Source Credit: Hartford Public Safety
According to information from the City of Hartford’s website, the HouseHartford Homebuyer Assistance Program was created by the City of Hartford, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Fannie Mae.
The program offers low and moderate-income home buyers down payment assistance for the purchase of one- to four-family homes located in the City of Hartford.
HouseHartford promotes livable and sustainable neighborhoods by making the dream of homeownership attainable for many families who may not otherwise qualify for a mortgage.
The City of Hartford partners with local and national banks, real estate attorneys, and home buyer counseling agencies to administer this program, and since its inception, the program has assisted more than 1,300 families in attaining the dream of homeownership.
Step 1. Review the Guidelines
- What type of properties are eligible? 1-4 family homes and condominium units located in the City of Hartford.
- What is the amount of home buyer assistance that one can receive? Potential home buyers can receive up to 20% of the purchase price in down payment assistance up to a maximum assistance of $40,000. Restrictions may apply.
- Who can apply? Low and moderate-income potential homeowners can apply for assistance under this program. Program restrictions are based on the total annual household income of the applicant. The total annual household income of the home buyer cannot exceed the income limits as shown on the HouseHartford brochure, based on household size. These maximum income limits are established by HUD and are based on 80% of the Hartford Area Median Family Income.
Step 2. Contact a Participating Lender
Contact one of the participating lenders below and inform them of your interest in applying for the HouseHartford program. The lender will submit the HouseHartford application to the City on your behalf.
- American Eagle Financial C.U. – 860.568.2020
- Embrace Home Loans – 860.919.7755
- Fairway Independent Mortgage – 860.803.0810
- First World Mortgage – 860.785.4066
- Guild Mortgage Company, LLC – 860.462.8553
- Liberty Bank – 860.982.6601
Step 3. Complete the Program Interest Form
Interested in learning more about the House Hartford program? Complete and submit the form after clicking the link below and a member of the City of Hartford Housing staff will contact you.
Source: City of Hartford
The Hartford Guardians will have their annual free Thanksgiving Community Dinner on Sunday, November 19, 2023, from 10:00 AM through 4:00 PM. Please spread the word about this auspicious occasion that enables the Guardians to say ‘Thank you’ for allowing them to serve you and our community.
In a meeting with members of the Upper Albany Merchant Association, Erwin Hurst, Sr. informed that International Hartford works closely with several organizations including HEDCO to offer various business services and micro-grant opportunities to minority entrepreneurs. There is currently a micro-grant program in amounts up to $10,000 for which small business owners may apply. Grants will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis until funds are depleted.
According to its website, International Hartford is a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of jobs in Hartford for immigrants and refugees by helping them become entrepreneurs and build their businesses. Through business classes and financial consulting, as well as loan preparation and step-by-step assistance, the organization focuses on supporting the entrepreneurial initiative of Hartford immigrants to ensure starting a business in Connecticut is easier and more feasible with help from the organization. Connecticut welcomes immigrants and International Hartford helps them create jobs in Hartford.
Regardless of your country of origin, if you need help starting a business in Connecticut or finding your way, International Hartford will assist you on diverse projects. Contact Erwin Hurst at (860) 490- 4557 or visit the International Hartford website for further details.
The Albany Avenue Neighborhood Development Projects report dated October 2, 2023, provides an update on current development/redevelopment of properties in the Upper Albany Neighborhood. A copy of the presentation slides may be downloaded by clicking here.
The future of development around Dunkin’ Park remains unclear as the latest legal endeavors by the City of Hartford to regain control of the land are pushed closer to the end of the year. A hearing scheduled to commence this week was delayed potentially until late November. Consequently, plans for the mixed-use development of parcels close to the City’s minor league ballpark remain stalled as the City’s legal fees continue to mount.
