December 30, 2009

Manslaughter, DUI charges lodged in Sunday accident

Driver in fatal accident charged today.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Jay Leno takes a jab at Bristol business

A liquor store in Bristol got some free publicity this month when Jay Leno, whose television show airs nightly on NBC, showcased one of its commercials in his “Bad Ads” segment.
Crazy Bruce’s Liquors’ 30-second spot was featured along with crummy commercials from political candidates and other enterprises across the country.
The spot itself features a man singing – badly -- about the store’s products to the tune of “The Beer Barrel Polka.”
Leno said the liquor store commercial appeared to feature “a small business owner who may have been sampling his own wares.”
The store, which has locations in Bristol and West Hartford, apparently didn’t mind much.
Crazy’s Bruce’s website proudly features the spot under the headline “Home of the world’s worst commercial.”
It has links to both the commercial and to Leno’s jab at the spot.
It even has a poll asking people whether they think it’s the world’s worst commercial. As of Wednesday afternoon, only one in four agreed that it was.
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GOP selects new town committee next week

City Republicans will pick a new GOP town committee at caucus sessions slated for 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 7.
The caucus, which will be held in the City Council chambers at City Hall, will pick 42 people to serve on the volunteer committee for the next two years. Each of the city’s three districts picks 14 members to serve on the committee.
All registered Republicans are eligible to attend – and to seek one of the committee seats.
For more information, call Tom Barnes, the city’s GOP chair, at (860) 573-4279.

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December 29, 2009

Emergency shelter opened at senior center

Note from Mayor Art Ward:
As a result of the gusting winds and extremely cold temperatures, the gymnasium at the Bristol Senior Center was opened as a temporary shelter for those experiencing power outages and was staffed by members of the Bristol CERT Team.
At the time, the city was experiencing over 18,000 wind-related power outages throughout the city and extremely high winds were causing street light outages and falling limbs in many areas.
Authorities have informed us that most, if not all, of the power should be restored within the next two hours and that the gusting winds should diminish within the next 3 to 4 hours,
We will continue to monitor the situation until we deem that the shelter is no longer needed.

Update at 6:20 p.m. -- Read reporter Freesia Singngam's story about the weather woes.

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How would YOU illustrate a Bristol in 2035 story?

Anybody have any suggestions?
And if you're a budding artist, cartoonist or other illustrator, assuming you can work fast, you could offer up a vision of the city 25 years from now that we could use with the story. C'mon, artistic-minded folks. My stick figures just don't cut it.
Maybe, though, Bristol will look like this scene from Youth Journalism International's Senior Cartoonist Justin Skaradosky:

That was Justin's image of what might happen in Bristol if the Press vanished.

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Power out in Plainville & part of Bristol

The wind knocked out power to nearly everyone in Plainville and 15 percent of Bristol, too, according to Connecticut Light & Power's outage report website.
That means, God forbid, some people may not have power for their computers and are thus, heaven help them, unable to read the Bristol Blog. Let's hope most of them have charged-up laptops so they can stay with us.
Don't worry, folks, help is on the way. The power company is pretty good at getting the juice flowing again.

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December 28, 2009

Yet more unnecessary secrecy from the police

Give the police this: they're consistent.
But just as it was wrong for them to refuse to name the man who allegedly ran over Henry Waye on George Street last March, killing the boy, it is wrong for them to decline to identify the driver who plowed into Jeff Dziob at his Rosemary Lane home yesterday. Dziob, 38, died, leaving a wife and two children behind.
The police said she's in the hospital so they can't identify her, a totally irrelevant point.
Telling the public who was behind the wheel during an accident is not the same as accusing them of a crime. It's just telling the community vital information that we have a right to know.
All of this unnecessary secrecy just breeds gossip and discontent.
The police need to reconsider a dumb policy.

Update Tuesday, 9:50 a.m. -- Channel 3 in Hartford identifies the driver as 49-year-old Fran Ablesk.
The TV station also has another story about a standoff with police in Bristol last night.

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Twitter feeds about Bristol

On the right side, I've added Twitter feeds showing the five most recent Twitters, by anyone in the world, that mention "Bristol, Connecticut, "Bristol, CT" or "Bristol Press."
Please be aware that while most are inoffensive, occasionally something sordid is sent out by some twisted soul. There is no way for me to weed out the worst. It is what it is.
But I have watched for awhile and I think the vast majority of what will scroll by is either interesting or at least inoffensive. I apologize in advance for the inevitable something awful that some of you will eventually see.
In the meantime, have a taste of Twitter, by those too lazy even to blog.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Taxpayers can charge it

The city's taking credit cards for property tax payments, if you're foolish enough to pay the extra fee to do it. Here's the story.

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Public hearing on Jan. 4 about Renaissance selection

The city's providing a chance for everyone to weigh in on the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.'s pick to lead the revitalization of the former mall site. The hearing is slated for January 4. Click here for the story.

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Tom Barnes tapped for BDDC

With former Mayor John Leone's resignation from the Bristol Downtown Development Corp., filling the empty board of directors seat falls on the mayor and City Council.
But it looks like Mayor Art Ward's choice to appoint Tom Barnes to the slot is unlikely to prove a problem. Read the story here.

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What Bristol was like 100 years ago

On New Year’s Eve at the dawn of 1909, the city’s dignitaries gathered as usual on the first floor of Hose Company No. 1 on School Street around long tables where they gulped down hot coffee and feasted on steaming clams.
They were from a generation that knew Civil War veterans, who were dying off at an alarming rate, but already familiar with automobiles puttering along city streets. Click here to read the rest of the story.

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December 23, 2009

Happy Hollydays

Don't miss reporter Jackie Majerus' Christmas Eve story about Holly, a dog that's finally hit the jackpot after a decade of sometimes horrible abuse. See it here.
And, yes, the big sap on the left in the picture is Frank Johnson, longtime Zoning Commission chair and head of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.

