was designed for working class families – capes with less than 1,700sq to meet the GI bill housing requirements, which is what most of our capes in Stratford are.

The state wants 10% of our housing to be affordable, right now we are 6.4%, if we get it up to 10% we would have a moratorium on our town meeting the standard which would not be dictated by a developer or state, we need 420 units to meet present state mandates.

We are not wealthy enough for public-private partnerships to be developed, The median income in Stratford is lower than other communities in Fairfield county and there is a need for housing options that are less expensive/more affordable.

About ½ to 2/3 of the housing survey participants indicated they were housing cost burdened (spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs), and ½ to 2/3s were concerned about their long-term ability to be able to afford to stay in Stratford.

Why are you having this special meeting, what is the time frame for us to make a decision? Where are the members of the Housing Partnership to explain the document they created and to provide information to residents and Town Council members interested in learning more about our obligations to the State of CT?

Editor’s Note: Stratford Housing Partnership consists of appointments made by Mayor Laura Hoydick. The members are:
Representative of the Zoning Commission Christopher Silhavey
Representative of Planning Commission Harold Watson
Representative of Inland Wetlands & Waterfront Commission Christopher Blake
Representative of Stratford Housing Authority Elizabeth Sulik
Representative of Economic and Community Development Commission Jennifer Sheldon
Member of the Local Business Community Desmond Ndzi
Member of a Public Interest Group Beth Daponte
Stratford Urban Planning Professional Susmitha Attota

The public hearing was then adjourned with the May 10th Town Council beginning at 8 p.m.
Note: The 2021-26 Housing Strategies For Stratford report prepared by the Stratford Housing Partnership committee can be found on the Town of Stratford website.

Show Me The Money

Special Town Council Ordinance Meeting May 4th

The Ordinance Committee of the Stratford Town Council conducted a public hearing on Tuesday May 4th for residents to give testimony regarding the adopting of the annual operating budget for the Town of Stratford.

The number of residents that signed up to give testimony was extremely disappointing considering that the operating budget is used as a basis to determine our mill rate – which determines our town taxes.

Eight residents spoke out at the hearing and were allotted 3 minutes each. The Stratford Library garnered all of their devoted users. Library supporters outlined what an important resource our town library is, and that cutting $500,000 from the budget would hamper their services and growth. “Programs and books are invaluable, grab and go activities kept residents productive. We are looking for the library to prosper. Budget cuts of 55K are excessive and punitive.”

Residents speaking out believe that the library is the heart and soul of Stratford, and they cited that the library is used daily by almost 700 people; that hours fit into anyone’s schedule; that many students rely on library computers and staff help.

“Stratford is a mixed demographic, and if you look at the Connecticut Mastery Scores you will see that towns with highest scores support their libraries, and have a vibrant, active library.”

Comments on the Board of Education budget by a Stratford resident noted that at the Board of Education Liaison meeting on April 21st, Councilwoman Laura Dancho asked the difficult questions. “Ms. Dancho stated the Board of Education had monies left over year after year and couldn’t spend all of their budget.” According to the audit, this is true. The Board of Education has not used all of the funds allotted to them year after year. Yet they still receive that amount yearly plus additional funding. This is evident in their own documents on their website. In 2018/19 – they had over $400,000 unused and they also encumbered $500,000 for the magnet school tuition bill. In 2019/20 – they had over $700,000 unused at year end. How much will be left over this year? Why not adjust it accordingly?”

“The magnet school bill was paid this year? How, when it wasn’t budgeted in the Board of Education budget? Where did the encumbered funds go? Year after year there were unused funds and where did they go? Where is the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) annual audit?”

“Reevaluations contributed significantly to the grand list this year. What about next year? Think of the taxpayer or homeowner. Look at adjusting accordingly and lower taxes for the homeowner.”
Releasing the BOE audit was helpful in looking at the town budget, but, the town audit still has not be published. Why?