Both the City and the former developers – Centerplan and Do No Hartford – have been in a legal battle that has ensued since Mayor Luke Bronin fired the developers, thus creating a need to determine who has the legal right to develop the land around the ballpark. This long-running dispute could last for years, but earlier this summer both sides publicly hinted at a potential settlement, but they are still firmly dug in for the long haul.
According to the Hartford Courant, an attorney for Centerplan and Do No Hartford suggested a potential opportunity to resolve the dispute regarding claims that the City wrongfully terminated the developers. In late July, Louis R. Pepe, a partner in the law firm McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney, & Carpenter in Hartford, told the Courant, “… litigation is seldom the best way to resolve disputes like this. Centerplan and DoNo are open to any reasonable proposal to end the current standoff or to engage in mediation for that purpose.”
Pepe continued, “Unfortunately, the city has made it clear it will not sit down with Centerplan and DoNo, and so there can be little doubt who must bear the responsibility for the freeze on the parcels in question.”
In a statement to the Courant, City Corporation Counsel – Howard Rifkin – disputed assertions that the City was not open to talks to resolve the litigation. He agreed that litigation is not the best approach to resolve these kinds of issues, and the City is confident it will prevail – yet again -in a jury trial, as it did in the first trial. Rifkin continued, ” … we take seriously our fundamental obligation to protect taxpayers. The City has never closed the door on [the] discussion to resolve this litigation, and we are certainly open to reasonable resolutions – but I’d put a lot of emphasis on the word ‘reasonable’.”
City records indicate that Legal fees have already topped $6 million. This long-standing legal battle has been pushed back until at least mid-November. A delay was granted due to the Judge’s trial schedule. Centerplan and DoNo Hartford blame the city because its flawed designs resulted in cost overruns and delays in the ballpark construction. The previous developers also moved to regain control of the development around Dunkin’ Park.
In retrospect, after terminating Centerplan and DoNo from the contract, the City hired another developer to complete the 6,100-seat Dunkin’ Park. It opened for the 2017 season of the Yard Goats (a year later than previously scheduled). In 2019, a superior court jury sided with the City’s decision to terminate Centerplan and DoNo Hartford.
After its 2019 victory in the wrongful termination lawsuit, the City of Hartford contracted RMS Companies to take over the redevelopment. The 270 apartments included in the first phase are now completed, but the litigation regarding who has the right to develop has prevented RMS from breaking ground on the second phase of four planned phases.
Last year, the Superior Court ordered a new trial due to the ambiguity of who has legal control over the stadium and its design. Centerplan and DoNo Hartford have argued that the City of Hartford’s flawed design created cost overruns and delays in the construction. The barrier to further development intensified when a Superior Court judge ruled that a decision regarding the right to develop should be made after the new trial and a decision on the wrongful termination issue. The new trial is scheduled for April 2024.
In the meantime, RMS Salvatore, in his commitment to move forward, entered into a contract to purchase the neighboring campus of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and has announced plans to build a phased-in-mixed-use development on the RPI campus. Hence, approval is now sought for $16.6 million in financing (set aside for the next phase of North Crossing) to be potentially used for the first phase of the planned development on the RPI campus.
Source: Kenneth R. Gosselin, Hartford Courant, (Monday, October 2, 2023) email@example.com
Happy Labor Day!
According to information retrieved from the HEDCO website, HEDCO and the Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA) have partnered with the Officer of the Governor, the State of Connecticut, and the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to provide grants of up to $30,000 to small businesses throughout the State of Connecticut.
The program will not only assist with funding but it will also connect small business applicants to the organizations’ Ecosystem of Providers. Info from HEDCO’s website is provided below:
This ecosystem will include lawyers, accountants, human resources, insurance agencies, marketing firms, and other providers to supply small businesses with the resources they need to start-up, sustain, or grow their enterprises – many resources which are too expensive or unattainable otherwise.
This program is designed for businesses seeking growth and long-term success. It will require an assessment process to identify and analyze areas of need. Experienced professionals will be available to guide participants through the process. The outcome offers valuable insights into strengths, weaknesses, growth opportunities, and strategies for overcoming challenges.