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December 22, 2009

Barbara Franklin backs Foley for governor

Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Barbara Franklin, a Bristol resident, is among the prominent Republicans that gubernatorial hopeful Tom Foley listed among his backers this week.
Foley, a former ambassador, is pushing to win the GOP's endorsement in May for his campaign to succeed outgoing Gov. Jodi Rell, who is stepping down.
There are a handful of contenders from both parties for the state's highest post, though it remains unclear why anybody would want the job.
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Mills eyes budget woes

Here's what Republican city Councilor David Mills had to say about the budget situation following yesterday's meeting with department heads at City Hall:

It was a very sobering meeting today, but nothing unexpected. I really believe that the unfunded or partially funded mandates need to be publicized. They are continually being referred to, yet very few know or understand what they are.
The mandate outlined today by Dr. Streiffer concerning professional development of staff that could cost upward of $400-$500,000 for our community is ridiculous. It is another example of our legislators being totally out of touch with their constituents.If 30-40% of his budget is mandated by the State, then any costs have to be deducted from the remaining 60% which is very limiting. Translating this into dollars means 30-40 million dollars are set in our local budget by the State, and this is only for education.
Unfortunately, most of the burden to reduce budgets fall on the municipal employees.We should look at all possibilities before staff reductions are considered.Contracts have been negotiated in good faith, and when salaries were not increased substantially in the past, employees were offered more attractive working conditions or increased benefits in lieu of additional monies.
These benefits are now very expensive, and make up a large portion of our budget. They are also subject to negotiations which puts the burden on our Mayor and Personal director as well as the Union negotiators.It is not a pleasant position to be in, but I am confident that everyone is up to the task.

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December 21, 2009

Renaissance looms for downtown?

Bristol Downtown Development Corp. on Monday named Long Island developer Renaissance Downtowns as its choice to tackle the city-owned former mall property.
“Finally we’re at the start,” said BDDC board member John Lodovico. “We’re at the gate.”
The 5-1 vote came after Don Monti, president of Renaissance and Bristol developer Ed D’Amato Sr. told BDDC board members that they’d reached an agreement --D’Amato would withdraw his application to be the city’s preferred developer and Monti would make D’Amato part of his team.
“We’re just stepping aside so this thing can go on,” D’Amato said.
Monti said D’Amato’s company has expertise in Bristol.
“They would provide us with consulting services throughout the process,” said Monti. “There is no formal partnership.”
Board member Jennifer Janelle cast the sole vote in opposition, saying she wanted to have more than two developers to choose from.
Read the whole story in Tuesday's Bristol Press.
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Colapietro still says no Sunday liquor sales

Press release from state Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat who is co-chair of the General Law Committee and a staunch critic of proposals to allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays:

HARTFORD— State Sen. Thomas A. Colapietro (D-Bristol), the Senate Chairman of the General Law Committee and a longtime opponent of the Sunday sale of alcohol in Connecticut, wrote today to his General Assembly colleagues and criticized a recent Program Review and Investigations Committee report which concluded in part that Connecticut could anticipate an additional $7-$8 million annually in excise and sales tax revenues from the sale of wine and spirits if Sunday liquor sales were allowed.
“Once again the powers that be have convinced the Program Review Committee that Sunday sales will be a so-called boon to Connecticut,” Sen. Colapietro wrote today in part. “Nothing can be farther from the truth.”
“The only real beneficiaries will be those who make the alcohol and others such as the grocery stores who will not hire one single person. All they have to do is pull their curtain down,” Sen. Colapietro said. “On the other hand, the package store is a small business that pays taxes on their buildings, payroll, etc. They would have to heat their store in the winter, cool it in the summer, give up their family day off or pay more to keep someone there.
“There is only one way to gain revenue, and that is to sell more booze. Is that the legislature’s intent? I think not! Do we really want to put small businesses out of business?
“I do listen to my constituents, and not one wants to give up their only day off and give up their customers for convenience. The border towns do not have a legitimate argument,” he concluded. 

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Bristol schools score high on teaching minority kids

Nice to see that Bristol's two high schools are among the best in the state at making sure minority children are learning at a high level. See ConnCan's rankings.

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Mayor warns department heads on budget

Mayor Art Ward delivered this address to the city's department heads this morning:

Good Morning,
I want to begin by thanking you, your staff and your employees for all of the help and sacrifices that you have endured over this past year and a half, especially the last year, with regard to wage concessions, manpower reductions, capital equipment, program sacrifices and service cuts.

I know that it hasn’t been easy and we have all had to make adjustments; for that I thank you.

I was hopeful that I would be addressing you today with a brighter forecast then what we have been experiencing , but it is no secret that times are no better than last year and are in fact, predictably worse.

While it is obvious that we are not in the best of times, I don’t believe that it is the worst of times either; I do believe that it remains as the most challenging of times.

As reported on a daily basis, the national economy is a mess and the indecisiveness of our Legislature and the State budget casts nothing but dark clouds over the horizon, leaving the cities to pretty much fend for themselves compared to previous years.

Bristol is fortunate in that we are somewhat more financially secure than most other communities in our State, but that proves to be a false sense of security where the reality of budgeting is concerned. Revenues such as interest monies, tax collections, motor vehicle growth, service fees and the like are down; conveyance tax revenues are down and are dependent on legislative action for reenactment this year.

Expenses and needs for the City are constantly rising and the responsibility of balancing these elements with the necessary finances to provide adequate services to the community hasn’t lessened, as a matter of fact, it has sharply increased. State aid to municipalities hangs in the balance awaiting legislative action, and our health insurance costs are estimated to escalate over to $2,000,000 dollars.

As previously reported, the City is facing a huge imbalance of close to $8,000,000 dollars for fiscal year 2010-2011 and a general fund deficit for 2008-2009 of $1.46 million dollars.

On the bright side, our grand list is expected to rise about $20 million dollars generating $520,000 of new tax dollars, our economic development efforts are continuing with new businesses opting to make Bristol their home. Existing businesses are expanding their facilities and operations, creating new jobs and contributing to new dollars to our tax base. Route 72 is scheduled for completion in 2010. The Depot Square effort is moving forward, many of the State road projects are nearing completion, our regionalization efforts are now being realized through the mutual cooperation of adjacent communities, ( such as single stream recycling programs in conjunction with the Town of Plainville) In conjunction with the Board of Education, we will continue to lobby our State legislature and our Congressional delegation for any and all financial and/or project assistance, including intensifying our lobbying efforts for temporary relief from State unfunded mandates. I have been in constant contact with our legislative delegation regarding our needs and have met with them as recently as two weeks ago.

We are actively pursuing new methods of ensuring the collection of any/all back taxes, including the recently advertised “boot” program which targets primarily those with long standing overdue tax obligations and the new credit card tax payment ability which has just become available this week.  We are also evaluating the proposal for instituting fee-based service schedules for certain programs and departments and revisiting all of our present program fees.

Our grant writing department is doggedly pursuing any and all grant opportunities both public and private, and will continue to do so in order to secure monies in support of City initiatives.

We are actively involved with supportive organizations such as the CT Conference of Municipalities, The Bristol Resource Recovery Operating Facility, the Central CT Regional Planning Agency and other like-minded associations for collaboration on addressing the community’s needs through cooperative efforts.

This administration will continue to focus on consolidation efforts with regard to departmental and service-oriented areas requiring all of us to incorporate flexibility and meeting the need to do more with less in everything that we do.

