MERIDEN— City officials are seeking more information following a June 27 vote by the Meriden Housing Authority Board of Commissioners to allow the authority to issue up to $129 million in bonds for two construction projects.
The housing authority board voted 3-2 to issue bonds on behalf of the Maynard Road Corp. to develop 100 apartment units, a black box theater and commercial space for no more than $75 million. The MHA board also approved by a 3-2 margin a resolution to issue up to $54 million in bonds for the Yale Acres Community Center project. The center will house a swimming pool, a warming center greenhouse and a power generation facility on site for community use.
The resolutions allow Executive Director Robert Cappelletti to sell the bonds to raise funding for the projects. The bonds are special obligation of the MHA payable only from the revenues and assets of that entity. They are not the obligation of the city or state or other political subdivision. The authority’s use of reasonable efforts to sell the bonds does not constitute a commitment to provide financing for the projects, according to the resolution.
Former City Manager Lawrence Kendzior, who now sits on the MHA Board of Commissioners. voted against both resolutions, as did commission member Carlos Ruiz, who questioned the late addition of the resolutions to the June 27 meeting agenda. Commission Chairman Neil Ivers, and members Scott Griffith and Nancy Rosado voted to approve.
Cappelletti would not comment on the board’s vote and Ivers, Kendzior and Ruiz could not be reached for comment. The MHA and the Maynard Road Corporation, which shares the same board of commissioners, does not provide video replay of their recorded virtual meetings and their minutes were unavailable Monday.
The Meriden Housing Authority responded Tuesday to questions about the process and stated the resolutions will be discussed during a special Board of Commissioners meeting.
The bond resolutions will now go before Bond Counsel to perform due diligence. The process can take three to six months, MHA officials said. After bond counsel has performed due diligence the board will take a final vote.
Kendzior had previously opposed efforts to involve the MHA in financing the West Main Street project calling it “reckless.” Agency leaders have sought multiple avenues to finance the mixed-use development, including housing and historical tax credits that were not successful. The proposal was also packaged as a federal Opportunity Zone project for investors seeking to divest of capital gains taxes.
A spokeswoman for the New England region of the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was looking into the bond issuance and meeting notice and had no comment as of Monday afternoon.
Housing authority officials said Tuesday the MHA June meeting agendas were distributed on June 23rd. An amended agenda was distributed on June 24th adding the Yale Acres item.. Both resolutions were included on this agenda. An amended agenda was distributed on the 27th after a clerical error was identified. No freedom of information complaints have been received.
City Councilor Bruce Fontanella, the council’s liaison to the MHA, said he had heard the board was going to vote on the bonding resolutions and called the votes controversial.
“The fact that there were a couple of people who voted against it will raise questions for the council,” Fontanella said. “I would have to do more investigation into what is being bonded and bring it to the City Council.”
Phase I of the Yale Acres moderate income housing project is complete and management has been turned over to Maynard Road Corp. The MHA and Maynard Road have been actively trying to secure property in the area for Phase II and improved access.
The housing authority and Maynard Road also secured private property for the West Main Street mixed-use project.
The 143 W. Main St. project has been discussed for several years and City Councilor Michael Rohde said he knew the MHA and Maynard Road were trying to secure finanacing.
Rohde, chairman of the council’s Economic Development Housing and Zoning Committee, said he is generally supportive of the West Main project because the corner is in need of improvement, he said. But he respects Kendzior’s fiscal warnings.
“They are pretty independent,” Rohde said about the MHA.
Current City Manager Timothy Coon said he is also aware of the two basic proposals but said there hasn’t been much recent discussions about them. He was unaware of the issuance of bonds, he said.
“MHA has not approached the city to partner on these two projects,” Coon stated in an email. “ As for support of the project, I would yield to (City) Council on the decision to support or not. Larry Kendzior’s opinion as a former City Manager and a lifelong resident does carry weight.”
The city has partnered with the MHA in the past on several housing projects, including 24 Colony St., and the MHA oversees the Section 8 voucher program at 11 Crown St., a mixed-income housing development built on land formerly owned by the city, which purchased the property from the Record-Journal.
The housing authority also worked closely with the city to relocate tenants displaced from the Mills Memorial Apartments and in a land swap that allowed for the extension of the Meriden Green.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said he was not aware of the vote on 143 W. Main St. and needed more details before commenting on specifics.
“We know the project was never off the table after first proposing the concept many years ago,” Scarpati said via text message. “However, I have been very open regarding my concern for more affordable and low-income housing within the downtown area. I’ll need to review the project and proposal before I speak to specifics.”
This story has been updated to reflect MHA comments.
Reporter Mary Ellen Godin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.