Other resident input regarding the budget (Numbers based on 2021 adopted and 2022 proposed budget):

  • Senator Kelly complains of runaway state spending, yet Governor Lamont is gifting Stratford a onetime $4.7million “distressed municipality” grant which the town has labeled as “COVID Relief”, yet the town is allocating zero ($0.00) toward mitigating costs of COVID.
  • Town is budgeting an extra $9 million of long term debt which 1/2 is to be used to balance the budget – this is like putting your salary on a credit card and paying high interest rates so that your bottom line looks good. This practice is not acceptable business practices.
  • Budget cuts Open Space & Redevelopment funding, and puts EMS Fund in a negative balance – where is the investment in economic development? A vital proactive redevelopment committee is necessary if we are to lift Stratford out of the “distressed community” label.
  • Why is the EMS budget going from $450,000 to $350,000? A loss of $100,000? Their budget includes Pandemic response including vaccination’s, and opioid overdose response/safety, and of course emergency response – all hot topics and needed services. So why reduce their budget? Who is picking up the “slack” when they are unavailable.
  • Overhead & Debt: was $58,562,222 and increased to $61,918,922 – an increase of $335,6700. Why? “I would think with the pandemic closing Town Hall for months and new energy initiatives being brought online that there would not be a need for an increase.
  • Education and Travel (office of the mayor) in 2020 the budget was $5,819, now in 2021 and 2022 you are asking for $15,750 — and increase of $9,931 Why? . Due to the COVID-19 pandemic education and travel costs for the Human Resources department were and I quote “have been reduced at this time as educational conferences have been delayed/suspended”, how is it that the Mayor’s department increased by almost $10K?

During the Town Council Special meeting following the Ordinance Committee public hearing, Councilman Gregg Cann (D-Fifth District) stated that if Stratford had a viable economic development we would not have to rely on state money to balance our budget. “The budget reduces money in redevelopment, overstates revenue. The budget relies on state and federal agencies to bail us out, we need to own the solution, which would demonstrate local control”.

Chris Pia (Town Council Chairman) response: “let’s wait to see how much money from the feds before moving on the budget.”

The proposed budget 2.1 was sent with a Favorable.
Councilors who voted Against 2.1 were: Councilwoman Shake, Councilmen Paul Tavares and Greg Cann.
Editor’s Note: Facts and Figures
(Source: The following information was discussed by the Town Council during this special ordinance committee meeting and this information that can be found in the town’s budget book.

(1) In 2018 the Town of Stratford paid off its 1998 Pension Bond! Per the town’s budget book, this represented a $7.9million annual reduction in expense, the equivalent of a 1.7 reduction in the town’s Mill Rate.
(2) In December 2020, following the election of President Biden, the Town of Stratford utilized historically low interest rates to re-finance $180million of its long-term debt. The Mayor stated our interest cost savings are $3million, annually. That is the equivalent of a 0.7 reduction in the town’s Mill Rate.
(3) If you add those numbers (0.5 + 1.0 + 1.7 + 0.7 = 3.9 Mills). The value of a Mill is approximately $4.7m. For the average household, these new monies represent a potential property tax saving of $880 per year.

Question of the Day: So why has our Mill Rate only been reduced by only 0.1 over the past four years?
A. Town’s operating expenses continue to grow at 3.5% – 4.0% per year.
B. The town’s commercial/industrial Grand List has been trending at 1/3 that rate
C. Therefore, despite an extra $17million added to our coffers ($7.2million from State of CT, $9.9million from improved economic conditions,
D. the Town of Stratford cannot reduce its Mill Rate!
E. Yet, the town is collecting an extra 15% from your automobile taxes, and
F. for owners of low and moderately priced residences, the re-valuation hit you with a 20% tax increase, even while Mil Rate decreased by all of 0.1.

Stratford Housing Strategies Public Hearing May 10, 2021

The Ordinance Committee of the Stratford Town Council conducted a public hearing on Tuesday May 4th for residents to give testimony regarding the adopting of the annual operating budget for the Town of Stratford.

The number of residents that signed up to give testimony was extremely disappointing considering that the operating budget is used as a basis to determine our mill rate – which determines our town taxes.