We will also continue our present appending practices such as review of requests for conferences, seminars, travel expenses, evaluation of the need to fill positions as they become available though attrition, energy conservation and maintain a vigilant pursuit of any new ideas or suggestions which can assist us in obtaining savings.

I would, at this time, like to commend your departments, your staff and employees for your conservation efforts with regard to travel and fuel conservation – the past year has realized a significant decrease in the amount of fuel used on a daily basis – please pass our appreciation on to everyone.

You have been asked by the Finance Board to submit proposed budget cuts of 5% and 10% for next year’s budget.

While we are aware of the difficulties these cuts would have on your departments and the delivery of services, the thought process requires the need for new, creative, innovative methods of approach.

Departments should review and prioritize services which are essential to the taxpayers and those services which are in fact, more desirous than necessary and can therefore be given consideration for decreases or elimination.

No department or individual has escaped the impact of these difficult times and we all need to work together to survive this recession. These are not options, these are necessities.

Again, as in the past, public and employee safety cannot and will not be sacrificed, but all departments will be scrutinized and evaluated for utmost efficiency and maximum savings.

The Personnel Department will be evaluating all potential areas which might provide economic relief throughout our departments, and the entire City, in general, to include furloughs,                consolidation efforts, service restrictions or cut backs and any other areas for potential savings, review of the GASB-45 idea and any and all possibilities for economic relief. Simple ideas such as control of thermostats, as recently proposed by the City Council, can provide economic relief.

Capital needs will be appropriated where necessary and all capital projects will be evaluated for the vision of the immediate needs within our community.

As stated previously, all of our present policies and procedures are being constantly reviewed for performance assessment and the scrutiny of all expenditures will remain a highest priority.

I am relying on you to implement new strategies, with a new vision, a new means of performing daily functions with a focus on the realization of incurring less encumbering expenses.

As I stated at last year’s budget address, our ancestors experienced the great depression and they sacrificed and survived allowing us very comfortable lifestyle, until the most recent recession. We have that same responsibility to our children, our grand children and our future generations.

I know that this budget process is going to be very difficult and performing our duties will not be as easy as in the past, but with each one of us working together as a team, we will continue to ensure that Bristol is a great place to live. We will continue to demonstrate our strengths as a community, of resilience, of perseverance - A City that we, our families and our future generations can be proud to call “home”.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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December 19, 2009

Snow stories

First off, there is a on-street parking ban in effect in Bristol, for obvious reasons. So don't leave your cars on the roads to cause headaches for plow operators and the police. They have enough to do.
Beyond that, though, I thought I'd just open this up for any tales anyone has about the storm, the plowing and such.
Since the promise of snow has already KO'd my church's services tomorrow, I'm looking forward to sleeping in.

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December 18, 2009

D'Amato, Renaissance want BDDC to hold meeting Monday

Memo sent to the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. board members this morning by the nonprofit's chair, Frank Johnson:
Please be advised that just before  we concluded our last meeting both developers had decided to get together to consider  a cooperative approach.
We instructed them to let us know if their discussions were positive and hence whether or not we should meet on Monday December21, 2009.
We have received word from both developers that they believe that the BDDC should meet on Monday.
Without reading too much into that, and because only Attorney Sheridan has seen their responses, I am hopeful that a meeting will have a productive outcome.
Therefore Dave Sheridan will be posting a notice today that our regularly scheduled December meeting will take place on Monday December 21, 2009 at 6:30 PM.
I believe everyone indicated that they were available so I look forward to seeing you on Monday.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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A new push for rail

More people would ride a train — to commute to work or college, to travel to New York for business or pleasure — than would use the proposed busway from New Britain to Hartford, a group of local and state lawmakers said Thursday.
State Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, who chairs the transportation committee and called Thursday’s meeting, said he’s not convinced that people would use a busway between the Hardware City and Hartford.
“I’ve always had my doubts about the practicality of it,” DeFronzo said. He said there aren’t a lot of public voices against the busway, but the private sentiment is there. Read the rest of reporter Jackie Majerus' story here.

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December 17, 2009

Czenczelewski defends Renaissance

Former Republican City Council hopeful Derek Czenczelewski sent this along:
I made my support of Renaissance very clear before Monday's fiasco. I want you to know that I did so on the solid ground after having done research on this company while in college. To suggest that Renaissance has been anything other than transparent and honest is ridiculous. In addition, Mr. Monti has done numerous public speaking trips on the subject of real estate recovery and redevelopment. He's gone to many colleges, which is what initially got me interested while at UConn in Renaissance Downtowns. I understand Ms. Janelle is trying to back her statements, but the counter arguments are just as easy. She is accurate in saying that there have been some hardships along the way, as there are with all developers, but they have been worked out and moved forward accordingly.The Glen Isle Project was significantly slowed due to the large amount of toxic waste that had to be removed from the site.In addition, the original plan was deemed "too large" for the site, and after some long debate, it was established to scale

the project back a bit. That project is also significantly larger in scale: 56 acres to our 17. She also makes a valid point in that Renaissance has many offers out there, but then again, would you really trust a developer that only has one project on their agenda?
Here are some excerpts that help show the other side:
Dowling College Seminar
Donald Monti, Renaissance Real Estate Group
For more than thirty years, Donald Monti, one of the principals in RXR-Glen Isle Partners, LLC and Renaissance Real Estate Group, LLC, has played a major role in the
development, construction and management of numerous projects representing the hospitality,residential, commercial, health care, retail,marine, and medical sectors.
Throughout his career, Mr. Monti has been extremely involved in community affairs and received numerous honors for his philanthropic endeavors. Currently, he serves on the
Board of Directors for the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation at North Shore University Hospital. This foundation was established by the Monti Family and is recognized as the premier organization dedicated to research, education and patient care in the field of oncology and hematology in the Long Island Tri-State area. He has also been honored as Man of the Year by the American Red Cross for his philanthropic contributions.
Mr. Monti’s hands-on approach in each of his projects, clearly demonstrates his commitment to excellence in all of his endeavors. His honesty and professionalism have earned him the respect of political leaders, fellow colleagues and members of the community.
Mr. Monti and his wife, Patti, are native Long Islanders, who enjoy spending their free time navigating their boat on the waters of Long Island Sound. They are the proud parents of Robbie, Melissa, Darren, and Justin.
Here's another article (He flat out says that they are in several communities, it was no secret and is basically smart business)
Renaissance Downtowns, a real estate development firm specializing in downtown revitalization projects, recently signed a development agreement for a project in Nashua, N.H. Renaissance's president and CEO, Donald Monti, said he has similar projects in 16 additional cities throughout the Northeast.
"This is a paradigm-shifting recession," Monti said. "The days of 'you build it and they will come' are over. We feel very strongly that the new business model will be centered on revitalizing our suburban downtowns, and New England is a perfect region to focus these
What Ms. Janelle failed to inform everyone of, is that the Glen Isle project has several developers and contractors involved...if anything, this proves that Mr Monti was being honest about getting other local developers involved (aka: D'Amato, Carpenter, Laviero et all)
Scaling down the project
On the new partnership.
...This issue at hand was over building height and number of units, with Monti holding firm in his assertion that the project should contain taller buildings and more units, with the Mayor being fearful of such a project and from public pressure to not make Glen Isle into "a city." They wanted the project to be smaller. Very similar arguments were made during the Blueback Square negotiations.
Hope this clears up some of the issues being discussed
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Johnson answers executive session questions

