I found a handful of news stories that reporter Jackie Majerus wrote in 2002 and 2003 that provide more information about the contract that Ken Johnson had with the BDA than anything the city has provided so far.
I don't expect many will want to read all of these stories, but I'll try to highlight the sections that refer specifically to Ken Johnson's contract with the BDA to help the Bugryns find new housing in 2002 and 2003. There's quite a bit there to show what he was doing at the time -- and at the very least, it shows that his contract was well known at the time.
Friday, August 09, 2002
By JACKIE MAJERUS
The Bristol Press
BRISTOL – After spending four years fighting the city over their family’s Middle Street homestead, the Bugryn family is asking for help in finding another place to live.
But although the family may be resigned to moving, they’re not happy about it.
“My mother still does not want to leave this house,” said Michael Dudko Jr., whose parents were two of the five owners of 299 Middle St. “She wanted to die in the home [where] she spent most of her life.”
Three of the four households involved in the eminent domain case with the city have requested relocation assistance, according to Jonathan Rosenthal, Bristol’s economic development director.
Frank Bugryn, the eldest of the four siblings and spouses who live on the property, called Rosenthal to say he would accept the city’s offer to help find the family new housing. He and his wife and grown son live at 269 Middle St.
He also heard from the Dudkos and Nellie Filipetti, Rosenthal said, who live at 299 Middle St.
“We’ve hired someone to find replacement housing,” said Rosenthal. “They’re expected to be out in August.”
The youngest brother, John Bugryn, who also lived at 299 Middle St., has already moved out into a convalescent home, said Rosenthal.
Dudko said his family hasn’t started looking for a new place yet, but are going along with the relocation “with great reluctance.”
“This is going to split the whole family up,” said Dudko, who said the city is using the houses against the family.
“It’s not necessary to move us,” Dudko said. “The industrial park won’t be occupied for years.”
The acceptance of the relocation help comes as a relief to the city after years of fighting with the family over the use of eminent domain to take the more than 30 acres of land for an industrial park.
Help finding a new home “has been offered for several years,” said Rosenthal. “Until the last several weeks, the only folks I ever spoke to were their attorneys. I’m glad they’re doing it.”
State law requires that the city provide help to those who are uprooted with the use of eminent domain, said Rosenthal, but he said there is a limit on how long it is available.
“I guess you have to cooperate,” Dudko said, but he added, “I hope the city government would have some compassion.”
Dudko said his mother, Mary Dudko, is 77 and his father, Michael Dudko Sr., is 75.
“They don’t have too much longer to live,” the younger Dudko said. He said his parents and their older brother and sister should have had the choice to stay in the house for the remainder of their lives, if they wished. The city could build the industrial park around the houses, Dudko said.
“Their homes shouldn’t have been linked to the land,” said Dudko.
Early discussions with the city included allowing the elderly family members to remain on the land for the rest of their lives or moving the old farmhouse to another location, but a deal was never reached.
“They did offer to move the house,” said Dudko, but he said that wouldn’t have been easy on its old inhabitants, either.
“It’s still a great disruption for them,” Dudko said.
More than two years ago, the city took possession of the Middle Street property, but the family continued to wage a losing court battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case and thus ended the appeals.
The legal fight continues, however, over how much the city must pay for the property. It could be finished by the end of this year.
So far, the city has put aside about $1.2 million toward the purchase, but the family wants more and the two sides have not been able to reach a compromise.
While the legal battles continue, the family has remained on the property, living there without the burden or rent or property taxes, but being responsible for minor upkeep.
The city is going beyond the state requirements to help the Bugryns, according to Rosenthal.
“We certainly understand that we’re relocating elderly people,” said Rosenthal. He said the city wants the family to have extra help if they need it, so the aid is more than simply moving boxes from one site to another.
“We want a complete level of assistance given to them,” Rosenthal said. “It’s more than the law requires. It’s a matter of simple respect.”
Rosenthal said the city hired real estate broker Ken Johnson, who is working at an hourly rate.
“The maximum we’ll spend is $5,000,” Rosenthal said.
The house at 269 Middle St. is a three bedroom ranch home, built by Frank Bugryn. It is a separate property from the family farmhouse, which was owned by all the siblings.
