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New Canaan Town Council retroactively approves $1.5M for bridge

Published 4:57 pm, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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  • Councilmen Steve Karl and Penny Young at the Dec. 12, 2012 Town Council meeting held at the New Canaan Nature Center. New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Tyler Woods
    Councilmen Steve Karl and Penny Young at the Dec. 12, 2012 Town Council meeting held at the New Canaan Nature Center. New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Tyler Woods

 

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More than $1.5 million spent in connection with an arbitration settlement with the Lakeview Avenue bridge project last year was finally appropriated by the Town Council on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The money was originally spent without approval from the necessary town bodies, causing a review of expenditures made by former First Selectman Jeb Walker and former Chief Financial Officer Gary Conrad.

"So when does the bridge have to be replaced?" Town Councilman Roger Williams said at the end of the discussion, bringing laughter to a solemn town council.

"Never in my lifetime," said Michael Pastore, director of Public Works, who was answering questions at the podium.

The $1.5 million amount came after weeks of labor by CFO Dawn Norton and the Finance Department, which scoured the receipts, transfer and minutes to discover what had been spent and what had been appropriated.

"That's the number that we came up with in finance that never came before any boards," Norton said. "So to close this out from the Finance Department, we'd like to have this appropriated."

The Lakeview Avenue bridge has been a contentious issue since the spring of 2011, when the Town Council learned about a $650,000 arbitration award to Lourerio Contractors Inc. that the town paid, but was never appropriated or made public.

"I think most people are sick to death of hearing about this issue, and hopefully tonight is the last time," said Town Council Secretary Kit Devereaux.

Many council members were relieved to put an end to the spend-first, approve-later reverse governing method that was revealed as more common as the Mallozzi administration has blown off the dust and wiped away the cobwebs from the previous administration's financial dealings.

Councilman Steve Karl asked Pastore if he was 100 percent sure that this would be the last time, to which Pastore said that the town had gone through all the books, and this was the extent of what was found.

The town will be recouping some of that cost, however, as about $670,000 is expected to come back in the form of rebates from the state. Williams asked Pastore if that number was liable to change.

"They'll write a check, and if they come back with an audit, they'll come back with a (small) plus or minus, but it's pretty solid," Pastore said.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4413; @Woods_NCNews