The chairman of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp., Frank Johnson, just sent me this:
Jennifer’s question about Renaissance ‘being spread too thin’ was raised in Executive session as were a number of other questions by board members. Each in turn was determined to be inappropriate for Executive session and the discussion moved around the table. However Dave Sheridan and I did our best to cut off such discussion and focus on only financial issues. Dave and his associate composed several specific questions that were germane to the purpose of the Executive Session which was purely financial in nature.
The only questions posed to Mr. Monti in Executive Session and to Mr. D’Amato in Executive Session were these previously crafted and agreed to financial questions. They were asked and they were answered and following the Executive Session each was asked in public if they would submit to the BDDC attorney the documents that were inquired about in Executive Session.
Ms. Janelle is correct, her question was not posed to Renaissance in the Executive Session because it was not germane to the purpose of the executive session. She could have, and should have raised it in public if she was that concerned.
The final question I asked of all directors at the conclusion of the Executive session was, “Other than what we intend to ask Renaissance and D’Amato to provide; is there any other financial information that any member feels they will need in order to intelligently cast a vote at our next meeting?’ Everyone replied “NO” including Ms. Janelle.
It is fair for you to question what discussion or actions took place in the Executive Session, but it is impossible for me, with a strong minded board facing an enormous decision to control what each person says or asks. She raised it, it was not relevant to the purpose of the session, it was not further discussed, it was not asked of or answered by the developer
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No high speed rail money for New England?

Thanks to the Hartford Courant's Rick Green for pointing out The Boston Globe piece today that leaves little grounds for hoping that high speed rail might come to Connecticut anytime soon.

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So what's so secret about this?

In her email to the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. board and others this morning, Jennifer Janelle included this paragraph:
In addition to Waterbury, Meriden, Norwich, and Nashua, the July 2009 edition of New Urban News states that Monti has targeted and is putting in proposals in 22 communities:  Paterson, NJ; Springfield, MA; Nashua, Concord and Manchester, NH; Norwalk, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Britain, Hartford, Bristol, Meriden, Enfield, Windsor, New Haven, New London and Norwich, CT; Glen Cove, Long Beach, Hempstead, Copaigue and Freeport, New York.    This heightens my concern about being spread too thin (which I raised in executive session) having enough money to go around and spending enough time on Bristol.  I also found City Council minutes which show that a proposal has also been submitted in Bedford, NH.  I specifically requested in Executive Session that we ask how many proposals there are out there and what has been promised to each, but that question was not posed.
I know the Freedom of Information Act pretty well and can't see grounds that would allow BDDC commissioners to talk in secret session about whether Renaissance was "spread too thin" or to request that officials find "how many proposals there out there and what has been promised to each."
Those are the sorts of discussions, in fact, that ought to be happening in public.
Had they been, we would know a lot more about the build-up to the downtown meltdown on Monday night.
Instead, it looks like much that we should have known happened not in the public's eye but behind closed doors.
This is not how government should operate.
It certainly raises all sorts of questions about what else has transpired out of view.
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Janelle: Concerned Renaissance only looking to 'flip' former mall site

From: Jennifer Janelle
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2009 9:31 AM
To: Theresa Sharretto; Arthur Ward; David Sheridan; Edward Krawiecki; Frank Johnson; Gardner Wright Jr.; John Leone; John Lodovico Jr.; Ken Cockayne; Mary Suchopar; Phil Michalowski; Richard Harrall; Richard Kallenbach; Thomas Cosgrove
Subject: Renaissance Downtowns

Board Members:
I am very concerned about the article in this morning’s paper that states that Dick Harrell fully vetted Renaissance Downtowns.  During executive session, I specifically asked about certain due diligence procedures and questions and Dick’s response was “Nashua did 8 months of due diligence and that is good enough for me.”  Last night, I spent about 3.5 hours researching Renaissance and Don Monti.  I have attached relevant documents and news reports for your review, which include the following information:

1.       According to the NY Secretary of State, Renaissance Downtowns has only been in existence since May, 2009.  Prior to that they were known as Renaissance Real Estate, which has only been in existence since May 29, 2008.  I have not tracked down Monti’s prior development company, but I think the history of that company is important to our decision.

2.        Monti and his partner, doing business as Glen Isle Partners, were selected for the Glen Cove redevelopment.   6 years later they still had not submitted a conceptual plan for the redevelopment.  The Mayor of Glen Cove criticized Monti and his partner as “inflexible” and “uncooperative.”  In May of 2007, the Mayor of Glen Cove reached out to RexCorp Realty and asked them to either buy out or buy into the project. RexCorp did, and only then was the project able to move forward, with RexCorp taking the lead.  Glen Cove is not the “shining star” project Mr. Monti has represented it to be, based on the reports I have read.  I have a call into the Mayor of Glen Cove to try and get more information.  An excerpt from one of the attached articles:

Mayor Suozzi said, "I had wondered why Glen Isle was so inflexible and always putting out the word that I was inflexible and didn't want to meet, and I realized this is too big a project for them; this is the time for them to make their money. Not so with Scott Rechler and RexCorp." The mayor said he knew that change was needed in the relationship between city and developer. "I have tried to do everything on my part to reach out," he said, adding that he has often told [Glen Isle principal] Mr. Monti that there are different ways to develop the project, "but when I asked for changes, Glen Isle came back three times with the same plan. My goal was never to get rid of [Glen Isle]," he said, "or to not develop the waterfront." The goal, said the mayor, is open, honest negotiations. "Who develops Glen Cove's waterfront is not as important as how the waterfront is developed," Mayor Suozzi said, and he is optimistic that the introduction of Mr. Rechler to the table will "change the tone and tenor" of the current state of affairs on the waterfront.

I urge all Board members to go to and read all of the news articles about the tortured history of that project.  I certainly don’t think we expect to spend 24 months negotiating a Preferred Developer Agreement and then wait another 6 years for a conceptual site plan, or have to find a partner to bail out Renaissance.

