As MISA sinks deeper into the bog, a request for more money

MISA building committee meets in  the La Brea conference room

MISA building committee meets at the La Brea Conference Center

Another request raises the cost to $46.1 million, and counting.

Original estimate back in 2009 was $27,815,000 – so precise, right down to the “final” fifteen thousand dollars.

But don’t worry, be happy – this is absolutely the last time the MISA folks will be back for more:

The Building Committee chairman [Joe Ross] said he hopes that the $2.37 million contingency allocation comprises his panel’s latest request for project funding.

“At this point, we think this is everything we need,” he added.

Uh huh.


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67 responses to “As MISA sinks deeper into the bog, a request for more money

  1. uminn65

    I’m continually amazed that the home town of many of the smartest business managers is actually run with less intelligence and inferior financial judgment than the corrupt cities run by political machines.

    • hmmm

      I think it is run by their spouses whoever they may be and are stay at home do nothings who need to feel important. This is absolutely not about the kids but about the adults who need to feel useful.

      This is purely conjecture but it might be accurate. Please correct me if I am mistaken

      • Old Chinese Proverb: “Anytime you hear anyone say ‘We’ve got to do this for the kids!” you can be sure somebody is about to make a lot of money.”

      • anonymous

        Stay at home do nothings? Is that what you think of moms? Perhaps it’s just what you call the PTA moms? Can’t you think of a way to insult Ericson without insulting all moms?

  2. Lorin Hart

    Oooooo. Slam the moms…..yikes.

  3. AJ

    Nice painting — predators in the foreground, vultures and giant sloths mid-ground, and the famous for being extinct woolly mammoths in the background. Allegorical perfection.

    As beautiful as it is, I prefer this painting of a Yeti with a monkey on his back. Notice the perfectly captured expression of angst. And of course the ubiquitous “Yeti in the background” — isn’t that the way they’re always seen — taking a leak. I mean, that just about says it all.

  4. Greenwich Taxpayer

    Public hearing on the budget is tonight – everyone who opposes more for MISA should come out to speak against – believe it or not, the BET does listen and if there are more for than against they will keep the money in. If there is a lot of public outcry they will cut it. So if you want to make a difference get out there and bring a friend (usually there is one or at most two who speak against and they are the same people every time).

    • I will be sending my annual letter to BET later today. I’ll send Chris a copy. Here’s the short version:

      The MISA Building Committee (MISA-BC) obtained a conditional EPA approval to begin MISA construction without first getting authorization from P&Z as required by The Town Charter. Certain Town officials then went into a series of secret meetings in which they agreed to tell the public MISA-BC had obtained all required approvals, and was cleared to begin construction.

      The construction to date is not compliant with the terms of the conditional approval, and will have to be completely removed.

      During the construction, PCBs escaped from the MISA footprint. There is some evidence MISA-BC literally flushed PCBs down the toilet to get them off-site, contaminating the Town Sewer System, and Long Island Sound.

      I will send the EPA administrator who issued the conditional approval a “Notice of Violation” asking him to enforce the terms. If he fails to do so within 90 days, I will file suit in Federal Court. (This is the unique aspect of the Clean Water Act — Individuals can bring suit directly in Federal Court if Government officials are in violation.)

      BET will have to make some kind of provision in the budget to answer my Notice of Violation.

      Bill Effros

      • Anonymous

        qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur? CF can translate and maybe confirm that this action could fall under the Lincoln Law?

        • The Clean Water Act is modern qui tam legislation, however awards are limited to recovery of legal costs. All fines and remedial action costs go to the US Government which can award some of the remediation to other environmental projects–we could wind up paying for a clean-up in Norwalk.

  5. Was a MISA supporter

    This is unbelievable but not surprising. When you put PTA moms in charge of the BOE and appoint former PTA mom BOE chair Leslie Moriarty what do you expect. Elections have consequences. Moriarity should be removed immediately for incompetence and Mason should block any additional funding.

  6. RTM member

    The RTM can reject any additional monies. Because the additional request is bonded money it requires a simple majoity of the ENTIRE legislative body ( something like 118 votes. ) This is dictated by town charter. Let’s hope the RTM sends a message especially if Mason won’t and let’s hope Moriary steps aside. Her blatant disregard for town finances combined with her inability to properly update the BET and BOS on progress is inexcusable.

    • CatoRenasci

      There will be a full court press by the PTA and the educrats to keep the spigot running.

      Perhaps the better approach on MISA is simply to cut ALL BOE capital funding to 0 until MISA is finished.

      Or, perhaps more realistically, to cut whatever additional amounts the ask for for MISA from the BOE’s other capital spending.

      MISA is probably not stoppable now – the hole is in the ground – but the administrators and the BOE can and should pay for the folly by reducing other spending.

      The BOE is the only part of the Town Budget to increase this year.

      • How about we start by cutting all funding for implementation of the CORE curriculum? I’d be a start.

