OPINION: A connection that isn’t there when it comes to Wallingford committee

By Vincent Cervoni

In 2020, after the Town of Wallingford committed to the purchase of 100 Barnes Road, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. formed the Police Station Steering Committee to assist in the design and construction of a modern, renovated police headquarters. His appointees were Police Chief William Wright, Town Engineer Alison Kapushinski, Director of Public Works Robert Baltramaitis, Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni, the Public Library’s head of facilities, Richard Heidgerd, and retired Civil Engineer Jon Walworth. Approximately six months into the Police Station Steering Committee’s work, when Bill Wright retired from the Wallingford Police Department to become director of operations at Choate Rosemary Hall, Mayor Dickinson asked Wright to remain on board. He continues in a volunteer capacity.

With guidance from a group of professionals chosen through a competitive qualified bid process, the committee has worked methodically and thoroughly through the process that got it to the point of seeking funding from the Town Council through the bond ordinance approved on January 24, 2023.

Over the summer of 2022, decisions were made to perform environmental tests at the existing building. In accordance with applicable regulations, tests were performed for the presence of lead and asbestos. The results of tests performed by EnviroMed Services, Inc., were delivered at the committee’s regular meeting on October 13, 2022.

The report noted the presence of approximately 400 square feet of asbestos on the floor surface without any lead found. (The existing building is approximately 44,000 feet.) In addition to the findings based upon tests actually performed, a draft survey regarding PCBs was delivered to the committee. No tests for PCBs had been performed as the scope of the projected renovation did not require testing for PCBs. The draft report was illustrative of what materials in the existing building might contain PCBs. The draft report remains part of the record from that meeting, irrespective of what the project architect, Brian Humes, said.

By way of history, the building existing at 100 Barnes Road was originally constructed in 1978, that same year when PCBs were made illegal by federal law, two years after PCBs were made illegal in Connecticut (July 1, 1976). There remains the possibility that materials containing PCBs, such as caulk around the windows, were used until 1979. The building was expanded in 1985 with further renovations in 1990, 1993 and 2010. The renovations in 1993 included window replacement which likely would have eliminated caulk from 1978.

The committee’s reaction, or lack of reaction, to Mr. Humes’ statement during the meeting, regarding the disappearance of the PCB survey has been called into question in several articles in the Record-Journal since first reported during the second week of January 2023. I was not in attendance at that meeting. Having reviewed the minutes and the recording from the meeting, it appears that nothing inappropriate was intended with respect to the management of the PCB issue. As PCB testing is not required, none should be performed. Also, in light of the building’s history, concerns about PCBs are minimal.

It had been suggested during the January 24, 2023, council meeting that this committee’s activities could be likened to an incident in the town of Fairfield, Connecticut, wherein Fairfield municipal officials have been charged for the improper disposal of PCBs. After Fairfield’s former director of public works, Joseph Michelangelo, pleaded guilty to charges related to the improper disposal of PCBs, in a press release from November 7, 2022, the State’s Attorney’s Office characterized the facts supporting the charges as follows: “Under the plea agreement, Michelangelo admitted that he and other Town officials participated in a pattern of activities that included a conspiracy between themselves and a contractor they hired to operate part of the DPW property. The DPW site and other locations became a dumping ground for unauthorized, contaminated, and hazardous materials.”

To liken the activities of this committee, where nothing stated in the recording implied that any improper disposal of would occur, is irresponsible, inflammatory and offensive. A proper review of the recording of the October 13, 2022 meeting and the draft report reveal that nothing criminal was contemplated, let alone conspired. Those irresponsible comments cast a dark and false cloud on an incredibly important project for continuing public safety for the Town of Wallingford.

Vincent Cervoni is chairman of the Wallingford Town Council.


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