3.        In addition to Waterbury, Renaissance Downtowns currently has proposals before Norwich and Meriden for the same thing, as reported in a news article I found concerning Nashua.  I have confirmed on the Norwich City Council meeting minutes posted online that Renaissance made their proposal to Norwich on June 15, 2009.  I have a call into Norwich to see what they have promised them.  I am trying to track down the Meriden proposal.

4.       In addition to Waterbury, Meriden, Norwich, and Nashua, the July 2009 edition of New Urban News states that Monti has targeted and is putting in proposals in 22 communities:  Paterson, NJ; Springfield, MA; Nashua, Concord and Manchester, NH; Norwalk, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Britain, Hartford, Bristol, Meriden, Enfield, Windsor, New Haven, New London and Norwich, CT; Glen Cove, Long Beach, Hempstead, Copaigue and Freeport, New York.    This heightens my concern about being spread too thin (which I raised in executive session) having enough money to go around and spending enough time on Bristol.  I also found City Council minutes which show that a proposal has also been submitted in Bedford, NH.  I specifically requested in Executive Session that we ask how many proposals there are out there and what has been promised to each, but that question was not posed.

5.       The New Urban News article attached states that Monti’s business plan is to very quickly hammer out agreements while the market is bad and before other developers re-enter the market, in order to lock up opportunities.  I have concerns, given the number of projects he is trying to secure and what he is contracted for in Nashua (see below) that the intent here is merely to lock up our downtown until the market improves and then “flip it”.  It does not seem from what I have read that Renaissance intends to be in this for the long haul.

6.       A news article reporting on the Nashua, NH contract states that Monti will remediate the property and obtain permits, after which Nashua will sell him the property so he can “market it for development.”  Not develop it, but market it for development.  I am going to try and get a copy of the Nashua agreement through Freedom of Information, but certainly will not have it prior to Monday’s meeting.

7.       I have read several articles concerning presentations made by Mr. Monti at various planning forums in which he states that in order to do a conceptual plan, there MUST be transit.  I have concerns about what that does to Bristol if the train does not come through (which now it looks like it will not).

In sum, based on today’s newspaper article and based on what I have uncovered (which is by no means complete due diligence), I request a written list of everything Dick Harrell has done to vette this company.  The list should include the name and title of every person he spoke with and attachments of everything he looked at and everything he asked in performing his due diligence.  I request copies of every piece of paper Dick reviewed in coming to his conclusion that this developer is qualified and has the requisite experience to complete this project.  I have many more questions that are standard for due diligence and would be happy to provide a list.  These things include, but are not limited to, how many proposals has Monti submitted and walked away from, how many times has a community accused him of being in breach or of being uncooperative, how many times has he been selected and not been able to negotiate a contract, background information on all of his former companies (how many times were they sued or cited, how many projects were not completed, late or over-budget, etc.).  Since the only real reference he has provided is Glen Cove and that project does not seem to be what was represented, I have a real problem with Renaissance Downtown.  I will raise all of these issues and provide copies of all of the materials I have looked at (which are too voluminous to attach to an email) at the next meeting.

I intend to do much more research over the weekend, and I will do the same vetting for D’Amato.  I have not looked at anything concerning D’Amato yet.

Last, I do not believe that it is my job as a volunteer Board member to be doing this work.  This is what we have paid professionals for.  However, I do not believe it has been done, despite the newspaper report, and if it has, I do not believe it was adequate.  If all of this information was uncovered in a due diligence process performed by Dick Harrell, why was this information not presented to the Board (especially the problems with the Glen Cove project) so that we could all make a fully informed judgment?  I remain convinced that we are rushing into something that will come back to haunt us and that we need to spend the time to be sure we know what we are getting into.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Check out the two developers' websites

Take a look at the websites for D'Amato Construction and Renaissance Downtowns. You can learn quite a bit perusing both sites.
By the way, as an aside, when I was in Mayor Art Ward's office on Tuesday, D'Amato had just delivered a big tray of Christmas nuts and such from Super Natural with a little card attached wishing the mayor a Merry Christmas. Do you suppose that Frank Johnson, John Lodovico or Tom Cosgrove got one, too?

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Backers of BDDC defend downtown overseers

Before the dust can settle on the downtown stalemate, the chairman of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. is defending the board’s work and local business leaders are weighing in, asking for action. Read the rest of reporter Jackie Majerus' story here.

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City budget getting clobbered

The recession is taking its toll on city finances.
The city ended its most recent fiscal year with a budget shortfall of $1.46 million, according to the comptroller’s office, and is eyeing another deficit this year that could total more than $1 million. Read the whole story here.

Next year looks even worse
The city’s budget picture for next year is looking ever more ugly.
Finance officials said this week they believe it will cost $8 million more than the $170 million in this year’s city spending plan just to keep city services and schools plugging along.
But coming up with that much more money is going to pose some tough choices. Read the whole story here.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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December 16, 2009

Catch up on the BDDC

For those who want to know what the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. has been doing, here is the link to read all of its minutes, which are posted on the city's confusing website. If anyone finds anything juicy, let us know!
You can actually find out a lot more if you do a search for the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. on the Google Search widget to the right. It searches for every items that's mentioned the BDDC on either the Bristol Blog or the Bristol Press. I imagine there are an awful lot of stories to slog through, but if you're interested, they exist.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Leone's resignation note

From:              John Leone 
To:                   art ward 
CC:                  Frank Johnson 
Date:                12/16/2009 7:59 AM
Subject:          Resignation From BDDC Board

Mayor Ward
I am writing to resign from the Bristol Downtown Development Corporation effective Tuesday, December 15.
I want to thank you Mayor, for nominating me to the position  and also Chairman, Frank Johnson and all the board members who serve on the Corporation, for their dedication in a common cause of developing the Depot Square property.
The conflict of interest, I raised at the Monday’s meeting of the Corporation, stops the progress of this important project, and could have continued to be a concern, on future votes.
I would also like to acknowledge the work of the Development Corporation’s Executive Director, Richard Harrall and Atty. David Sheriden, for their dedicated service to the Corporation.
My decision to resign is not an easy one, but I believe it’s in the best interest of the Corporation and most importantly the City of Bristol and its residents.
                                     John J Leone
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City budget running in the red

There will be more on this soon, but the city ended its most recent fiscal year with a budget shortfall of $1.46 million, according to the comptroller’s office, and is eyeing another deficit this year that could total more than $1 million.
That's real money, even for government.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Will Leone be replaced quickly?

