WALLINGFORD — A Town Council subcommittee will investigate whether infrastructure issues in town warrant the creation of a maintenance committee after an earlier proposal failed to gather support from many of the members.
It's an idea previously raised before the council's Ordinance Committee, where it received a "lukewarm" reception, according to council members. But as more complaints have funneled in, especially concerning town parks, some council members believe it deserves a second look.
Resident Mike Glidden told the council Tuesday there is "a growing trend where we have a culture of negligence.
"There are things we are not maintaining, and here's a great example — the ADA ramp in the center of town. It's been repaired and the repairs are already failing. It's not ADA accessible. If we had a transition plan, we would be actively looking at some of these areas that are failing, especially in the center where we have the highest density of individuals using them."
Glidden cited the death of Timothy Cain, who was fatally struck by a van while crossing the street in his motorized wheelchair in July.
"He did not want to use the sidewalks because the sidewalks, in his opinion, were not safe," Glidden said. "He's riding his motorized wheelchair in the road and he is hit by a motorist. This speaks to this growing trend. We are not seeing the service that we deserve for what we pay in taxes."
Democratic Councilor Jason Zandri raised the idea of reconstituting a maintenance committee.
"We had discussed it in council and we also brought it over to ordinance to discuss. A lukewarm reception is how I would describe it," Zandri said. "There was a lot of discussion around whether it was needed. I brought it forward to put it to bed — either we formally vote on it to move it forward or if it doesn't have the votes, to say it's pretty much done."
Zandri said he thinks that the town needs such a commission at this point in time.
"I really truly believe there are a lot of little things that get passed, in Public Works they get passed, people turning things in and they don't know where to go. Even people who work for the town may not know which supervisor to go to, to turn it in, they may feel uncomfortable turning something in. They feel like their manager is going to put pressure on them or whatever the case might be,” Zandri said.
"Even some things are ambiguous,” he continued. “People might leave couches out in front of their house for a day or two and it says free. They don't go anywhere, they get rained on, now they're unusable and who are you supposed to call to get those picked up? I'll bet a lot of us know who we are supposed to call but a lot of people in town don't. Not only could people reach out to this commission, the commission itself would get together and go around and see stuff and outline stuff. I think there's a lot of positives to it if it's done right."
Town Councilor Sam Carmody, a Democrat, said he initially wasn't in favor of the commission, but as problems arose, he has taken a second look at it.
"I was one of the councilors who had a lukewarm response to this initially, but over the last few months I've had a change of heart and I think we could use the help to maintain our town's infrastructure," he said. "We have had a number of scenarios come before us that really call into question whether or not we are maintaining our facilities the best that we can. So I am in favor of this motion."
Republican Councilor Autumn Allison disagreed.
"I'm not in favor of this," she said. "I think that we do a lot of pontificating in these meetings where we have certain repeated people who come up and they can address their concerns to us. If we are performing our job as councilors, we should have an idea of things from going around the town and visiting the sites and talking to departments and asking questions when we can with the many methods we have at our disposal.
"I don't agree with creating yet another commission where we will have to worry that it just becomes a laundry list of certain hot ticket items that certain people enjoy talking about," she said. "I worry that the charge will be exhausted by that.”
Republican Joseph Marrone said he fell into the lukewarm category when it was first discussed, but can now see its advantages.
"I was lukewarm to this idea when it came up at the Ordinance Committee as well," he said. "Driving around and paying attention to the goings on in town, there are a lot of needs, and walking around this building you would see some pretty disturbing maintenance items here. This committee wouldn't have any real power, but what we're talking about is having information be consistent. I think if someone reported directly to the council with information, if we choose to do nothing with it then so be it. But I would rather know that my house is not in order and make a decision from there than to have no idea if my house is in order or not.
"Unfortunately I see in many cases that our house is not in order," he said. "We spend money on things that perhaps are of greater priority. So in the spirit of information, I'd like to know what all the priorities are before I make decisions about where we're putting our funds."
Republican Council Vice Chairman Tom Laffin said he has never had a problem getting anything taken care of that has come to his attention.
"I think a lot of the issues lately that may have brought this back up, it's the elephant in the room, it's a culture of personality and ideology conflict, and I think there is a way to get all this done as we serve in our roles as I've served over the last 10 years on this council and before that, on the Board of Education," he said. "When something comes up you find out about it, you make the connections to connect the dots. And it's not necessarily that we up here are doing all of it. We just make sure that the people who are raising the concerns are connected to the right people and the right places. And I think all this committee would do is create another middle man in that process. If we get a phone call and we bump it down to this committee — why don't we just take care of it ourselves?”
Councilor Christina Tatta said she was initially concerned about creating another commission that has no real power, but she now believes it may be a good idea.
"That was my concern initially when I wasn't very supportive of this. I was wondering what exactly their role would be and would they have any authority to do anything. That's why at the Ordinance Committee I was leaning towards no," she said. "Now I'm leaning more towards yes."
After it initially came before the Ordinance Committee, Tatta said she was provided with documents from the former maintenance committee.
"Even though they were an advisory board it's interesting to note that they came up with reports and the public works director got back to them and addressed every single item in them," she said.
In the end, only Republican Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni opposed the motion to appoint a subcommittee charged with investigating the feasibility of appointing a new maintenance committee.