Eight residents spoke out at the hearing and were allotted 3 minutes each. The Stratford Library garnered all of their devoted users. Library supporters outlined what an important resource our town library is, and that cutting $500,000 from the budget would hamper their services and growth. “Programs and books are invaluable, grab and go activities kept residents productive. We are looking for the library to prosper. Budget cuts of 55K are excessive and punitive.”

Residents speaking out believe that the library is the heart and soul of Stratford, and they cited that the library is used daily by almost 700 people; that hours fit into anyone’s schedule; that many students rely on library computers and staff help.

“Stratford is a mixed demographic, and if you look at the Connecticut Mastery Scores you will see that towns with highest scores support their libraries, and have a vibrant, active library.”

Comments on the Board of Education budget by a Stratford resident noted that at the Board of Education Liaison meeting on April 21st, Councilwoman Laura Dancho asked the difficult questions. “Ms. Dancho stated the Board of Education had monies left over year after year and couldn’t spend all of their budget.” According to the audit, this is true. The Board of Education has not used all of the funds allotted to them year after year. Yet they still receive that amount yearly plus additional funding. This is evident in their own documents on their website. In 2018/19 – they had over $400,000 unused and they also encumbered $500,000 for the magnet school tuition bill. In 2019/20 – they had over $700,000 unused at year end. How much will be left over this year? Why not adjust it accordingly?”

“The magnet school bill was paid this year? How, when it wasn’t budgeted in the Board of Education budget? Where did the encumbered funds go? Year after year there were unused funds and where did they go? Where is the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) annual audit?”

“Reevaluations contributed significantly to the grand list this year. What about next year? Think of the taxpayer or homeowner. Look at adjusting accordingly and lower taxes for the homeowner.”
Releasing the BOE audit was helpful in looking at the town budget, but, the town audit still has not be published. Why?

Other resident input regarding the budget (Numbers based on 2021 adopted and 2022 proposed budget):

  • Senator Kelly complains of runaway state spending, yet Governor Lamont is gifting Stratford a onetime $4.7million “distressed municipality” grant which the town has labeled as “COVID Relief”, yet the town is allocating zero ($0.00) toward mitigating costs of COVID.
  • Town is budgeting an extra $9 million of long term debt which 1/2 is to be used to balance the budget – this is like putting your salary on a credit card and paying high interest rates so that your bottom line looks good. This practice is not acceptable business practices.
  • Budget cuts Open Space & Redevelopment funding, and puts EMS Fund in a negative balance – where is the investment in economic development? A vital proactive redevelopment committee is necessary if we are to lift Stratford out of the “distressed community” label.
  • Why is the EMS budget going from $450,000 to $350,000? A loss of $100,000? Their budget includes Pandemic response including vaccination’s, and opioid overdose response/safety, and of course emergency response – all hot topics and needed services. So why reduce their budget? Who is picking up the “slack” when they are unavailable
  • Overhead & Debt: was $58,562,222 and increased to $61,918,922 – an increase of $335,6700. Why? “I would think with the pandemic closing Town Hall for months and new energy initiatives being brought online that there would not be a need for an increase.
  • Education and Travel (office of the mayor) in 2020 the budget was $5,819, now in 2021 and 2022 you are asking for $15,750 — and increase of $9,931 Why? . Due to the COVID-19 pandemic education and travel costs for the Human Resources department were and I quote “have been reduced at this time as educational conferences have been delayed/suspended”, how is it that the Mayor’s department increased by almost $10K?

During the Town Council Special meeting following the Ordinance Committee public hearing, Councilman Gregg Cann (D-Fifth District) stated that if Stratford had a viable economic development we would not have to rely on state money to balance our budget. “The budget reduces money in redevelopment, overstates revenue. The budget relies on state and federal agencies to bail us out, we need to own the solution, which would demonstrate local control”.

Chris Pia (Town Council Chairman) response: “let’s wait to see how much money from the feds before moving on the budget.”