The city is scheduled to go to court with Frank Bugryn next week to determine a price for the ranch house. The city’s offered about $90,000 for the property.
“Our numbers aren’t terribly far apart,” said Rosenthal.
Rosenthal said he hopes an agreement can be reached before taking it to court.
“It’s a shame to spend the time, money and court costs,” Rosenthal said. “We’re hoping to avoid that.”
The tentative court date to determine the price on the larger property at 299 Middle St., Rosenthal said, is set late in October.
The city isn’t doing any work on the property now, Rosenthal said.
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
By JACKIE MAJERUS
The Bristol Press
BRISTOL – The city and the Bugryn family are going back to court, this time to fight over the date the family has to vacate their former Middle Street property and how much – if anything – they have to pay the city for staying there until they leave.
“We’re trying to get more time to find a place,” said Frank Bugryn, the eldest of four siblings who for years fought the city’s use of eminent domain to take the family’s homestead and his own small ranch style home.
“It’s stressful,” said Bugryn, who with his siblings has taken the case with the city to housing court. The city is evicting the family from the property, which Bristol took more than two years ago, and is demanding payment from the Bugryns if they remain.
Attorney Richard Lacey, who represents the city, said it is only fair that the family start paying something for staying in the houses. The city has potential liabilities, Lacey said, and has to pay insurance on the property.
“I think it’s appropriate that they do not continue to live for free,” said Lacey.
The city set the “use and occupancy fee” at $500 a month for each of two apartments in the old farmhouse and $700 a month for the ranch house.
Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, said the charges are based on low to moderate income rents in Hartford County.
Lacey said he’d like the fees to begin this month, but said, “Maybe we’ll negotiate something.”
A recent spate of attention to the case from Hartford media got the story wrong, Lacey said. He said he and attorney Bridget Gallagher, who represents the family and could not be reached for comment Tuesday, laughed about reports of the family launching a new appeal or receiving a “stay” that delayed their eviction.
“There’s no stay,” Lacey said. “There’s no appeal.”
Lacey said the case hasn’t been easy.
“You certainly take no pleasure in asking people to move out of their homes,” said Lacey. But he said some of the city’s larger companies are in place because the city used eminent domain in the past.
“If we didn’t have this process, there would be no ESPN,” said Lacey, and no Otis elevator tower.
Rosenthal said there will be no final action in the Bugryn case until a housing court judge makes a ruling on the date to vacate and whether the family has to pay any occupancy fees.
Rosenthal said the city picked a date in August for the family to leave after asking the family to name a date that they would leave and getting no response.
Bugryn, his wife and son live in the ranch that he built decades ago at 269 Middle St. Two of his sisters, a brother-in-law and a nephew live in the old family farmhouse next door at 299 Middle St. Another brother lived in the basement but moved out not long ago when he could no longer care for himself.
The city took possession of the Bugryn property more than two years ago. The city agreed to allow the Bugryns to stay rent-free until they exhausted their appeals, but since the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, they’ve run out of legal avenues.
Housing court is the last stand, and the family is taking their case there to get more time and to keep from paying the city to stay.
“They’re playing the last card that they can play, holding onto some hope that they can stay,” said Ken Johnson, who was hired by the city to help the family with their relocation needs.
There’s no telling when the case will come up in housing court.
“I wouldn’t even begin to speculate” how long it will take to resolve, Lacey said.
“It’s still at a standstill,” said Bugryn.
Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2002
By JACKIE MAJERUS
The Bristol Press
BRISTOL – While the Bugryn family spent two years fighting the city in court in hopes of reversing its use of eminent domain to force the sale of property on Middle Street, the real estate market turned against them.
Ken Johnson, the real estate agent who was hired by the city to help the family relocate, said finding a comparable place for the Bugryns is difficult, given the changes in the market.
“We’re actively looking for a home for them,” said Johnson, owner of A Buyer’s Market agency. But he said in the current market conditions, multiple offers are common and can torpedo a buyer’s chances.
“Property values are much higher than they were in the year 2000,” said Johnson. “The cold reality is … to find something comparable is going to cost them quite a lot more than what their house was worth in the year 2000.”