Mayor Art Ward said this afternoon he hasn't decided whether to try to appoint someone to fill John Leone's seat on the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. in time to participate in Monday's Showdown Session II.
He said there are four or five names floating around as possible picks.
The mayor said yesterday he wouldn't want to appoint somebody unless the person was familiar enough with the issues to get caught up on specifics over the weekend. He also wanted to ensure that whoever is picked is neutral on which developer should get the nod.
I've heard of one possible successor who might fit the mold, but I don't want to mention the man until we have more confirmation.
If there is an effort to fill Leone's seat, Ward would nominate the person and the City Council would have to give its blessing at an emergency session, perhaps on Friday.
Details will follow when we hear 'em.
Meantime, if you're itching to take a beating from a bunch of anonymous people online, feel free to call the mayor and tell him you want the job. By the way, there's no pay and the hours are sometimes awful.
At least, though, you get to hang out with Frank Johnson, the BDDC's chair. That's worth something, right?
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Janelle to Nicastro: Call me

Bristol Downtown Development Corp. member Jennifer Janelle's response to Mike Nicastro, the chamber's president:

Mr. Nicastro,
You really should not speak of things about which you do not know.
First, the original October meeting was scheduled for a date that I was prepared to attend. The meeting date was changed by the Executive Director due to space availability issues at City Hall to a date when the entire Board knew I was scheduled to be out of the country, despite my strong desire to be present. I made every attempt to be at that meeting, calling and emailing members several times from my travels. I did get hung up in customs in New York and did not make it back. The circumstances were well beyond my control and I resent the implication that I have somehow shirked my duties. It was a special meeting, not a regularly scheduled meeting, and one called at the last minute at that.
Additionally, we as a Board have been advised by counsel not to have direct communications with either bidder. Neither is a publicly traded company with 10-ks and other reports available for public inspection. So how exactly do you propose that I do my own due diligence?
Other internal issues exist concerning what questions would be asked and by whom and these issues have been raised by me over and over again in the 3 years I have been on the Board. I will not debate those issues with you, a non-member. If you had attended each and every Board meeting, you would know my positions have been consistent and unwavering on the appropriate process we should be following. I have been outvoted on numerous occasions and the minutes and recordings evidence that.
The Board has had proposals in hand less than 60 days. No other community that I have ever worked with (more than 2 dozen municipalities and 80 Boards of Education while in private practice advising communities on construction and development projects related to energy and other utility projects) has acted on a bid response in less than 60 days and without any due diligence whatsoever. Nashua New Hampshire did 8 months of due diligence prior to selecting a developer. However, I am unwilling to rely on someone else's process, not having seen it or knowing anything about it. Unfortunately, I am also not willing to compromise my personal or professional integrity to go along with the pack and do what I am told.
My only interest is in getting the best possible developer for the best possible downtown in the best possible procedural way to avoid problems down the road. I am not in this for votes, contributions or political favors. I am in this for the people of Bristol. It is unfortunate that so many in this town drive away volunteers trying to make the City a better place with the name-calling, demands for resignations and the like. I will not bend to threats, intimidation, name-calling and all out attempts at public embarrassment.
I'm sorry that we disagree, but I intend to do it in a professional and polite manner. If you have specific concerns you want to address with me, I invite you to pick up the phone and I would be happy to arrange a time to meet with you, rather than making a public spectacle out this.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Chamber prez responds to Janelle

A response to Jennifer Janelle from Mike Nicastro, president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce:

Ms. Janelle let me first say that I respect your service to the community over the last few years.  You clearly made a commitment of your time.  But we are at a critical milepost in the city’s history.  This past Monday evening we (the City of Bristol) had a wonderful opportunity to begin a new future for our community and the region.  It was to be simply the first step in a long and risky process.  We cannot begin without a first step.  I have called for you resignation from the BDDC for no other reason than in my opinion you allowed that opportunity slip away from us and may have in fact raised the risk profile even higher than it was before.  Your calls for additional due diligence are correct but can be readily accomplished in the lengthy process that still lies before the BDDC and the community.  Regardless of that situation, you had a responsibility to perform your own due diligence and either you failed to do so or your absences from the two critical BDDC meetings in both September and October left you incapable of a rational decision.  In that case you should have abstained from Monday’s vote as opposed to becoming a roadblock.  The mission here was to choose between to very valid RFQ responses.  There is so much more to do.  Despite your previous efforts your action Monday evening was indecisive and smacked of the usual inertia of which this community is often accused.  When or if we move ahead we cannot continue to have you absent from critical meetings in the future.  If indeed a developer is chosen the commitment to this process will not become easier or require less time it will in fact require more.  Your claims of “cronyism” and “appeasement” make nice cover smoke but they are unfounded and your clear positioning to be able to say “I told you so” is of great concern.  It is a clear attempt to wash your hands of this decision.  No matter who is chosen the risk for this project is high. If you cannot understand that risk or continue the commitment of time you should resign.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Economic development cash increased

Despite a budget crunch that has Board of Finance members worrying about layoffs and service cuts, the panel said last night it had no choice except to plunk another $150,000 into the depleted economic development fund so the city can continue offering grants to lure new companies to town.
Finance commissioner Janet Moylan said she was “not sure we have any other choice” except to fill the fund.
But she nonetheless voted against it, the only fiscal overseer to oppose it. She said the city could probably wait until the next fiscal year to restore the development account.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Leone's resignation takes effect today

Read Press reporter Jackie Majerus' story about the resignation of former Mayor John Leone from the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. here.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Janelle hangs tough

When the president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce called on Bristol Downtown Development Corp. member Jennifer Janelle to quit, she refused.
“Of course he wants me to resign,” Janelle told Press reporter Jackie Majerus. “I’m not part of the old crony political crowd in Bristol.” Read the whole story.
Copyright 2009.
Contat Steve Collins at

December 15, 2009

City to settle lawsuit for $55,000

I'm not really sure what the case is all about, but the city is preparing to settle a lawsuit against it brought by the Massachusetts-based Titan Roofing, which won a contract in 2006 to put a new roof on the Malone Aquatic Center.
I don't know why the company sued. I don't know why the city is settling.
But I do know the Board of Finance agreed to chip in $35,000 to add to the $20,000 the city plans to take from its claims fund.
Richard Lacey, a city lawyer, wouldn't talk about it because it's pending litigation.
But both Lacey and city Comptroller Glenn Klocko said the money would be enough to settle the case, which must mean that a deal has already been worked out.
I'm not sure what the big secret is if both sides have agreed on a figure.
If anyone knows more, feel free to comment.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Leone resigned today

Mayor Art Ward said that John Leone resigned from the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.

