Advisory Board Panelists Required To Sign Non-Disclosure Agreements

by Categorized: Ball Park, City Hall, Construction, Development, Downtown North, Rock Cats, Sports, Stadium Date:

Residents and members of Hartford’s business community who were appointed to an advisory panel that reviewed bids for a major development project north of downtown were required to sign non-disclosure agreements prior to their participation.

The panel of eight met Thursday with top city development officials, including Thomas Deller, the director of development services, who said he selected the members. The group heard from the three developers who submitted plans for housing, retail space and a minor league ballpark in the Downtown North area.

Panelists were David Panagore, the acting director of the New Haven Parking Authority and former Hartford chief operating officer; David Jorgensen, a partner with Jorgensen Group at Morgan Stanley; Bea Powell, chairwoman of Clay Arsenal Neighborhood Revitalization Zone group; Patricia Williams, vice president of Upper Albany Neighborhood Collaborative; Edward Casares, the city’s former fire chief; Darrell Hill, Hartford’s chief operating officer; John Motley, chairman of Hartford school building committee; and Julio Concepcion, vice president of Hartford partnerships for the MetroHartford Alliance.

The group considered the proposals and offered feedback to city officials on what would best suit the neighborhood.

To view the non-disclosure agreement, click here: nondisclosure agreement

To read more about the project, click here.

Parking Amnesty Program Nets $52K

by Categorized: Hartford Parking Authority, Parking Date:

The Hartford Parking Authority received nearly $52,000 as part of a summer amnesty program.

The program, which ran from June 23 to July 18, brought in $51,572, said Eric Boone, the authority’s CEO. It was done in advance of a crackdown on parking scofflaws, which began last Monday.

The parking authority this week began placing immobilizing boots on cars whose drivers have amassed five or more unpaid tickets. Boots are placed on vehicles for up to 24 hours, during which drivers may pay their outstanding fines. After 24 hours, cars may be towed.

In May, Boone said the authority was out to collect about $13 million in unpaid fines.

“We think [the amnesty program] was successful,” he said Friday. “Of course, we’d like to see as many people as possible take advantage of this. We’re happy to have received $51,000 that we did not have.”

The authority spent $6,000 on advertising for the amnesty program. As part of the program, motorists with citations more than six months old got a 20 percent discount if they paid their outstanding tickets. The discount applied to the total amount — fines plus penalties — for up to five citations.

The $51,572 represents 861 tickets that were paid by 721 people, Boone said. Of the 721, 37 were people who had five or more outstanding tickets.

Boone said there are still about 3,000 people with five or more unpaid tickets.

Labor Department: Warrants For O’Garro, Ex-Wife Have Been Signed

by Categorized: Earl O'Garro Jr. Date:

Officials at the state Department of Labor said Tuesday that a judge and a prosecutor in Middletown have signed warrants for Earl O’Garro Jr. and his ex-wife Kendra O’Garro.

The department applied for those warrants after receiving five complaints from employees of the now-defunct Us Restaurant & Lounge in Middletown, who say O’Garro and ex-his wife owe them wages. The O’Garros opened Us Restaurant & Lounge in March 2013. It closed in September.

An official with the labor department told The Courant in March that the agency had sent O’Garro and his then-wife a “demand Letter” requesting “payment of about $8,000″ by March 27. The department never received the money.

Labor Department officials said Tuesday that the warrants would be forwarded to state police. They each include at least five counts of failure to pay wages.

Earl O’Garro Jr., who formed Hybrid Insurance Group in 2010, is now the target of a federal grand jury investigation involving Hartford insurance premiums.

The FBI is investigating O’Garro for allegedly failing to pay premiums on several insurance plans, including policies for the city of Hartford. City and school officials have said he did not pay $670,000 in premiums to two of Hartford’s insurance carriers last July.

O’Garro was arrested in January on five counts of failure to pay wages. The Labor Department sought criminal charges against O’Garro after investigating complaints from former Hybrid Insurance employees that they were owed $24,529.48 in wages, according to the arrest warrant.

O’Garro faces six misdemeanors in that case. Since his arrest, a charge of second-degree failure to appear has been added.

This post has been updated to reflect the following correction: An earlier version said Kendra O’Garro is Earl O’Garro’s wife. Their divorce was finalized this past spring.