This grant program requires that your small business must:
- Go through the assessment process provided by the program
- Be a for-profit business with no more than 25 full-time and/or part-time employees.
- Be a registered business operating in Connecticut.
- Be in good standing with the Department of Revenue Services (DRS)
- Be in good standing with the Department of Labor.
- Have been conducting business for a minimum of one year.
Terms and Conditions
- Grants up to $30,000 are offered subject to the following disclaimer, “The amount you have requested may not equal the amount you are approved for.”
- Zero percent interest rate
- No application fee
- Closing fee of $500.00
- Grants do not have to be paid back to HEDCO, Inc. unless funds are used to cover ineligible expenses. The business must show documentation of expenditures in accordance with your cash flow projections.
Application and Approval Process – Submit the following documents:
Application Apply Online, (before starting the application, be sure to have the relevant documents [itemized below] ready to upload).
- Latest tax return for 1 year (business and personal) or Profit and Loss for prior year
- Year-to-date Profit and Loss Statement
- Status Letter from Department of Revenue Services How to get a Status Letter
- Status Letter from Department of Labor Request Letter of Good Standing
- Cash flow projections for 12 months Download Cash Flow Projections Sheet
- Source and Use of Funds Form Download Source and Use Form
- Statement about how these grant funds will be utilized to help grow your business.
For additional information about the program and assistance with the completion of your application call HEDCO at (860) 527-1301 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant reports that when Max Kothari and his wife bought the Star Hardware store their vision was to provide jobs and service to the city and its residents. However, to the Kotaris’ dismay, the last four storms that brought flooding and sewage to the neighborhood have forced them to close their doors for good to the community that they have loved and cultivated throughout the years.
Kothari said that the most recent two storms finally did the store in, as he kept acquiring inventory damages. He said that the remaining inventory will be given to Habitat for Humanity. While the store is permanently closed, the appliance and window portion remains open at the building next door and no employees will lose their employment, he said. He expressed his belief that the closing of the hardware store is a casualty of the city government choosing not to take action.
Kothari said that every time it rains, a nearby retention pond overflows into the building, which causes flooding damage within the hardware store – and which has happened to him four times.
“The mayor knows that the leaks are coming from the pond (in the back of the store), but we are not getting (help)…,” Kothari said. “It’s just put a nail in the coffin for the hardware store, as we are struggling with other things…closing the hardware store has nothing to do with our hardware community or our customers. Our customers are still coming…We believe (it was due to) lack of competency on the part of the city government.”
“It is an incompetency factor that we need to bring out…that people are just not managing our affairs with the city correctly, and then hiding behind this always (as an) environmental issue and…a weather issue…that was a conscious decision to ignore the North End and it’s very disheartening,” he said.
Mayor Luke Bronin said Monday, “I suspect that Star Hardware was suffering from the understandable challenges of competing as an independent business in an industry dominated by chains, and it’s perplexing that Mr. Kothari feels the need to make the statements that he’s made — which are neither accurate nor fair — about a city that has tried very hard to help him.
“The city has committed significant investment in the north end of Hartford, with tens of millions of dollars of additional investment in process today — including along North Main Street near Mr. Kothari‘s property, from broadband expansion, to housing, to the recent announcement of a $19 million streetscape grant for North Main,” Bronin said.
“The city has taken a direct and active role in attempting to resolve the issues of flooding near Mr. Kothari’s property, including submitting an application to the state’s Community Investment Fund to expand the retention pond adjacent to his property. That project, which would cost more than $6 million…and would primarily benefit Mr. Kothari’s property, was not selected for funding — but it has remained a priority ask for the city,” Bronin said.
