FAIRFIELD, Conn. Former First Selectman Kenneth Flatto said he had no more knowledge than anybody else about Fairfields $2.4 million to $6.4 million in cost overages to finish the towns third train station. Members of the Representative Town Meeting expressed concerns that he hid the extra costs as he left office to take a job with the state Division of Special Revenue. But in an interview Tuesday, Flatto denied those allegations.
I had no knowledge that there were going to be cost overruns, Flatto said. And if I had, I would have told the RTM. Im not shy, and Im certainly not afraid of telling people what was going on.
The main source of the unexpected costs is contaminated soil in the open space along Ash Creek on the train station grounds. Because of the level of contamination, the dirt can stay on the site, but most be capped with cement, either as a parking lot or a development. Flatto said he knew the soil would cause extra costs when he last briefed the RTM in April. But at the time, he thought the $2 million saved in the projects budget in other areas would cover the difference.
Flatto also pointed out that he told RTM about the soil problem. In his briefing April 25 , Flatto said: At this point, we are still within budget but I will tell you that we are not as far under budget as I was hoping six months ago. No RTM members asked for clarification on those costs after his presentation.
The other source of frustration for RTM members Monday was the agreement Flatto made with the state to take on the costs of finishing the project in exchange for a $19.5 million grant. But in April 2010, Flatto took the plan to the Board of Selectmen and got approval in a public meeting. On Tuesday, he called the grant agreement the easiest decision I ever made.
If the Board hadnt approved that, and I hadnt signed those documents, the train station would have stopped, Flatto said. We would have had an empty site, a contaminated site, and none of this would have happened.
Flatto also said he was shocked to hear the costs could be as high as $6 million. But he said that compared to the $70 million total put in by the federal, state and local governments and Black Rock Realty, the overages represent a small percentage to pay.
I think people are losing sight of the forest for the trees, Flatto said. This is the biggest, most historic economic development project in the history of the town. If the facts on the ground change and unforeseen conditions arise and cause an overrun, you have to finish it.
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