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Monday, October 29, 2012

New concerns about old lampposts

As published in the Record Journal Saturday October 27, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD — Jason Zandri has joined a small group of town councilors in questioning the decision by the Public Utilities Department to sell used ornamental lampposts for scrap instead of reselling them intact or reusing them elsewhere in town. Some other councilors say they trust the department’s call. Zandri has been talking to town staff and blogging in recent days about the lights, saying that he believes purchasing agent Sal Amadeo should have been the one to make the call as to whether the lights could be resold as is, not the Public Utilities Department.

“To me, the procedure should be that those are assets, the purchasing agent should have said these are scrap and then (utilities Director) George Adair should have been able to scrap them,” Zandri said.

Amadeo says the decision is up to Adair.

“It’s his call; if he’s saying it’s scrap, it’s scrap,” Amadeo said of Adair. “Stuff that is deemed saleable, they would send back to us to sell.”

The town-run Electric Division has been working to replace 37 ornamental lampposts that were originally installed during streetscape projects in the 1980s and 1990s. Adair says the poles are operational, but in poor shape, having been damaged by snowplows and weathering over the years. He said their construction also makes it difficult to get to wiring inside the base, forcing workers to lift the 50pound aluminum base to get inside.

The new poles have an access panel at the base. They cost just more than $3,000 apiece, and though a Wednesday Record-Journal article erroneously stated that that the funding for them came from a yearly town allocation, the replacement poles are part of normal operating costs that actually come from Electric Division revenues, Adair said.

The old poles are being disassembled and sold to a scrap dealer under a contract the dealer holds with the town.

Town councilors Craig Fishbein, a Republican, and Nick Economopoulos, a Democrat, said Tuesday that they felt the department could have reused the poles for other projects in town, such as the temporary Wooding-Caplan parking lot that is being constructed, or resold them intact for a higher price than they believe scrapping them would fetch.

Adair says the poles are basically unusable. “These are beat up; they’ve done their duty, they’ve seen their day.” Zandri said he believes the lights could have a higher resale value intact, comparing them to computers he has resold.

“A computer that might be scrap to me ... because I’m a power user ... I can rebuild it and sell it to somebody for 100 bucks because they just want to use the internet and do email on it,” Zandri said.

Other councilors said they had faith in the Public Utilities Department’s decision.

“I hope George Adair is making the best decision for the town of Wallingford, both from a fiscal standpoint and using good judgment here — and I’m sure he is,” said Councilor John Sullivan, a Democrat.

His Republican colleague, Tom Laffin, agreed, saying he doesn’t believe in micromanaging town staff.

“I trust the experts that carried us through the last storm and will this storm to know what they’re doing,” Laffin said, mentioning Hurricane Sandy, which is predicted to hit the area early next week.

Zandri said he wants to know what the actual procedure in place is and whether it’s being followed consistently by town employees and said he plans to continue to follow upon the issue, possibly requesting the issue to be placed on a future Town Council meeting agenda.

The town’s purchasing ordinance says that the purchasing agent has powers and duties, with the approval of the mayor, to sell “supplies, materials and equipment, determined after consultation with the head of the department, offices or agency concerned to be surplus, obsolete or unused.”

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said he thought the old poles were handled appropriately.

“I don’t think very many people would see a used street light pole and fixture as something that would have general value,” Dickinson said. “If you have a table or a chair — that people can use — they can offer to other departments, they can be auctioned. In this case, I just don’t think there’s a market for used ornamental light fixtures that the department in charge of them are saying are inadequate.”

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