Further, Bronin said, “following the severe floods in 2021, we convened multiple conversations between the Housing Authority, the MDC, and Mr. Kothari, in an attempt to broker a resolution that would help address Mr. Kothari’s issues— even though those conversations were complicated by the fact that Mr. Kothari had threatened legal action against the MDC and the Housing Authority. Ultimately, the only way to eliminate the risk of flooding on Mr. Kothari’s property is the same as it is elsewhere, and that is massive, long-term investment in upgrading an ancient storm sewer system that’s overwhelmed by the increasingly intense storms.”
Bronin also, in previously offering support to residents, has noted the sewer systems were built more than a century ago, “for the most part. It’s an ancient system” and that there is work being done to separate the sewer from the storm sewer, “so that when there’s flooding, it doesn’t back up and put sewage back into people’s basements.”
Kothari’s decision to close came less than a month after Gov. Ned Lamont and his administration in June committed $85 million in state funding from the state Clean Water Fund and related funding for a pilot program to address sewage overflows in streets and basements in North Hartford. Residents and businesses there have been chronically impacted by the long-term recurrence of flooding.
The Clean Water Fund is administered by state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and is used by the state to provide financial assistance to municipalities for projects addressing wastewater. The new money is expected to be applied to 12 projects proposed by the Metropolitan District to increase protections from sewer and stormwater-related flooding and backups in North Hartford, with the project estimated to cost $170 million in total.
Officials also have said that, coupled with the $85 million commitment, the biennial state budget that Lamont signed creates the Hartford Sewerage System Repair and Improvement Fund, a pilot grant program overseen by State Comptroller Sean Scanlon that will provide support to Hartford residents impacted by flood damage on or after Jan. 1, 2021.
Kothari said that making the decision to close the store has hit residents and his employees the most, as they have developed strong friendships with community members who have patronized the store throughout the years.
“It’s been the hardest on the employees, because they every day helped people. And suddenly those same people when they come through the other door, (and) say ‘Hey, can I just get a can of paint? Hey, can I just get this? Hey, can I get that?’ We have to now say no…,” he said.
“Even though you don’t realize it, it’s the same contractor that walks into the neighborhood that does X amount of work, this will be the same person that lives down the street. Emotionally, it’s very, very hard to absorb, after such a long history, something like this can happen,” he said.
Kothari said that while many of his employees disagreed with the decision and wanted to try to figure out a way to keep the business open, the losses kept coming one after the other with the recent storms, leaving him with no other choice.
One of his employees, Sam, has been working at the store for 25 years – opening and closing the store, said that it was very hard for him to hear the hardware store is closing, as he made many friends with community members.
“My heart was crying, because we work hard…the heartbreak. We miss friends, it’s been 25 years…we feel it bad in our heart, because we have been through every day like that…When we see the weather, we are scared,” he said.
Another employee of the hardware store, Lloyd Brown, has also worked there for 25 years and said that it is difficult to see the store close.
“To be honest, I felt really bad about that. Because I’ve been in the system with the hardware (for) so long…I have other customers that come in and feel the same way,” he said.
Now that the hardware store is closed, the workers said, residents will have to travel to other surrounding towns. as this was a primary business for many community members to get their keys made, get screws or locks for their home projects, or buy a can of paint.
Kothari said that he is truly grateful to the North End Community for supporting the store throughout the years.
“The most important thing (that) needs to (be said) about today: I cannot be more thankful to the North End community,” he said. “There are folks in our community that will leave Home Depot to buy stuff at my place. The only reason is because they cared, because they knew we cared here. We used to issue credit to contractors, just at face value, all those things the community (will) miss,” he said.
Source: Deidre Montague, Hartford Courant, July 11, 2023
In a 06/26/2023 press release, Governor Ned Lamont announced that his administration has committed $85 million to repair flooding and sewage issues in North Harford. The content of the press release is copied below:
Funding Contributes to a Total $170 Million Investment to Address Flooding in the Neighborhood
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration is committing $85 million in state funding from the state’s Clean Water Fund and Clean Water Fund-related funding to implement a pilot program that will address sewage overflows in streets and basements in North Hartford, where residents have been chronically impacted by the long-term recurrence of sewer overflows.
Administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the Clean Water Fund is the mechanism through which the state provides financial assistance to municipalities for projects addressing wastewater needs.
The funds will be applied to 12 projects proposed by the Metropolitan District (MDC) to increase protections from sewer and stormwater-related flooding and backups in North Hartford. The projects are estimated to cost $170 million. In providing this funding, DEEP has confirmed that MDC anticipates the remaining funding for these projects will be covered within the current MDC rate structure, with no impact on current rates. Five projects are slated to begin in 2023, six projects will begin in 2024, and one project will begin in 2025.
“I am glad that we can release this significant state funding to Hartford’s North End, which has been disproportionately impacted by sewer overflows for a long time,” Governor Lamont said. “I’m grateful to DEEP, the Hartford delegation, the MDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the community leaders in Hartford for working together to make progress on this complex but critically important issue.”
“Legacy combined sewer systems threaten both the health of our ecosystems and the vitality of our communities,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “With the acceleration of climate change, more frequent, intense rainstorms are overwhelming sewer systems and causing street flooding, which leads ultimately to sewage backups that are devastating to residents. DEEP is committed to funding innovative pilot projects that will begin to bring relief to the North End and inform our approach to the broader Clean Water Fund program. I thank the members of the North End community for their advocacy on this issue. I look forward to continuing collaboration with community and legislative leaders and our federal partners on additional steps we can take together on climate, clean water, and environmental justice.”
The proposal for these funds includes a novel, private property infrastructure pilot that has potential financial, social, and environmental benefits by addressing privately-owned infrastructure that is connected to the public sewerage system. Of the total $170 million invested toward flood mitigation in North Hartford to date, $73 million is estimated to perform private property infrastructure improvements on over 3,500 properties, with backflow preventers and emergency sewer lateral repairs available, where needed. The Connecticut Office of the Treasurer, the Clean Water Fund manager, has worked with DEEP to secure funding for the pilot private property infrastructure improvements.
As part of its proposal, the MDC has committed to intensifying efforts to hire minority and disadvantaged business enterprises (MBE/DBE) and to work with all of its contractors to increase the use of Hartford labor for the North Hartford sewer flooding mitigation pilot project. DEEP sees significant opportunities to increase MBE/DBE and local labor for the private infrastructure work outlined in the proposal.
DEEP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are in the process of coordinating a community forum for North End residents in July to provide information about the initiative and answer questions.
In addition to this $85 million commitment announced today, the biennial state budget that Governor Lamont signed earlier this month creates the Hartford Sewerage System Repair and Improvement Fund, a pilot grant program overseen by the Office of the State Comptroller that will provide support to Hartford residents impacted by flood damage on or after January 1, 2021. The governor will next appoint an administrator to the program, who must be a resident of Hartford with experience in environmental justice issues and insurance. Once the application process is fully developed, eligible Hartford residents will be able to request reimbursement.
EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash said, “This is great news for the North Hartford community. I applaud Connecticut’s commitment to address flooding and sewer overflow issues that have gravely impacted its residents for decades. EPA remains steadfast in its commitment to advance environmental justice by working with community members and advocates and DEEP to resolve these issues. I look forward to continuing to work together to address this pressing concern that has affected this overburdened community.”
Comptroller Sean Scanlon said, “As our cities age and our climate changes, we must improve our infrastructure to meet our rapidly-changing needs, especially in historically under-served areas. Today’s announcement is a historic step in that direction, and by overseeing this pilot program, I’m proud to help provide immediate relief to Hartford residents who have been impacted by flooding and who may have their homes impacted in the future.”
