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Fairfield Stuck With Bill for New Train Station

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Fairfield now must pay as much as $6.4 million more to finish building the new Fairfield Metro train station. Interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the state Department of Transportation would look for grants to offset some of the cost, but even in the best-case scenario it will cost at least $2.4 million to open it by October.

Former First Selectman Kenneth Flatto last told the Representative Town Meeting that the Fairfield Metro train station was “on time and under budget.” But his successor, Tetreau , had to tell the town’s legislators Monday night that the project meets only one of those criteria now.

“We originally signed on to this project to build a parking lot,” Tetreau said, referring to the initial plans for the station 10 years ago. “It evolved into a $40 million construction project.”

The main problem is with 12,500 cubic yards of extra soil on the site. Testing found that the dirt is slightly contaminated. The town has two options. It can stay on the train station’s grounds, but if so it needs a cement cap to meet Department of Environmental Protection standards. Or Fairfield could pay to remove it from the site. Either option would cost millions to carry out.

Many Representative Town Meeting members asked why they were first learning of the problem now. Tetreau and his successor, Selectman Sherri Steeneck, explained that neither had any idea about the problem before taking office. Steeneck said Flatto told her the train station was under budget in his last briefing to her before leaving office to become the state’s executive director of special revenue.

“I sat through the April presentation [the RTM] got, and I was fortunate enough to have a separate presentation,” Tetreau said. “I wasn’t showed anything over budget.”

Tetreau also revealed Monday that the town will lose out on $6 million in reimbursements after the train station opens. The original agreement between Fairfield, DOT and private developer Black Rock Realty would reimburse the town with $300,000 over 20 years from parking fees at the station. But in a contract Flatto negotiated in April 2010, the town agreed to give up that money, and take on the remaining costs for the station, in exchange for state grants to help finish the project on time.

Flatto was not at the meeting and could not be reached for comment. Town Attorney Richard Saxl said Monday that Flatto made the agreement knowing the potential risks because otherwise the construction would have been delayed up to two years. “The state said, in essence, ‘You have to do the project. It’s the only way it works,’” Saxl said.

The Board of Finance will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Sullivan Independence Hall to go over the town’s options for raising the money needed to finish the station.

What do you think of the latest news about the Fairfield Metro train station? Share your concerns and questions in the comments below.

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