Council Passes MDC Resolution
WETHERSFIELD - he Town Council voted unanimously-in the absence of Councilor Mike Rell-to approve a Republican-authored resolution against funding the Metropolitan District Commission’s (MDC) established ad valorem tax reserve fund through extra sewer charges to member towns in the event the financially ailing Hartford fails to pay its share.

       Republican Councilors Mike Hurley, Jodi Latina, and Donna Hemmann voted in opposition to proposed amendments put forth by Democrats, but joined the majority party to pass the overall resolution once the added language-encouraging ongoing discussions regarding potential alternatives to the controversial reserve-was added.

       The resolution-introduced by Republicans at the last Council meeting-also speaks out in opposition to altering the MDC charter to allow for additional borrowing, while expressing concern regarding the possibility of the MDC’s use of the reserve fund to become a “recurring event” and disputing the Commission’s “authority under its Charter, or otherwise, to create a reserve fund to be funded by the member towns.”

       “If Hartford doesn’t pay its MDC bill, it means they decided to do something else with it,” Hurley said. “We pay our bills, so they should pay theirs.”

       Among MDC’s proposals for the coming legislative session is the ability to impose liens on sewer revenue in order to prevent it from being diverted to other uses. Both the Commission and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin have expressed a desire to avoid having to turn to the reserve fund through state-level remedies.

       “I also believe citizens should not be asked to fund Hartford’s crucial services, and I support the resolution as written,” said Deputy Mayor Steve Barry. “That being said, it only states what we’re against. I think it should-not be softened-but go further to say we support our delegation at the Capitol in changing the MDC charter. It’s easy we oppose [something], but you have to give guidance as to what you support.”

       But Hurley said that he was wary of giving the Commission “more power”, such as the ability incur more debt and potentially create lasting additional costs to its member towns.

       Latina cautioned against jumping behind proposals being discussed at the state level, as tentative legislative language can change.

       Mayor Paul Montinieri admitted that he shared Republican skepticism as to how the MDC will fare in the legislature, but said that he would like the resolution to signal that the town wants to be party to shaping a solution.

       “I’d rather engage in some alternatives,” Montinieri said. “I think it’s important to communicate to the MDC that we want to be at the table.”

       The discussion followed a lengthy public hearing, during which residents weighed-in-many expressing outright opposition to assisting Hartford, while others indicated that they’d like to work with the city in other ways beside diverting Wethersfield tax dollars.

       Virtually all in attendance-Council and public-agreed that Wethersfield tax revenue should not be directed to Hartford’s aid, but Montinieri has stressed what he and Bronin have described as a shared impact-among municipalities throughout the region-of a Hartford bankruptcy.

       During the hearing, town resident Casey White echoed the Mayor’s sentiment.

       “I don’t think this is the time or place to be contributing to an emergency budget in Hartford, but I think we benefit a lot from that city,” White said. “I do want to look at ways we can be a partner with them in some other way. People in Hartford don’t have a lot of the benefits people in suburban towns have.”

       Resident Christie Salters expressed support for proposed relief in the form of increased PILOT reimbursement, as well as looking for ways to cut down on duplicate costs through regional sharing. More than half of the city’s property is tax exempt.

       “Obviously that’d be a longer conversation as to what we could duplicate, but both of those things would help Wethersfield sustain, and I don’t think that should be lost in this conversation,” she said.

       Almost all of those that spoke expressed support for the resolution.

       “I want to say thank you for putting this out here,” said town resident Bob Woodward. “If this had hit our taxes, I would not be paying it. I didn’t get any increases as a senior. Their [the MDC’s] proposal is unjust, unfair, and unethical, and should not be listened to.”

       Wethersfield resident and Lacrosse Club President Dan O’Connor pointed to the town’s own budgetary concerns. The town is unlikely to get the widely-sought lacrosse program and turf field fixes at the high school, but it could at least ensure that money isn’t being reserved to aid other municipalities, O’Connor said.

       The town must also be wary of the potential for cuts to ECS and other forms of state aid, added resident David DeCarli.