The proposed budget 2.1 was sent with a Favorable.
Councilors who voted Against 2.1 were: Councilwoman Shake, Councilmen Paul Tavares and Greg Cann.
Editor’s Note: Facts and Figures
(Source: The following information was discussed by the Town Council during this special ordinance committee meeting and this information that can be found in the town’s budget book.

(1) In 2018 the Town of Stratford paid off its 1998 Pension Bond! Per the town’s budget book, this represented a $7.9million annual reduction in expense, the equivalent of a 1.7 reduction in the town’s Mill Rate.
(2) In December 2020, following the election of President Biden, the Town of Stratford utilized historically low interest rates to re-finance $180million of its long-term debt. The Mayor stated our interest cost savings are $3million, annually. That is the equivalent of a 0.7 reduction in the town’s Mill Rate.
(3) If you add those numbers (0.5 + 1.0 + 1.7 + 0.7 = 3.9 Mills). The value of a Mill is approximately $4.7m. For the average household, these new monies represent a potential property tax saving of $880 per year.

Question of the Day: So why has our Mill Rate only been reduced by only 0.1 over the past four years?
A. Town’s operating expenses continue to grow at 3.5% – 4.0% per year.
B. The town’s commercial/industrial Grand List has been trending at 1/3 that rate
C. Therefore, despite an extra $17million added to our coffers ($7.2million from State of CT, $9.9million from improved economic conditions,
D. the Town of Stratford cannot reduce its Mill Rate!
E. Yet, the town is collecting an extra 15% from your automobile taxes, and
F. for owners of low and moderately priced residences, the re-valuation hit you with a 20% tax increase, even while Mil Rate decreased by all of 0.1.

“The Players may have Changed but the Game Remains the Same”

Stratford Army Engine Plant Development

On May 12th there was a virtual public informational hearing hosted by the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the United States Army to review a draft Stewardship Permit Renewal for the Stratford Army Engine Plant Property. Over 75 Stratford residents logged on to the Zoom meeting.

The Stewardship Permit’s purpose is to require the completion of investigation, remediation, and long-term stewardship requirements including monitoring of environmental conditions, engineered controls, and institutional controls, as applicable. The permit requires financial assurances and public participation in final remedy decisions. The Stewardship Permit, which is a 10 year permit, ensures that the statewide environmental remedy remains effective into the future.

The application for the Stewardship Permit is available for inspection at the SAEP website, https://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Projects-Topics/Army-Engine-Plant-Environmental-Restoration-Project, and at the Stratford library, and at DEEP’s Record Center, by appointment when open, and the CT DEEP’s webpage listing public notices of proposed permit decisions: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Public-Notices/Public-Notices-Proposed-Actions—Opportunity-for-Comment/Proposed-Individual-Permits.

The Stewardship Permit is for what the Army refers to as the “upland area”. This is separate from the Record of Decision that was signed on March 12th that established a timeline for remediation of the “tidal area”. As a point of clarification, both the “tidal area” and upland area”, the Army Engine Plant, is owned by the United States Army, and, according to the Army, these permits which list all of the remediation that has to be completed, will not be transferred to any entity until that entity is reviewed and deemed having the financial, environmental, and engineering expertise to take over the plant.

Councilwoman Laura Dancho asked if the Town of Stratford had input as to the permit would be transferred. According to Tom Lineer (Army), “maybe to some extent” but it is the Army’s decision on who they select that they best believe would meet the financial obligations on the remaining cleanup. Note: According to Mr. Lineer the cost of the Army Engine Plant cleanup is staggering.

The draft permit identifies the applicant’s obligations to complete environmental clean-up and monitoring of the property, and any future corrective action to ensure that any release of hazardous wastes or hazardous constituents have been investigated and remediated to levels protective of human health and the environment, in accordance with Section 22a-133k of the RCSA, known as the Remediation Standard Regulations.

The renewal of this permit (presently held by the US Army) continues the cleanup obligations being implemented at the property. The permit authorizes the completion of environmental investigation, remedial actions where warranted, and as needed, post-closure care, long-term maintenance and monitoring to ensure the corrective actions remain effective into the future. The proposed activity is not expected to adversely affect any natural resources or human health.