Treasurer Erick Russell said, “I’m relieved that help is on the way for North End residents and businesses, and grateful for the creative and collaborative problem-solving that led to this solution. It’s our responsibility, and in our collective best interest, to ensure that everyone in our state has access to clean water and safety from environmental dangers. This is a necessary and worthy use of the Clean Water Fund and I’m glad my office, and our talented and expert staff, could be part of identifying and securing this funding.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal said, “Flooding and sewage backup in Hartford’s North End is not only a wastewater infrastructure issue – it is an environmental justice issue and a fairness issue. Addressing this problem requires a combination of both short and long-term solutions and a continued partnership between elected officials, community members, and our state and federal agencies. I am proud to see the first step in a series of actions to provide reimbursement and repairs to North End residents and will commit action at the federal level to continue to implement improvements.”
Mayor Luke Bronin said, “This investment in the stormwater and sewer infrastructure will make a big difference for residents and businesses in North Hartford. This package includes funds to reimburse residents and small business owners who suffer damage from flooding, and it includes funding to make improvements in the ancient infrastructure that’s just not able to handle the kind of storms we routinely see today. I’m grateful to Speaker Ritter, Governor Lamont, our Hartford delegation, the MDC, and above all to the activists and residents who spoke up and made this happen.”
State Senator Doug McCrory (D-Hartford) said, “After several years of meetings with residents, businesses, and city and state officials, my colleagues and I were able to secure funding to address flooding issues in Hartford. Homeowners affected by flooding will finally get assistance to repair their property and improve their environment.”
House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) said, “This is a major victory for residents of Hartford’s North End who have lived with flooded basements and sewage backups for years. Our goal was to get residents immediate relief as well as have a long-term plan to improve Hartford’s infrastructure. The Hartford legislative delegation was able to work with residents, advocates, DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes, and Governor Lamont to come up with significant funding.”
State Representative Minnie Gonzalez (D-Hartford) said, “Flooding is a major concern wherever it happens because of the long-term prohibitively expensive damage it could do, the negative health effects, and the lives that are turned upside-down as a result. I therefore join my colleagues in thanking Governor Lamont for his support of this important funding.”
State Representative Julio Concepcion (D-Hartford) said, “I am grateful to see we are going to make progress on addressing this quality-of-life issue that has affected so many families in the North End for some time. I thank Governor Lamont for prioritizing this funding and look forward to seeing it be put to great use for our residents.”
State Representative Maryam Khan (D-Hartford, South Windsor, Windsor) said, “I am incredibly proud to see the flooding issues in the North End get the attention it truly deserves. This result is the culmination of months of work by many parties, including DEEP, MDC, the City of Hartford, and the residents that spoke up in community meetings. I’m grateful we were able to work collaboratively and effectively to come to an agreement that invests and prioritizes in the wellbeing of residents, and shows that we are truly committed to their needs.”
State Representative James Sánchez (D-Hartford, West Hartford) said, “I’m proud to have been a part of the negotiations to help address serious flooding issues in Hartford. For years, the Blue Hills neighborhood in the city’s North End has suffered from sanitary backups and chronic flooding. I fully support these funds, which are a significant step toward finding solutions to help so many of our residents who need help. Hartford’s antiquated combined sewer and storm system is no longer able to handle today’s heavy rain events that are fueled by climate change. This funding will help assess, identify, and correct the problem of laterals to suspect homes and the infrastructure attached. I thank Governor Ned Lamont, Speaker of the House Matt Ritter, and our entire Hartford delegation for their tireless work to tackle this issue head-on.”
State Representative Joshua Hall (D-Hartford) said, “The funding is appreciated and very necessary to help north-end residents and businesses who have endured this problem for far too long. I want to thank the residents of the North End of Hartford for raising their voices to ensure equity for our community. I also want to thank Governor Lamont, Speaker Ritter, Senator McCrory, and the entire Hartford delegation for helping find a solution to this problem.”