        • Riverside Chick

          Imagine the computer lab/center that could be created with this money that would benefit ALL students!!! All jobs now require a long list of computer skills for entry level jobs! I look at the employment ads every day….,PLEASE… something that will benefit all students. Many of the kids DO NOT go to college. This project is a luxury we cannot afford!

      • Budget watcher

        Not true. The ambulance service ( GEMS ) once again is requesting an increase. They asked and received a 14 % increase last year and are about to get approved for an additional increase. The GT reported GEMS having an overwhelming amount of supervisors and administrators. All making 130K with take home cars. We all know the DEMS will do nothing about cost savings but come on Republicans. Mason Tarkingtin where are you? Hold people accountable for once!

        • Anonymous

          Another GEMS basher comes out of the woodwork- I wonder if he will change his tune the next time he or someone in his family has a heart attack or medical emergency and is saved by GEMS’ five-minute average response time. But, since he read about their “overwhelming amount of supervisors and administrators” in The Greenwich Time, it must be true.

        • Town Volunteer

          Has the town ever considered doing an in depth financial analysis of GEMS financing. How does a department of 4 ambulances justify a 4.5 million dollar request. Has the BET examined line by line GEMS expenditures. What do 15 supervisors do? Has any one requested a job description? What hours do they work? Why can’t monies GEMS requested this year be taken out of their reserve fund? Again this is another example of a department without oversight. GEMS should be subjected to the same scrutiny as the Fire Department.

        • Town volunteer

          GEMS like all other departments should be subject to the same line by line budget examination. The number of paid supervisors ( 15 I believe ) is at the very least questionable. What do they do? How many calls do they respond? What are their day to day responsibilities? What hours do they work? GEMS operates 4 ambulances a day. To have that many supervisors is not only wrong but financially irresponsible. But this is what you get when departments go unchecked for long. Maybe this time the BET will finally hold GEMS accountable.

        • Town resident 49 years

          GEMS is asking for 4.5 million dollars? Are you serious? Don’t they bill? Don’t they fundraise? And why so many supervisors with a workforce of 50. Who finances a take home car? I thought Tesei ended that. The BET has a fiduciary responsibility here . I read in the GT that BET member Leslie Tarkingtin motioned to cut “some ” funding but she once again did no follow up. Let’s hope she and others finally act.

        • Why would the town allow these supervisors to take home cars. Why can’t they hop in a town vehicle when they arrive work. An audit must be done of mileage and to see if these supervisors coming from as far away as Milford are actually using the town car work use and not going to grocery store, school etc.

        • The GEMS medics do an outstanding job. 15 supervisors in a system of 4 ambulances is very excessive. My advice to GEMS brass is to stop defending such. Be happy you got away with it for 20 years. And be happy the BET didn’t do their due diligence and require accountability. What are you hiding?

        • Is it the red headed supervisor that lives in Milford. I never see him on calls.

        • You don’t see GEMS supervision because they are usually at the J House securing rooms for upcoming storms.
          Who approved hotel rooms for GEMS supervisors. And who is paying for it? Town dollars? No other town department has authorization to spend funds on hotel rooms.
          Sleep in the crew rooms with the crew or sleep on the car we give you.

      • MISA supporter but this is ridicouus

        While you are correct when you say nothing can be done about the auditorium and orchestra pit…..
        Something can be done to stop or at the very least modify stage 2 ( the instructional space.) Ground has not been broken for phase 2. There is still time. Do not approve any more funding and require the BOE to come back with a different plan ( phase 2 )
        This is not that difficult people.

      • Cobra

        Fill in the damn hole and cut our losses. The funds saved could be allocated to far more beneficial purposes than a grandiose music palace.

        • Anonymous

          Like New Leb

        • Too late.

          Digging the hole and setting the steel compounded the problem.

          Many times the amount of funds already allocated will have to be spent in order to clean up the mess.

          Every day of additional work just makes the problem worse.

          When you’ve dug yourself into a hole the first thing you must do is stop digging. That’s what we’ve got to do now.

          MISA-BC is supposed to have a completion bond to bail us out of this kind of situation.

          Bill Effros

      • pulled up in OG

        “The BOE is the only part of the Town Budget to increase this year” except for every other part.

    • The Town failed to note environmental contingencies in the “Contingent Liabilities” section of its 2014 bond offering. It also failed to note it did not have required environmental permits for MISA construction. It also failed to advise holders of previously issued bonds of these contingent liabilities, as required under the terms of previous bond issues.

      Once bondholders get wind of what’s going on here, they will probably demand the immediate recall of all Town of Greenwich Bonds ($150,000,000??). This will cause our bond rating to fall dramatically, and the cost of borrowing to escalate sharply.

      Bill Effros

      • Anonymous

        If this is really a matter significant enough to warrart the notifications you mention, why do you suppose no one has said anything yet? And how was this not noticed by the ratings agencies that just gave AAA ratings?