All interested persons are invited to express their views on the tentative determination concerning this draft permit. Written comments on the draft permit must be submitted no later than May 21st. Comments provided during the public meeting will also be considered. Written comments should be directed to:

Amanda Killeen, Environmental Analyst, by email at Amanda.Killeen@ct.gov or by postal mail:

Amanda Killeen, Environmental Analyst
Remediation Division
Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse
79 Elm Street, 2nd Floor
Hartford, Connecticut 06106-5127

The Commissioner will not make a final decision regarding this proposed permit until the public comment period has closed and all comments received verbally at the public meeting or received in writing have been evaluated and addressed.

Historical Information:

The Stratford Army Engine Plant (SAEP) was a U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command installation and manufacturing facility located in Stratford. In 1995 the Base Realignment and Closure of the United States Department of Defense, recommended closure of the plant. On 30 September 1998, Allied Signal concluded operations in the plant and returned it to the US Army.

For the next 11 years the Army was involved with “Team Stratford” to develop the property. There has been support in the development by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, who opened up pathways for development, as well as Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

In March 2008 the United States Army auctioned the 78-acre site off with a winning bid of $9,612,000 which also included the 1,720,000-square-foot facility of over 50 buildings. This bid failed to be paid off and was placed for rebid. Robert Hartmann of Hartmann Development has a $1 billion plan to develop the former plant into a destination resort, dependent on the US government selling him the entire property for one dollar.

Several Stratford administrations have been working to redevelop Stratford Army Engine Plant property (historically with announcement of development timed for municipal elections) and the issuance of a Stewardship Permit Renewal begins the process of cleanup of contamination.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) leads oversight of the site’s environmental remediation
In 2014 the Connecticut State House of Representatives and the State Senate had passed a bill to create a special tax district at the plant to levy taxes and issue bonds which was viewed as helping to finance the redevelopment project, particularly road construction, sewage systems, and environmental remediation.
According to a statement from Mayor Hoydick in her State of Stratford video/statement she acknowledged that the Record of Decision (ROD) signed in March was the first phase of remediation, the dredging of the mudflats. She stated that “the transfer of the property from the Army to the developer, Point Stratford Renewal, must happen within six months of the signing of the ROC. Note: The Army did not indicate them having received an application from Point Stratford Renewal.

Point Stratford Renewal is a collaboration of at least three separate Connecticut Companies: Loureiro Properties LLC, Development Resources LLC and Sedgwick Partners LLC. Their vision for the former Avco being mixed-use development to accommodate several million square feet of residential, senior living, retail, hotel, entertainment, beer garden, and various commercial/industrial uses.
Presenting for the Army was Tony Delano, Erika Mark, and Tom Lineer; CT DEEP was represented by Amanda Killeen.

Make Your Voice Heard

Public Invited to Comment on Stratford Army Engine Plant Stewardship Agreement

Virtual Hearing on May 12th

Permit requires financial assurances and public participation in final remedy decisions

There will be a virtual public informational hearing hosted by the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to review a draft Stewardship Permit Renewal for the Stratford Army Engine Plant Property, held on May 12, 2021, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

The Stewardship Permit’s purpose is to require the completion of investigation, remediation, and long-term stewardship requirements including monitoring of environmental conditions, engineered controls, and institutional controls, as applicable.

The permit requires financial assurances and public participation in final remedy decisions. The Stewardship Permit ensures that the statewide environmental remedy remains effective into the future.

The Stratford Army Engine Plant (SAEP) was a U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command installation and manufacturing facility located in Stratford. In 1995 the Base Realignment and Closure of the United States Department of Defense, recommended closure of the plant. On 30 September 1998, Allied Signal concluded operations in the plant and returned it to the US Army.

For the next 11 years the Army was involved with “Team Stratford” to develop the property. There has been support in the development by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, who opened up pathways for development, as well as Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

In March 2008 the United States Army auctioned the 78-acre site off with a winning bid of $9,612,000 which also included the 1,720,000-square-foot facility of over 50 buildings. This bid failed to be paid off and was placed for rebid. Robert Hartmann of
Hartmann Development has a $1 billion plan to develop the former plant into a destination resort, dependent on the US government selling him the entire property for one dollar.