Frank Bugryn, the eldest of the siblings living on the Middle Street property, built his ranch-style home at 269 Middle St. decades ago.
Though the city took possession more than two years ago, Bugryn still lives there with his wife and grown son.
They’re looking in earnest to find a new place, but it is proving difficult.
Bugryn will get about $110,000 from the city for his former home, including some interest.
According to Johnson, there isn’t a suitable house available for the same amount now.
A $110,000 house “would be inadequate for their needs,” Johnson said.
Bugryn said he saw a nice house in Plainville that was similar to his, but said the $230,000 asking price far exceeded what the city is paying him for his old place.
“I can’t do what the city did,” said Bugryn, and pick a spot and make the occupants leave.
Bugryn put an offer on one house, Johnson said, but was second in line.
“That house is probably gone,” said Johnson.
Johnson said he’s enjoyed getting to know the Bugryns.
“I stay away from the politics,” said Johnson. The whole eminent domain ordeal has been an “extremely sensitive and emotional ride” for the elderly siblings, Johnson said.
“He’s trying to help,” said Bugryn. “He said the market is rough. It’s a seller’s market.”
Bugryn, who turns 81 in December, has certain needs for his next home. He wants a house, not an apartment, and he doesn’t want a lot of stairs that might make it difficult for him to get around.
“I’d rather have a ranch like I have,” he said. “That’s why I built my own, to live here until I die. But it didn’t work out that way.”
Bugryn’s sister Nellie Filipetti lives on the ground floor in the family farmhouse next door at 299 Middle St. and another sister, Mary Dudko and her husband Michael Dudko live upstairs in the farmhouse with the Dudko’s adult son. Another brother, John Bugryn, lived in the basement at 299 Middle St. but moved to a nursing home not long ago when he could no longer care for himself.
“We’ve already made arrangements to have his things moved,” said Johnson.
Frank Bugryn said his sisters still want to stay in the old farmhouse the siblings were raised in and don’t want to live away from each other.
“They would like to stay there,” he said. “They hate to part.”
But Johnson said Filipetti found a place.
“She’ll be moving soon,” said Johnson.
He said he hasn’t heard from the Dudkos lately, and he’s worried that if they don’t make use of his services soon that the city will stop making them available.
Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, said that at some point, the city will no longer offer relocation assistance if it is not being used.
Though a judge determined a compromise price on Frank Bugryn’s former house, the city and the family are still in court on the price of the old family farmhouse and the land around it.
Friday, January 10, 2003
By JACKIE MAJERUS
The Bristol Press
NEW BRITAIN – After an emotional day of testifying in housing court Friday, Bugryn family members were able to go back home to Middle Street without any deadline for leaving their former property.
Meanwhile, the city of Bristol faces what could turn out to be a lengthy eviction process.
After hearing from most of the former owners, housing court Judge Angelo dos Santos did not make a decision Friday.
Attorney Alfred Morrocco, who represents former owner Nellie Bugryn Filipetti, said the judge has up to four months to rule. After that, Morrocco said, the family can seek a stay for up to six months.
Beyond that, Morrocco said, there can be appeals.
“That could hold it up for awhile,” Morrocco said.
The goal of the family appears to be to stay in their houses for the rest of their lives.
“That’s what they’d like,” said Morrocco. “Look how old they are. Just let ‘em end their lives there.”
When she was called to testify, Filipetti, who will turn 80 this month, couldn’t get through stating her name without choking over sobs.
She said her health has been good until recently and said she’s worried about what will happen next. She said she knows the city owns the property but still finds it hard to deal with it.
“I understand it, but I can’t believe it,” said Filipetti. “I can’t sleep nights, not knowing what is going to happen from day to day.”
Filipetti said she’s trying to avoid moving day and wishes the city would build around them.
The family is always together, Filipetti testified, and has many wonderful memories of times spent at the homestead.
“I would like to stay forever, till the last one passed away,” Filipetti said.
When attorney Richard Lacey, who represents the city, asked her if she’d like to live in a two-family house with her sister, Filipetti was firm.
