As published in the Record Journal Thursday May 10, 2012
By Russell Blair
WALLINGFORD — When Greg Bachand heard the state planned to spend up to $180,000 on a website to highlight the route that the French general Rochambeau followed across Connecticut during the American Revolution, he decided to give it a try. Bachand, a Republican candidate for the 85th district state House seat, built a website using GoDaddy.com that links to the Wikipedia article about Rochambeau’s route. The total cost: $59.05.
“This $180,000 is the epitome of what’s wrong with the Connecticut legislature,” he said.
A bill passed by the state Senate requires the state Department of Economic and Community Development to create the website before January 2013 and include the trail, monuments, an interactive calendar and links to other websites featuring the trail. Half of the money would come from a state manufacturing grant fund and half from a matching grant from the National Park Service.
Bachand acknowledged that his creation – RomchabeauTrail.com – wasn’t an adequate substitute for a professional website, but said he doesn’t know where the state got such a high dollar amount.
According to the bill, the “actual cost will depend upon the complexity of the website, ranging from a minimal cost for a basic website, up to $180,000 for a complex interactive website.”
Mary Mushinsky, the Democratic incumbent in the 85th district who Bachand is challenging, said that the funding mechanism for the bill was changed on the Senate floor. The House has not yet voted on it.
“It was originally coming from historic preservation money,” she said. “And it was changed to come from manufacturing assistance.”
Mushinsky said she supported the idea behind the legislation, and that the website would help market businesses and restaurants along the route, but opposed using the manufacturing funds. “Tourism money is for tourism, but manufacturing money should be for manufacturing,” she said.
State Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, whose district includes Wallingford, was one of four senators to oppose the legislation.
“$180,000 for a website when we’re running a $200 million deficit, it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I respect the history and the legacy, but I don’t think it’s appropriate.”
Fasano said he also opposed taking the funds from manufacturing money. Since Bachand announced the creation of his website in a press release Tuesday, he’s gotten a lot of feedback. “I think this hit a nerve with the public,” he said. Bachand is also challenged by fellow Republican Shauna Simon-Glidden. A Republican caucus to elect the party’s nominee for the seat will be held on May 24 at 6 p.m. at Brothers Restaurant, 33 N. Cherry St. It is open to all Republicans who live in the district. Both Simon-Glidden and Bachand are making their first run for elected office. Mushinsky has held the seat since 1981.
The Rochambeau trail begins in Newport, R.I., where the French general and his more than 5,000 troops landed. After crossing Connecticut, it continues south through New York, where the French met up with George Washington and the Continental Army, and then through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland into Virginia, where combined American and French troops forced British General Cornwallis to surrender in October 1781 at the battle of Yorktown.