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Leone's tenuous position

I can't quarrel with former Mayor John Leone's view that he can't ethically take part in the Bristol Downtown Development Corp.'s decision about who should develop the Depot Square sit. If Leone thinks the situation is such that he can't vote, then he clearly shouldn't vote. He's got a better handle on the ethics of the situation than I do.
But if he can't cast a vote on the developer because his role in finding a place for the new Bristol Boys and Girls Club somehow got mixed up with Renaissance's mall site proposal -- the details remain hazy -- then how can he serve on the BDDC at all if Renaissance is chosen? The conflict won't go away.
There's kind of an obvious issue: is Leone's service to the club, admirable as it is, making it impossible for him to be an effective, useful board member for the BDDC? Certainly he's contemplating that issue just as many others are.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Let Leone vote?

A suggested way out of the fiasco, offered by former city Councilor Craig Minor:

 If Monti and D'Amato can't work it out, the BDDC should ask both of them if they are willing to let Leone vote. Of course, Leone could vote for D'Amato and that leaves it at 3-3, but he might vote for Renaissance.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Dutton Heights renovation hinges on a bus stop

Don't miss my story in today's Bristol Press about a proposed renovation to the aging Dutton Heights housing project. The $14 million project hinges on whether the location of a little-used bus stop can be shifted by one block, officials said. Read the whole thing here.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Millionaire-Maker always another option

Hey, if things don't work out with Renaissance or D'Amato, the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. can always go back to this guy.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Johnson: Bristol Blog has lots of readers

The Bristol Blog came up during last night's Bristol Downtown Development Corp. meeting, giving the otherwise dismal session at least a short moment of sunshine.
The chairman of the nonprofit formed to revamp downtown, Frank Johnson, said that everybody claims they don't read the Bristol Blog, yet they all know what's in it.
Johnson said it reminds him of former Mayor Frank Longo, a real character who won the city's top job twice in the 1970s even though nobody would admit voting for him.
So, dear readers, it's OK to come on here, eyeball what you will as often as you like, and then pretend you never see anything on this little blog. Your secret is safe with me.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Downtown meltdown

Last night's implosion of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp., whose seven members managed to divide themselves up into four distinct groups in vote after vote, doesn't look any better the next day.
What we saw as the panel tried to decide which of two developers to bring on board were four groups, though two of them had just one member:

Three commissioners -- Frank Johnson, John Lodovico and Tom Cosgrove -- were ready to give the Long Island-based developer the chance to tackle the project.

Two commissioners -- Gardner Wright and Dick Kallenbach -- backed the hometown firm instead.

Jennifer Janelle said the downtown nonprofit needs to take more time and seek out more information and developers. She said there's no rush.

John Leone said he had a conflict of interest that barred him from participating in the choice. It apparently relates to a supposed promise by Renaissance to help out the Boys and Girls Club with downtown property, but we'll have to look into that a little more deeply.

Since no combination of people could achieve a majority for either developer, the session simply dissolved into the vague hope that Renaissance and D'Amato can come to some sort of agreement between themselves, which would let the BDDC off the hook.
The truly sad part is that the BDDC's inability to make a decision actually made the City Council look good, since its seven members haven't often failed to come to some sort of resolution to even the most difficult issues facing the community.
Since it's hard to make the City Council look good, that says quite a lot about what happened with the BDDC.
Then again, the council will get its shot at picking a developer, too, if the BDDC can manage to recommend one. There's no guarantee that councilors will fare any better than the BDDC, since the hometown versus out of town split exists among politicians as well.
One can imagine the council refusing to go along with the choice of a badly divided BDDC.
It's going to be interesting watching how they all dig themselves out of this hole.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Frank Johnson, BDDC chair, explains his vote for Renaissance

This is the statement read by Frank Johnson, the chairman of the Bristol Downtown Development Corp., to explain his thinking about the choice of a developer for the former mall site:

The BDDC was created in April of 2007, following exhaustive and sometimes heated discussion. Since its creation, the BDDC has endeavored to carry forth the task of creating a plan for the revitalization of the downtown heart – a seventeen acre parcel - which has been tentatively named Depot Square.

The BDDC has been impaneled for over two and a half years. In fact all of our three-year appointments expire in April of 2010. In the time that the corporation has existed, we have accomplished much in terms of laying the groundwork for a downtown that current and future generations will be proud of – a center of our city that includes living, shopping and entertainment opportunities in addition to creating live/work and office uses.

We envision a city center that embraces the rebirth of rail and multi-modal transportation and incorporates green building principles. We hope to create a plan that is not limited to the seventeen acre parcel but instead accomplishes not only that but becomes a catalyst for the improvement of the areas that surround the Depot Square parcel. We believe that by achieving success in accomplishing that goal, improvements will eventually spread to some of the other parcels located adjacent to, or within walking distance of Depot Square.

We have discussed our individual and collective visions and we have listened to the stakeholders to whom we answer; the taxpayers, the private and business citizens of our city, the members of all of the boards and commissions that have relevance in the downtown area and, of course, to the professionals that we have hired in order to help us accomplish our task.

The board has been as transparent as possible in its actions and has allowed public input at every step in the process.

In that time we have been in existence, the BDDC has:

·        Interviewed law firms, and hired legal counsel.

·        Interviewed potential executive directors, and hired an Executive Director.

·        We reestablished contact with DECD and have kept them fully apprised of our plans and our progress.

·        We have completed the environmental mapping.

·        We assured the grocer that they could continue operations while a plan could be developed.

·        We watched the demolition of the Mall.

·        We have maintained talks with Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds and assured them that we hope they will have a place in the future rebirth of our city center.

·        The BDDC has taken lots of public input and heard considerable stakeholder input.

·        BDDC worked with the City Comptroller on budget issues.

·        BDDC conducted a naming contest selected a name for the parcel.

·        We worked with the Purchasing Department on various RFP’s and RFQ’s.

·        We worked in tandem with the Mayors ten-year planning committee.

·        We did an RFP for a parking study, Interviewed respondents and hired a firm. That work is ongoing.

·        We worked with BDA on the streetscape along Main Street.

·        In 2008, BDDC issued an RFP for developers and we received a disappointing response to that RFP.

·        We watched the demolition of the Sherwin Williams building and we have seen the creation of a nice greenway where the building once stood.

·        In 2009 we issued an RFQ, and received two quality responses to that RFQ.

·        BDDC publicly interviewed the two respondents, and subsequently requested two rounds of financial information in order to assure that our due-diligence was thorough and complete.

The City of Bristol and the BDDC owe a great deal of gratitude to the two firms that responded to our RFQ. Not only has each demonstrated the necessary vision to look through the current economic clouds and see a brighter horizon beyond, they have complied with each and every request the BDDC has made; and they have done so with courtesy, dignity and professionalism. For their courage in this economy, for their vision in this process and for their recognition of the fact that this economic downturn is a perfect time to plan for the coming economic recovery, I thank them both and congratulate them both for their vision, their cooperation and their patience.