“No. I want to stay where I am,” Filipetti said. She added with disgust, “Live in a two family house!”
Mary Bugryn Dudko, 78, testified that her own health has suffered from “all this stress” and that her husband Michael, who has terminal cancer, is in “very bad” shape. He almost died after radiation and chemotherapy last year.
“He had one foot in his grave,” his wife said. But she said he amazed medical people by making a rebound.
Michael Dudko Sr. was in court, but did not testify. He has difficulty hearing, but gets around. His wife said he is able to drive.
Mary Dudko said she didn’t understand why the city “can’t work around us” and “leave us alone.” She said she’s lived in the house at 299 Middle St. since she was in high school and doesn’t want to leave.
As Dudko testified, Filipetti sat behind their lawyers, watching her sister and wiping away tears.
Dudko said she found looking for homes difficult. They sell fast, she said, but said her family never went inside any of the ones Johnson found for them. She wants a place where she can walk or take a bus easily.
“I want a place like where I live,” Dudko said.
Lacey asked Dudko that given her husband’s health problems, didn’t she think it would be better to move out sooner rather than later?
“No,” Dudko said.
When Frank Bugryn moves, it won’t be to another spot in the Mum City. Bugryn, 81, is the eldest of the former owners. He said he looked at places out of town, but not in his hometown.
“I just wanted to get out of Bristol,” said Bugryn.
Bugryn, who said he’d spend up to $250,000 for a house, said he wouldn’t buy a ranch in Bristol if it was on the market for $110,000.
All the family members who testified said they didn’t have a problem with Ken Johnson, a real estate agent hired by the city to work for the Bugryns to help them find alternate housing.
Bugryn said he checked out houses that Johnson found, and even made a $230,000 offer on one in Plainville. An earlier bidder got the house, he said.
Bugryn said it isn’t easy to find what he wants – a ranch-style house like the one he’s lived in for 46 years at 269 Middle St.
“If I could find one next week, I’d get out,” Bugryn said. “There’s a lot of homes I like, but they’re not for sale. I can’t tell ‘em to get out.”
Filipetti’s son and daughter-in-law, Lorin and Debbie Filipetti, also took the stand Friday.
Lorin Filipetti said he is in the process of building an in-law apartment for his mother at his home in East Hartland. It’s not finished yet, he said, but could be in August.
Filipetti said his mother “could not emotionally handle” moving from the house last fall, though she’d found an apartment that was adequate for a temporary stint.
His mother would not leave the house without a court order, Filipetti testified.
Debbie Filipetti testified that sisters Nellie Filipetti and Mary Dudko are “pretty much inseparable.” She said her mother-in-law probably won’t leave the house as long as Dudko is there, but probably wouldn’t want to stay alone if the Dudkos left.
Debbie Filipetti said she asked the city for counseling help for her mother-in-law when it became apparent that she and her husband couldn’t handle it alone.
Morrocco and attorney Bridget Gallagher, who represents the other family members still in the houses, argued that the Bugryns weren’t provided with adequate help from the city to find new housing – or to cope with the trauma of being displaced.
“The services that are really needed for this family have not been provided,” Gallagher said, referring to counseling to deal with leaving. She said the family has medical hardships – one former owner, Michael Dudko Sr., has cancer – as well as issues of separation and confusion about the future.
Gallagher said the city shouldn’t have withdrawn the Johnson’s real estate services.
“At least when Mr. Johnson was on board, the parties were looking,” said Gallagher, adding that she doubted the Dudkos could even hire a real estate agent on their own.
“You’re breaking up a family,” Morrocco told the judge. “The court has to have some sympathy here.”
Lacey said the family didn’t take advantage of the help the city offered. He said the city would be willing to provide more help, but didn’t want to spend taxpayer money on services that wouldn’t be used.
“The city has spent thousands, only to be spurned,” said Lacey.
Lacey told the judge, “There comes a time when all cases must end.” He said the city’s court fight with the Bugryns is long past that time.
Lacey seemed none too happy to be in court trying to evict the family.
“I can think of no job I’ve taken less pleasure in than this,” said Lacey. City leaders, Lacey said, have taken “all kinds of slings and arrows on this.”