Rock Cats Hearing: Video

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

There were a lot of strong feelings at last night’s public hearing on the proposed Rock Cats stadium — some against, some for the project. Several others said they would support the plan only if the taxpayers weren’t on the hook for it.

Here’s some video of the speakers:

Chris Brown shares frustration over the deal:

Tina Franklin says she was dismayed over lack of transparency:

Alan Looper praises city’s efforts:

Debra Cohen talks about fractured trust with city government:

Rock Cats Owner Josh Solomon reacts to a resident’s complaints and questions:

Arce: I Hope We Don’t Get That Damn Baseball Stadium

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

Our colleague Mara Lee attended a press conference Tuesday on Franklin Avenue. Though State Rep. Angel Arce (D-Hartford) was there for another matter, he made a point of mentioning the proposed Rock Cats minor league baseball stadium in Hartford.

From Lee:

Arce started talking about the stadium unsolicited, after saying property taxes are killing businesses on Franklin Avenue.

“I hope we don’t get that damn baseball stadium,” he said. “That’s not going to do anything for the residents of Hartford. Who’s going to pay for it? The taxpayers? That’s my biggest concern, how they gonna pay for it.”

The city issued a request for proposals today for the development of Hartford’s downtown north area, which would include a baseball stadium. You can read more on that here.

It’s also worth noting that although the city has insisted state money would not be used in the stadium project, the RFP lists “possible state/federal assistance” as one of the options a developer could include in a proposed “financial plan.” You can view the RFP here.

Connecticut AFL-CIO Backs Coleman In Senate Race

by Categorized: Eric Coleman, Shawn Wooden Date:

State Sen. Eric Coleman has received the endorsement of Connecticut AFL-CIO. Coleman, whose district includes portions of Windsor, Bloomfield and Hartford, will face two Democratic candidates in the  August primary. City Council President Shawn Wooden and Former Windsor Town Councilman Len Walker are challenging Coleman.

“Senator Coleman has a long history of fighting for working families in the Second Senatorial District and across the state of Connecticut,” Lori Pelletier, CT AFL-CIO’s executive secretary treasurer, said in a prepared statement. “Senator Coleman has continually stood up for workers and the labor movement is proud to stand with him.”

Here’s the release from Coleman’s camp:

AFL-CIO ENDORSES COLEMAN FOR SENATE

HARTFORD, CT — State Senator Eric Coleman’s reelection campaign received the endorsement of Connecticut’s AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor federation, at their Tenth Biennial Political Convention in June. Coleman was endorsed unanimously, along with several other candidates for office.

“Senator Coleman has a long history of fighting for working families in the Second Senatorial District and across the state of Connecticut,” said Lori Pelletier, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO. “That is why the Connecticut AFL-CIO unanimously endorsed the Senator at our biennial convention in June. Senator Coleman has continually stood up for workers and the labor movement is proud to stand with him.”

“I’ve always fought hard for the working families of Hartford, Windsor and Bloomfield,” Coleman responded. “I humbly accept the endorsement of AFL-CIO, and I look forward to working along side them not only in this election but in the years to come.”

The endorsement of AFL-CIO marks the first major labor endorsement in the race before the August 12th Democratic primary.

Rock Cats Stadium Consulting And Legal Services: By The Numbers

by Categorized: Ball Park, City Hall, Rock Cats Date:

Update: City now says it spent $240,000 on consulting services. Says one of the charges in the original invoice shouldn’t have been there. Here is the updated invoice: INVOICE SUMMARY (2)

The city has spent $269,852 so far on legal and consulting services for the proposed ball park just north of the city’s downtown.

City leaders have said they plan to spend up to $60 million to build a more than 9,000-seat stadium at 1214 Main St. The New Britain Rock Cats have agreed to sign a 25-year lease with the city and relocate here in exchange for Hartford providing the new stadium.

Officials have also said they would pursue private investment in connection with the deal.

On Tuesday, in response to requests from media outlets, the city made available an invoice detailing what’s been spent so far on legal and consulting services.

The city has sought the services of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, PC, and consultants Bradford & Dunlavey for the economic analysis; Pendulum for the architectural renderings; and Beta for the utility and the traffic analysis related to the ball park.