Scott Jellison, CEO of the MDC, said, “This partnership and logic developed between the MDC, DEEP, EPA, and the City of Hartford to address sewerage overflows by removing stormwater at its source, rather than collecting the sewerage overflows at the river is the solution which will prove to be most beneficial to the community and more effective in eliminating sewerage backups into residents’ homes, businesses, and the rivers. MDC cannot solve the ever-changing severe rain events caused by climate change, however with this partnership, Harford Region can mitigate the impacts by setting the standard and acknowledging its impacts to the sewer system. MDC has committed to and will begin separation work in North Hartford by this July 2023. MDC is confident, removing stormwater first from the sewer system, rather than collecting the overflows in which it causes, will become the model and standard for other CSO communities across the country.”
Sharon Lewis, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice, said, “This funding announcement represents more than just financial support. It is a transformative leap towards environmental justice, reflecting a commitment to rectify systemic financial and environmental inequities that have plagued our community for decades and ultimately helping Hartford residents become better equipped to face the evolving impacts of climate change. However, the key to true justice is in the administration of these programs. Those impacted need not be further traumatized by the system. The administration of these funds can serve as a model of justice by upholding the principles of fairness, compassion, and efficiency. It will demonstrate a commitment to supporting those in need, fostering community resilience, and promoting a sense of trust.”
Source Credit: State of Connecticut, Gov Ned Lamont Press Release dated 06/26/2023.
The legislature’s Planning and Zoning Development Committee has voted for H.B. 5888 to be advanced to the General Assembly and according to lawmakers, the bill is now called H.B. 1139. Community leaders, including Bridgitte Prince and Randy Watson, were elated when they learned of the decision because they consider H.B. 1139 a key part of their goal to solve North End issues.
Senator Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, a co-sponsor of the bill, commented that the bill includes modest and common-sense reforms that will improve transparency, strengthen accountability, and empower customers. He also expressed his anticipation of working with his colleagues in the Senate to get the bill passed in the coming weeks.
According to lawmakers, if H.B. 1139 is passed by the CT General Assembly, it would:
- require annual audits of the Metropolitan District Commission’s (MDC) accounts by the state Auditors of Public Accounts,
- establish a task force to examine the MDC’s organization and operations. The task force would review district charter provisions and appraise the feasibility of allowing members of the district’s board of commissioners, appointed from non-member municipalities to vote on water rate approvals established by the water bureau.
- require the district board to adopt a model code of ethics by 2025.
Considering the recent flooding beset by North East residents, the MDC has responsibility for sewer and water systems. State Rep. Tom Delnicki, R-South Windsor and co-sponsor of the bill commented that he is hopeful that the Planning and Development Committee will vote to send H.B. 1139 to the floor of the House Representatives.
Delnicki applauded the vote by the legislature of the Planning and Development Committee as a milestone. Delnicki explained that H.B. 1139 is a great opportunity to move forward by examining the MDC charter, ascertaining MDC’s specific responsibilities, and determining changes that might be appropriate in the future.
A spokesman for the MDC stated that he had not seen the new version of the bill and could not comment on it. However, during the Planning and Development Committee’s meeting on February 17, 2023, the MDC’s District Counsel Chris Stone opposed the bill on the basis that its provisions are, “unreasonable, unnecessary, and have the potential to cause significant harm.” Stone asserted that the MDC is currently subject to a rigorous annual audit by an independent auditing firm because the MDC committed to its bondholders that the independent audits are/will be performed in a timely manner to protect the bondholders’ investments. Stone offered that they [MDC}:
- oppose the creation of a task force to examine the organization and operations of the MDC and make recommendations for changes to the MDC charter;
- do not understand the need for the proposed task force and potential changes to the charter because several legislative changes were already made that affect the MDC and its charter. Some of these changes were made at the MDC’s request and others were made despite the MDC’s expression of concern.
- oppose the proposed mandate that 33 volunteer members of the MDC Board of Commissioners adopt, administer, and enforce the model code of ethics because these volunteer members already have their own code of ethics.