Despite the criticism, Lacey said, the city still “held out the hand” and “turned the other cheek.”
Even now, said Lacey, the city wants to help the Bugryns with the move.
“We will go out of our way to provide whatever services to ease that transition,” said Lacey.
But Lacey noted that the case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
The city took title to the property at 269 Middle St. and 299 Middle St. nearly two years ago, but the four elderly former owners and other family members still live there.
Officials – who agreed in February 2001 to allow the family to remain on site while court appeals were in process – are anxious now to get the Bugryns off the property.
Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director, testified this week that the plan is to seek grants to help pay for the costly infrastructure required for the industrial park. But the city won’t even be able to apply for help, Rosenthal said, while the Bugryns are still living there.
The delays are costing the city money, according to Rosenthal. While the Bugryns battled Bristol in court, the economy soured and the potential for grants – and the number of companies looking to expand in the industrial park – shrank.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
By JACKIE MAJERUS
BRISTOL – A series of letters from the city economic development director to members of the Bugryn family show a long-running effort to help get the family off the property and into new housing.
The letters from city economic development director Jonathan Rosenthal – at least 17 since January – progress from a matter-of-fact style to a frustrated, begging tone as the eviction date grew near.
In the letters, obtained through use of the state Freedom of Information Act, Rosenthal does his best to try to convince the elderly siblings and their spouses to find new homes and repeatedly offers city-paid relocation assistance.
The earliest letter made available to the Bristol Press, dated January 9, 2003, offers advice to the family about working with a real estate broker and tells them they “need to keep looking daily” for new housing.
Many of the letters were sent with real estate brochures or listings, and copies of all were sent to attorneys for the family and the city and sometimes to adult children of the elderly Bugryns.
Starting with the Jan. 13 letter, Rosenthal tells the family that the city has rehired real estate broker Ken Johnson to provide up to 84 hours of “relocation counseling” through June 9.
In that letter, Rosenthal tells the family, “It is normal to devote 15 hours or more per week” to a house hunt. He further advises them that the city will pay for 10 “adjustment counseling” sessions, and invites them to contact him if they need anything.
Nearly every letter thereafter mentions Johnson and several of them provide his phone number.
By mid-March, Rosenthal is pleading with the family.
“I am writing once again to implore you to take advantage of the relocation benefits available to you,” his March 12 letter begins. “Your family has clearly and effectively expressed their emotions on this matter. I beg you to consider setting these sincere and powerful feelings aside for just a few minutes to accept the assistance that is being offered you.”
Sometimes the letters address specific housing opportunities for a particular individual or couple, but most of them are directed to all the family.
In his April 9 letter, Rosenthal urges the family to use Johnson’s services. He calls Johnson “a capable, caring, considerate real estate professional.”
In closing that letter, Rosenthal wrote, “I have pleaded many times for your cooperation. I pray that you might give it reasonable consideration and perhaps an opportunity to work.”
Two more letters and more housing information followed in April.
In mid-May, Rosenthal sent the family a questionnaire about their housing search and a log to fill in detailing their search.
“I am deeply concerned about your progress to find replacement housing,” Rosenthal wrote in the May 15 missive. “Am I correct that your method of finding something suitable is to drive around and look for ‘For Sale’ signs? If this is indeed true, I don’t believe it will give you satisfactory results.”
A letter dated June 5 reiterate Johnson’s services and includes more brochures.
“I have been pleading for your cooperation for more than a year,” Rosenthal wrote in the June 5 letter. “I can only offer you assistance, I can not make you cooperate. I repeat myself from previous communications: It is in your best interest to seek alternative housing.”
By June 25, Rosenthal is telling the family that the city is “moving toward exercising its right to terminate occupancy.”
He asks the Bugryns to let him know whether they’ve found replacement housing. Even limited cooperation, he tells them, “may minimize the impact on you.”
The last letter, dated July 24, offers help with moving costs and warns of ignoring the issue.
“I don’t know if you have been told the disadvantages of forcing an eviction,” Rosenthal wrote. “Your property will be removed and placed in storage for fifteen days. You will be responsible for most of the costs of moving and storage. After fifteen days, your belongings can be auctioned or sold to recover costs.”