The firms were paid with city Capital Improvement Project money, a spokeswoman for the mayor said Tuesday.

You can see the breakdown of $269,852 (what’s been spent where) here: INVOICE SUMMARY

First Female Deputy Fire Chief To Retire

by Categorized: Fire Date:

Carol L. Stiles, Hartford’s first female deputy fire chief, is retiring. Her last day is Monday, Chief Carlos Huertas said.

Stiles has been with the department for more than 27 years. In 2007, the Jacksonville, Fla., native, who grew up in Winsted and Enfield, earned the historic distinction of being the first female deputy chief in the fire department’s 218-year history.

At the time, she was one of only 11 female firefighters in a 305-member department.

Hartford Fire Inspector Greg Sargis, left, and Kevin Sullivan, right, speak with Carol Stiles, center, after her promotion to deputy chief of the Hartford Fire Department on May 14, 2007. Photo by Ross Taylor.

Hartford Fire Inspector Greg Sargis (left) and Kevin Sullivan (right) speak with Carol Stiles (center) after her promotion to deputy chief of the Hartford Fire Department on May 14, 2007. Photo by Ross Taylor.

“She’s a credit to the department and a pathfinder as far as women in the fire service,” Huertas said Monday. “She’s a dedicated, firefighter pioneer. We’re going to deeply miss her expertise.”

Former Fire Chief Charles A. Teale Sr. told The Courant in 2007 that Stiles exhibited a “degree of excellence under the most trying circumstances.”

During her time with the department, Stiles gained a reputation as a dependable firefighter and a certified paramedic who wasn’t afraid to answer the tough calls.

“I’m hoping that her promotion will serve as an incentive to other young women” who might want to become firefighters in Hartford, Teale said at the time.

Stiles is one of three deputy fire chiefs retiring from the department this summer. Deputy Chief Kevin Walsh will retire July 12; Deputy Chief Samuel Goicochea will retire on Tuesday.

Council President Says He Won’t Support Rock Cats Stadium Project Without Private Investment

by Categorized: Ball Park, Rock Cats, Shawn Wooden, Stadium Date:

City Council President Shawn Wooden said Wednesday that he would not support building a $60 million stadium to lure the New Britain Rock Cats to Hartford unless the cost of the project is reduced, and unless the city gets private investment.

City officials have said they would reallocate and issue up to $60 million in bonds for the project, which has not been approved by the city council. Mayor Pedro Segarra, Rock Cats Owner Josh Solomon and Wooden announced a tentative deal with the minor league team on the steps of city hall two weeks ago.

But Wooden said Wednesday that he won’t back the proposal unless it is revised to decrease the overall cost.

“We’re not going to bond for $60 million on the city of Hartford taxpayers’ backs,” he said. “The amount of the project has to be lower than $60 million. I don’t believe municipalities should bear the entire burden of sports arenas or stadiums.” He declined to specify how much the price tag would have to be to get council approval.

Wooden said that even if the cost goes down, the city should seek private investment in the construction of the ballpark, which is projected to open in April 2016. Funding could come from corporations, private investors or developers “who put in their own money or raise money from investors,” he said.

“I’ve expressed the necessity that a significant part of the consideration of whether or not the project gets my support is going to be based on private sector participation,” he said. “I will not support a project that requires $60 million dollars of Hartford taxpayers’ money being spent.”

Since the city announced on June 4 its intention to build a stadium, it has received interest from private investors, Wooden said. He would not say who has expressed interest.

“I am aware of private investors’ interest,” Wooden said. “I have communicated that I would be very interested in private developers stepping forward. I think there needs to be a very robust conversation with the corporate community. I think that’s critical — corporate community buy-in and support — to this being successful.”

“We still need to vet the numbers; the jobs projections, the revenue projections. We have to make sure that the benefits to the city and to city residents are real and significant, and that the project cost doesn’t create an undue burden on city residents.”

We asked Segarra’s office if it was pursuing private investment for the stadium. The mayor’s spokeswoman, Maribel La Luz, replied by email: “We continue to pursue all available options.”

The city’s internal audit commission will meet this afternoon and consider whether to investigate the financial viability of building a baseball stadium in Hartford.