Tonight we are here to discuss the responses to our RFQ and to potentially make a decision on naming a Tentative Preferred Developer.

I emphasize the TENTATIVE since we envision this not as a final selection but as another step toward a final selection. Let me elaborate.

·         Upon the selection of a TENTATIVE Preferred Developer the next step would be to make a recommendation to the City Council that they ratify the selection of the Tentative Preferred Developer.

·         If that happens, the next step would be to negotiate a Preferred Developer Agreement, or a PDA. This step alone could take 60-90 days. Within that PDA any number of conditions, timelines, and financial considerations could be addressed. It might include time-lines or benchmarks of progress and even next steps if the development plan is ultimately successful and approved by the City.

·         I would expect that the BDDC, the Mayor and the city staff and corporation counsel would all be a part of negotiating the PDA. Bear in mind that the BDDC does not own or control the parcel; it is charged with developing a plan for its development.

·         Should the City, the BDDC and the developer be successful in negotiating a PDA; both bodies (the City Council and BDDC) would then be asked to approve the agreement.

·         Only then would we move forward in getting the developer involved in further discussions and planning with the BDDC and with DECD as the EIE process proceeds.

The two responses we received were similar but there were some significant differences as well. For instance, Renaissance offered to come to town, open a local office, follow their own stage-gate process and spend a year working with the city in developing a proposed development plan. At the end of the year Bristol could go with the plan or decide to pursue some other course. This offer from Renaissance Downtowns was rather unique, from my perspective.

On the other hand designating D’Amato as the preferred Developer would give us a strong local history and network of contacts with a team that is ready to hit the ground running and to begin creating a permanent plan.

As a result of these differences the negotiating of a PDA might be completely different, depending upon which developer received Tentative Developer status.

As with most things in life, this is not an easy task. It is made more difficult because we received two similar yet somewhat different responses, and that each proposal has great strengths.

As you know the two firms are D’Amato Realty, a local bidder and Renaissance Downtowns, an out-of-state bidder.

From the original submissions to tonight’s meeting we have each weighed, reviewed, considered and evaluated the two responses. I am sure that each member of this board has thoroughly thought through the process.

Personally, I have been impressed by a number of persuasive arguments that each has made to the board in writing and in response to questions.

D’Amato Realty, the D’Amato family and the team of professionals they have assembled has impressed me greatly. There is no doubt that the D’Amato team knows Bristol, understands the needs of the city and has extensive construction and development experience in Bristol and its surrounding communities.

The three generations of the family that spoke, brought forth the dedication and commitment that they feel toward Bristol, as evidenced by the fact that they themselves are Bristol residents, Bristol taxpayers and dedicated supporters of many organizations within our community.

Reaching beyond their family; they have assembled a professional team that includes all of the skill sets necessary to bring the development of Depot Square to fruition.

Renaissance Downtowns has an extensive book of work that encompasses much of New England and points well beyond. Mr. Monti has assembled a first-rate team of professionals as well.

Our RFQ stated in part:
The BDDC is seeking the most qualified developer that can create a unique livable downtown community that blends housing, office, retail, commercial, public facilities and open space with quality design, improved and pedestrian friendly street networks, and public gathering spaces, blending these recommended uses with the existing surrounding neighborhoods, encouraging neighborhood investment and pride and enhancing the quality of life throughout the area.

In considering my vote in selecting a Tentative Preferred Developer I weighed the value of a local developer who knows and understands our city against the qualifications presented by Renaissance Downtowns.

At the end of the consideration process I am compelled primarily by three significant and defining criteria.

·         The first is that in our RFP and our subsequent RFQ stressed the value of mixed use development. In order to successfully develop the Depot Square site reliance must be made on the concept of putting feet on the street. To that end, a higher concentration of residential units is, in my opinion, a plus. The higher number of residential units proposed by Renaissance, and the inclusion of a hotel is more in keeping with the concept of creating a livable and lived-in downtown.

·         The second is that during their oral presentations to this board each emphasized a very different approach to completing the development process. The D’Amato team repeated that theirs would be a TENANT DRIVEN approach. Thus, as their team identified - and negotiated with - each prospective tenant, they would design a building for the tenant in question and then build for that tenant and potentially create additional space within that building as they deemed marketable.

My concern regarding a tenant-driven approach is that many potential tenants have very specific criteria from which they will not deviate. Often this includes a signature building design and a required number of adjacent, dedicated parking spaces. Tenant-driven projects are successful along route 6 in Bristol or Route 10 in Southington and Plainville, but that development approach is not what we hope to see in downtown Bristol.

Renaissance stated that theirs would be a concept-driven approach whereby a plan would be developed for Depot Square that included mixed use. They would propose retail, restaurant, residential, commercial and even a hotel for downtown Bristol. Tenants would be shown the concept plan and could either buy-in to the concept or decide not to locate on the site. Renaissance also stated that they would bring downtown property owners together in order to facilitate referring potential downtown tenants that did not fit the design criteria for Depot Square to other landowners in downtown Bristol that might be able to better accommodate them

Both the City Plan for Conservation and Development and the downtown zoning regulations are very specific about the means of creating a high-density, livable, walkable and sustainable downtown. I don’t believe a Tenant Driven approach will accomplish those goals. I believe the plan must be concept driven.

·         The third and final point that compelled me was the fact that although D’Amato Realty has extensive experience in design, construction and maintenance of quality retail, commercial and residential buildings, they have not been involved in the design, concept planning or execution of a Downtown Development.

Renaissance Downtowns specializes in the creation of the type of downtown that we envision. In fact our RFP and subsequent RFQ stated under the EVALUATION & SELECTION PROCESS: Developers with experience in developing similar projects and the credentials to carry out the project will be given more favorable consideration.

It is not an easy choice, particularly when you are trying to plan for current and future generations, but I will support the selection of Renaissance Downtowns because:
·         I believe they best meet the criteria outlined in our RFQ,
·         Because they understand concept-driven development and
·         Because they have extensive experience in undertaking the type of re-creation of a downtown that this board, this city and the citizens of Bristol have envisioned, and articulated over the last two and a half years.

Finally, I would say that Renaissance, at its heart, is a developer. If they are selected as the Tentative Preferred Developer for Depot Square I urge them to follow through on another promise they made. They have asserted, and I would encourage, that as they move forward, they should use the many experienced and talented construction and professional firms that make Bristol a home.

With a combination of Renaissance as the developer and D’Amato, Carpenter, Laviero and others as construction partners; the process will be smooth, the product will be quality and the city will benefit in myriad ways both during the development process and long beyond.

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