In that July 24 letter, Rosenthal instructs the family to contact the city’s attorney if they want help with moving.
“This office has made every effort to provide relocation assistance to you,” Rosenthal wrote. “We have exhausted every effort to contact you. I pray you will take this offer, since no good will come of your removal by eviction.”
In February 2000, the city used the power of eminent domain to force the sale of the family’s former homes at 269 and 299 Middle St. for an industrial park. The family waged an unsuccessful legal battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to regain ownership.
Through it all, the family refused to budge, saying they wanted to live out their lives in the homes they’d lived in for decades. The city began eviction proceedings and last spring, a judge set July 10 as the day the family had to be out of the property.
July 10 passed without incident as lawyers for the family set about trying to get a judge to give them more time.
But now that the city and the family appear to be in a serious settlement talk, the eviction process is on hold.
The city and the family will meet again August 14, after the Bristol City Council considers a possible deal that would allow the family to stay in place for a year.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
By JACKIE MAJERUS
The Bristol Press
BRISTOL – Now that the Bugryn family has promised to leave their Middle Street homes, the city can move ahead with work on the industrial park, said Jonathan Rosenthal, Bristol’s economic development director.
“We’re in a position where we can move forward,” said Rosenthal. “I already have the environmental reviews of the property. We’ll arrange for demolition on or about April 2.”
The elderly Bugryn siblings, after waging a fierce legal battle for more than three years to regain ownership of their family’s Middle Street homestead, agreed to vacate the property by April 1, 2004. The last two siblings to come to terms with the city on a departure date, sisters Nellie Filipetti and Mary Dudko, signed a deal in housing court last week, ending eviction proceedings.
Rosenthal said he was happy the family struck a deal with the city.
“I advocated trying to reach a settlement,” said Rosenthal, adding that he thought leaving the decision to the judge would have meant an earlier departure date for the family.
Rosenthal said removing the former Bugryn homes from the property is key to the industrial park, especially with regard to getting any state or federal money for the project.
“We need the demolition accomplished before any money can be released,” said Rosenthal.
For now, Rosenthal is turning his attention to covering the costs of the infrastructure at the industrial park.
“I’m going to concentrate on securing financing for the road and getting the project underway,” said Rosenthal.
The final settlement gives the family an additional $563,200 on top of the approximately $1.2 million it already paid the Bugryns, plus interest at 6 percent, totaling more than $110,000.
The city will not pay any moving expenses.
As recently as July, Rosenthal offered relocation costs, but he said he never got a response from the family or their attorneys, and it was then withdrawn.
“We budgeted for relocation costs over four years ago,” said Rosenthal. Now, he said, all the money has been rolled into a single account to pay the Bugryn settlement and start the project.
“I’ve essentially surrendered that money in my board of finance request to settle up the account,” said Rosenthal. “That money now is not available. It’s not even in my power to negotiate that.”
But the family could take advantage of a city-hired real estate broker to help them find a new place to live, said Rosenthal. He said broker Ken Johnson still has a week remaining on his contract.
“If they want some help from Ken, it’s theirs to have,” said Rosenthal. But he said a week’s time is all that is left. He said he couldn’t offer any more without additional approval from the finance board.
Rosenthal said he’s hoping the city will pay the family by Sept. 10. He said the interest of $98 a day is adding up.
“I would like to save the city the money by getting it done as soon as possible,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal said the city’s paid a price for the lengthy legal battle with the Bugryns.
In the nearly four years since the city took the property through eminent domain, the economy has taken a sharp turn downward.
Rosenthal said there are fewer companies coming to him looking for space to expand, and far fewer opportunities to grab state cash to help with infrastructure costs.
“It’s an opportunity lost,” said Rosenthal.
At the same time, the Bugryns are gaining from the struggle, as the city is paying interest until the day they get the last check.
“They’re being paid for all the time they delayed the process,” Rosenthal said, adding, “It may constitute something of a gift.”
Rosenthal said the city offered proof that it collected only 2 percent on the money while it was tied up during the legal process.
“We had ample proof,” said Rosenthal, “but the judge has the discretion.”
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org