Several Stratford administrations have been working to redevelop Stratford Army Engine Plant property (historically with announcement of development timed for municipal elections) and the issuance of a Stewardship Permit Renewal begins the process of cleanup of contamination.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) leads oversight of the site’s environmental remediation

In 2014 the Connecticut State House of Representatives and the State Senate had passed a bill to create a special tax district at the plant to levy taxes and issue bonds which was viewed as helping to finance the redevelopment project, particularly road construction, sewage systems, and environmental remediation.

School Audit Reported

Board of Education Liaison Meeting -4/21/2021 Special Session

By Michael Suntag

Report on the results of the CLA audit (Clifton Larson Allen LLP). Note: audit was originally awarded to Bloom Shapiro, who merged with CLA this year. Jeff Sitwell principal of CLA presented the results of the audit to a special meeting of the Board of Education on April 21st , 2021:

Financial analysis – report has been circulated

Highlights – The study encompasses the years 2017-18, 2018-19,2019-20.

Binding gaps and recommendations:

Sitwell emphasized that there is a now a new leadership structure at the Board of Education (BOE) now – (The prior COO would allow accounts to run into deficit as long as overall budget was not in deficit. It is not allowed any more) – this may have occurred this way in the past and often not identified till the end of the school year ALEO (automated financial system) was configured to allow deficit spending, but this practice is not allowed now – the one exception being payroll – deficit still needs to be met for obvious reasons and then transfer funds after.

Budget transfers in excess of $7,500 needs to go to board for approval (audit found some inconsistences in prior years). Budget transfer control for anything above $7500 needs to be brought to board for approval –minutes did not confirm these transfers, and found significant inconsistencies.

Now the budget processes are paper intensive – the suggestion was to use ALEO to make it more reflective and transparent. Sitwell said that Stratford does a relatively good job of it – most expenditures are encumbered – and the recommendation is to encumber expenditures as soon as possible – out placements are always problematical for speed. And often dollars need to be found at the last moment. CLA suggestion was to encumber up front as much as possible for changeable outpatient dollars.

Purchase order process (PO) – there were instances where purchase orders are not followed to the tee. Purchases are received without the purchase order attached. All users who us PO’s – must be submitted as soon as possible. According to Sitwell, no one has a right to financially commit the district without prior approval and that happens through an approved PO. Money needs to be encumbered so that dollars can be set aside.

This is a cultural shift since it was allowed in the past. Sitwell said that the BOE needs to change the culture, including additional training of administrators’ to put in PO’s. Application security -password security is not where it should be – need to enhance security in financial and other key areas – passwords are not changed regularly and there is a standard out there to consider this higher level of security for financials. New password expirations and security are now in place,

Review of grant management procedures – nothing is formalized and documented for the protocols and controls need to follow.

Town Councilman Bill O’Brien wants another special meeting for questions rather than half an hour. “Are we processing the correct purchase order for the selection of contractors.” CLA did not evaluate whether purchases were from the proper vendor or cheaper vendor.”

The meeting was recessed and reconvene again at another special meeting

Stratford Board of Education names new Superintendent

Stratford School Move Forward

Windsor High School Principal Uyi Osunde names to post

Photo Courtesy of Journal Courier

On Thursday the Board of Education announced that Windsor High School Principal Uyi Osunde has been named the next Superintendent of Schools in Stratford. Osunde is replacing current Superintendent Janet Robinson, who is retiring in June after leading the district since 2013. His start date is July 1.

Osunde, who served as principal at Windsor High School since 2016, possesses a “wealth of school leadership experience, serving as a principal, assistant principal and counselor in Connecticut high schools,” according to a news release.

