As published in the Record Journal Friday December 7, 2012
By Laurie Rich Salerno
WALLINGFORD — Town Councilor Jason Zandri, a Democratic mayoral candidate, said he would drop his inquest into the Electric Department’s recent scrapping of 39 ornamental lampposts after this week’s memorandum from Town Attorney Gerald Farrell Sr. Farrell wrote that the disposal did not violate town ordinances.
“There’s no point in continuing this effort. There’s nothing more to be gained. There’s no way to go back and undo it,”Zandri said, adding that he did not believe Farrell’s report addressed the issue he brought up, but that he didn’t want to pursue a “witch hunt.”
Zandri said though he was abandoning the issue for the moment, he would keep a close eye on how departments dispose of assets.
Farrell’s memorandum was dated Dec. 3 and sent to Zandri, the Town Council and Mayor William W. Dickinson this week in response to Zandri’s request at a Nov. 27 council meeting for a review of how the town’s Electric Division disposed of 39 20-plus-year old ornamental lampposts.
The division sent the old lampposts to a scrap metal dealer with which it has a contract after replacing them with newer poles.
Zandri has said he believes that proper disposal procedure was not followed, and that the poles could have been sold intact for a significantly higher price than the less than $2,000 received by scrapping them. The town has disputed both claims.
In the memorandum, Farrell says the Electric Division did not notify the Purchasing Department before getting rid of the lampposts, but reported afterward that that they had been scrapped. He said that was in line with rules in the Town Charter and in the Purchasing Department.
Farrell cited the Town Charter, which says the purchasing agent has the duty to transfer or sell town assets that are “surplus, obsolete or unused,” with the approval of the mayor. But Farrell indicated that the light poles are none of these, instead saying they are “nonfunctioning equipment,” which “would not fall within these categories.“ He goes on to call the items scrap and lists the town’s purchasing ordinance references for “obsolete, worn out or scrapped” items, which allows the department to simply report items they’ve scrapped, but not field requests for disposal through the Purchasing Department.
But Zandri takes issue with the lights being depicted as “non-functioning” as they were working on the streets before being replaced this fall. The Electric Division characterized the poles as having deteriorating electrical connections, being unsafe to work on, and having bases that had been damaged, but did say they were operational prior to being removed.
“The ruling basically defined what could be done with scrap. It didn’t really answer my question of what should be done with ornamental streetlights,” Zandri said.
When asked about the nonfunctioning designation, Farrell said that the department believed they were scrap.
“In the opinion of the Director of Utilities they were scrap — part of what department heads have is the discretion,” to determine the state of their own materials, Farrell said. “Too often people put things on the surplus list that are total scrap and he wishes they would use more discretion in putting it as scrap — all these broken chairs, and no one really wants them.”
A presentation Zandri made at the Nov. 27 meeting listed the broken furniture from various departments that had made its way onto the town’s surplus list, saying he was surprised that if broken chairs were listed as viable assets to be sold by the town, that working lampposts were not.
Democratic Councilor Nick Econompoulos also took issue Thursday with the designation of the lights as non-functioning.
“The lawyer who is an officer of the court is telling us that the lights are not functional when we’ve already been told by (Public Utilities Director George) Adair that they were functioning,” Econompoulos said. He said that little stock should be put into the opinion on an issue where the town could be in the wrong, by an attorney employed by the town.
Republican Councilor Vincent Cervoni disagreed.
“I think it was pretty soundly written. I think it takes into account all the facts and the reality,” Cervoni said. “I think there’s a bit of an acknowledgement that the entire process wasn’t’ followed perfectly. I think in the end the process was ratified.”