In addition to H.B. 5888 gaining committee approval, support for the residents came in the form of a recent response by state Rep. Geraldo Reyes, Jr., to the Greater Hartford’s NAACP’s plea to address the flooding and sewage issues in Hartford’s North End. In his statement, he expressed his support for the organization’s quest to achieve environmental justice in the city’s North End. Reyes emphasized that flooding has proven to be a major problem and a burden no matter where people reside. Reyes acknowledges that more work is required because – for too long – too many neighborhoods of color across the state have been ignored and this lack of action is putting their health at risk and also stunting economic growth in those communities. He is committed to fighting for “a more robust Environmental Justice Law” and expanding the scope of existing laws by strengthening the language.
Reyes acknowledges that “power plants sewage treatment centers, waste treatment centers, waste incinerators, and landfills are disproportionately causing harm to low-income communities and communities of color throughout Connecticut…We need to address that issue head-on before more damage is done.” He also expressed his commitment to supporting Hartford communities and advocating for the best Environmental Justice Law that the state can offer and helping the Hartford Delegation to secure a real solution for Hartford residents.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in a recent statement to the Courant newspaper, applauded the federal Environmental Protection Agency and DEEP for identifying potential sources of critical funding that would provide immediate short-term relief for residents in the areas that were impacted by the flood, but long-term solutions would be most important.
Blumenthal asserted that the flooding and sewer backups in Hartford’s North End communities are pressing and urgent environmental justice issues and frustrating to residents who have waited far too long for a resolution, “we owe them [the residents] action … I will continue to push for strong and sustainable solutions and will keep working with local and federal partners to advocate for a better future for this community.”
Mayor Luke Bronin offered support to residents and noted that the sewer systems are ancient because they were built more than a century ago and need work to separate the sewer from stormwater “so that when there’s flooding, it doesn’t back up and put sewage into people’s basements.” Bronin also explained that the Clean Water money can only be spent on the separation of stormwater and sewage. It cannot be used to build the required storm water-sewer systems capable of handling the level of water that residents are experiencing.
During the public comment section of the meeting, Prince sought clarification from the council regarding the agency responsible for helping to solve the flooding and sewage issues in the North End because neither the MDC nor the City of Hartford is claiming responsibility for the growing problem. Jennings informed the council members about the potential health conditions due to residents’ exposure to moisture and water from flooding and sewage issues.
At the February 6, Community Forum on Flooding, the MDC Chairman, William DiBella, concurred with the Mayor’s assessment of the antiquity of the sewer systems but offered that for the last 10-15 years, the MDC has been putting money into improvements and also working with the community, the city, and the federal government. Over the last 10-12 years, $1.7 billion was expended and he expects that MDC will spend another $2 billion in the next 25 years. He expressed his understanding of the complaints regarding residents’ experiences from the flooding and their complaints about the MDC’s slow response time which he blames on issues happening on private property that is not within the MDC’s control.
DiBella said, “We have only so much authority given to us by the State… and DEEP basically controls what we can do.”
In a statement to the Hartford Courant, council President, Maly Rosado responded to the concerns expressed by Prince and Jennings during the aforementioned council meeting. Rosado said, “My colleagues at City Council will work to advocate for these important investments so we can ensure that we address the root cause of this flooding…The conditions described by residents in our North End are unconscionable, and nobody in our city should have to deal with flooding and sewage in their homes that can affect their quality of life, their health, and their financial security.”
Rosado also informed that the MDC is responsible for the city’s water, sewer, and storm-water systems that were not built to handle the once-in-a-generation storms that have become more frequent thereby necessitating significant investment to upgrade the systems. Investments are needed now. Kicking down the road or pointing fingers does not help. This project is expensive but necessary, Rosado said, “We need to make sure we get the funding from the state and the federal government that our residents deserve.”
Source Credit: Deidre Montague, Hartford Courant, Sunday, March 26, 2023.