According to Mr. Uyi Osunde, “I am humbled and excited about the opportunity that Allison DelBene and the Stratford Board of Education have extended in selecting me to lead Stratford Public Schools. I look forward to establishing relationships and collaborating with faculty and staff, parents and guardians, as well as town leaders, to do this work of shepherding our students through, what is hopeful to be, the back end of the coronavirus pandemic.”

He was chosen from a pool of 22 applicants from several states. The search was facilitated by consultants from Trumbull-based Cooperative Educational Services (CES) and The Bryan Group, who guided the district’s search committee through the decision- making process by providing a leadership profile and selection criteria based on results of a survey and focus groups with the district’s various stakeholders, in addition to providing measurable performance criteria drawn from an advanced interview process with candidates.

Education Information for All

Stratford Board of Education Meeting: 1/26/2021

By Michael Suntag

The Stratford Board of Education met at its monthly meeting on the evening of 1/26/2021. Monthly meetings are the last Monday of each month and are held virtually.

During the public forum, 2 speakers presented to the Board. A representative of the Stratford Education Association urged the board to deliberate with caution about opening schools 4 days a week. He spoke to President Biden’s plan for testing and ventilation in order to get students back to school asking why this plan is going into effect now when Our schools do not have testing for all students and in some schools that do not have proper ventilation. He cited cases being higher here than in England where schools have been closed down.

The second speaker, Harold Grace, called in support of the plan to institute an increase in half day Wednesdays for k-8 so that teachers can have time to have structured collaborative time. This would be full day for teachers and half days for students. Time would be used to connect with students who have curriculum needs, to do collaborative planning necessary because of the need to develop new strategies for students caused by school changes in response to COVID-19. Brian Darcey stated that this is beneficial for students and staff – it is not a time off – they are doing more than on non-traditional days – they connect with students who have hard times to connect normally – they connect with tutors, teachers, special projects are definitely a need. Half day for students and full day for teachers.

The Board approved Wednesday half days to begin in two weeks.

Dr. Robinson provided her Superintendent’s Executive Summary Report. She spoke about the State school safety plans being submitted on time. School system is now in complete compliance. Some schools have student cases of positive tests and teacher absences. Dr. Robinson spoke about the protocols that are utilized in each school including daily check in where those with symptoms are flagged to a nurse so they can administer a rapid test. Findings are that students who have positive tests are not picking it up in schools. Teachers are not eligible for vaccinations yet as they do not fall within the 1b cycle.

The Board approved roof replacements and New Solar Arrays for Chapel, Second Hill, Wooster, Bunnell, Stratford Academy and Johnson House.

The Board also approved new curriculum including: Conversations on Race Course, African/Black/Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, College Algebra 2/MAT 120 and Chemistry 2.

Board approved 2 days as snow days. Anything over 2 days will revert to remote learning. Board member stated that there has been four times more students quarantined this week than last. Students are finding it hard to deal with the changes.

Discussion ensued on the social/emotional needs of students. Dr. Robinson spoke about all the work the schools are doing on attending to social/emotional needs of student. There was also discussion about the social/emotional needs of teachers.

Many teachers fear being in schools when there is community spread. Dr. Robinson pointed to the existing mitigations: masks, hand washing, shields, social distance. There is a process for catching those with symptoms and on contract tracing. When teachers can get vaccinated, there will be less concern.

A Board member spoke about her concern for the high school level where student groups are isolated and unsupervised.

Questions were also raised about developing additional strategies for use of virtual programs and for improving the level of academics for those on remote learning including use of a virtual academy model. Dr. Robinson replied that with the changing numbers of students in and out of school it would be hard to develop that type of program as well as with certification issues.

Questions were raised about specific responses to improving instruction virtually. The need for a specific plan or a response to pilot is critical. There needs to be a way to increase learning while children re remotely learning. Why this has not happened over the last several months is problematical according to two board members.

Graduation is set for June 15th . State has mandated that it must happen on that day.

Discussion about students who have been found to be in the wrong school districts. Three students have been identified and work continues on finding those illegally attending Stratford Schools.

Budget preparation workshop begin on Thursday 1/28/2021. The Superintendent search committee is continuing their search and met on Wednesday 1/27/2021.