        • The Town acknowledged a “$100,000,000+” contingent liability in a “Secret Meeting” FOIA hearing brought by The Hearst Corporation, because its reporters were barred from attending. The secret meeting was attended by The Town Attorney, The Selectmen, BOE, DPW, AECOM, MISA-BC, and outside consultants and attorneys.

          A $100,000,000+ contingent liability on an $85,000,000 bond is surely significant enough to bondholders and rating agencies.

          It should come as no surprise I have said something about this to the SEC which regulates such matters.

          It was not noticed by ratings agencies because the Town Attorney, and the Town Bond Counsel did not include it in the list of contingent liabilities.

          Bill Effros

  7. Republican and former RTM member

    Leslie Tarkingtin the BET liaison for MISA talks a good game but has done nothing to challenge Moriarty and the BOE. Tarkington was charged with the task of holding the MISA building committee people accountable. She has failed. And she continues to allow this nonsense to continue. Tarkington also needs to go.

    • Anonymous

      Does anyone who talks so authoritatively know that Barbara O’Neil, a Republican, is the Chairman of the BOE, not Leslie Moriarity who was the previous Chair, and a Democrat

      • Former PTA mom, mother of 3

        Leslie Moriarity who can’t seem to let go was appointed to oversee the MISA committee. Instsed of just retiring ( and maybe even consider getting a job ) she opted to remain intrecnhed in school issues. She works behind the scenes controlling the new chair while giving orders to Bob “I was a republican now I am a democrat “Brady and PTA moms Appelbaum and Erickson.

      • I believe Leslie was appointed to MISA-BC. I forget who appointed her, or why. I don’t see her name listed currently. It was Leslie who told RTM at the 2013 Budget meeting that the proposed funding before RTM was absolutely the last time BOE would ever ask for more funds for MISA. BET added more than $1,000,000 to the BOE request last year, with the agreement from BOE that any unused portion of the environmental contingency of $500,000 would not be spent for other purposes.

        Apparently, MISA-BC has already spent 3 times the contingency amount, without ever reporting the overrun, or the problem. Now they seek an additional 5 times that amount. It won’t be nearly enough.

        Bill Effros

  8. Anonymous

    66% over budget already and they just broke ground. What a joke.

  9. Father of 2. Glenville resident

    Stop this project now. And this is coming from someone who supported MISA. The town leadership needs take charge and reevaluate. Tesie Marzullo Mason need to remove the current committee and replace them with competent people. Stage one of MISA is complete but stage two still can be stopped or modified. Call Tesei Mason and or Marzullo!

    • Anonymous

      Sorry, but the Selectmen cannot remove Building Committee members once constituted. That’s the law and , like all laws in Greenwich, deeply stupid

  10. it is nonsense to say that the MISA project can’t be stopped now. When no more checks go out, the project will end. Because of incompetence, the town will now have to deal with the environmental issue, but they would not have to pay for the concrete and steel and pipe and cable and bricks. Most of the money would be saved by stopping now.

    • AJ

      Throw a few broken Greek columns in the orchestra pit, call it the ruins, then call it a day.

    • Correct.

      MISA-BC has been trying to shift the cost overruns from the contractors to Greenwich taxpayers. If the contractors had done their job properly in the first place, this never would have happened.

      A private group offered to convert the Havemeyer Building into a $30,000,000 Performing Arts Center using privately raised funds. BOE turned this offer down, saying it would prefer to convert the existing GHS auditorium into a more suitable Performing Arts Center, which, it said, it could do for less than $15,000,000. The original contract for what has become “MISA” was for an auditorium renovation costing less than $15,000,000 in construction costs, and requiring no variances or environmental permits.

      MISA-BC has so polluted the site, it will not be able to be used as a school ever in the future.

      We will pay dearly for allowing kids to play on fields known to be polluted, and for allowing them to attend school during open-air excavation of a known PCB polluted site. (PCBs fall into the same legal category as Asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act. All work must be performed in a completely enclosed area, with negative atmospheric pressure, so no particles can escape. All workers must wear hazmat suits, which must be discarded daily and sent to EPA approved PCB waste sites. Everything and everyone entering or leaving the site must be decontaminated every day.)

      BOE member Peter von Braun knows these things from his own personal experience as a corporate executive, and he knows what these violations can cost. That is why he has consistently spoken up at meetings, and refused to vote with the majority.

      It is long past time for people in Town to start listening to what Mr. von Braun has to say.

      Bill Effros

    • BigMike

      That’s right!
      Steel frame spec homes get taken down and scrapped all the time in this town, why can’t this be undone!

  11. Anonymous

    Too many of these big projects – schools, religious institutions, the Y’s etc – end up in the hands of people (male or female) who want to feel important and/or want to enhance their resumes.
    Nothing like saying you were in charge of a $40 million project to impress future employers.

  12. TheBox

    Seriously – with a town so proud of their low taxes and the related penny pinching that keeps them low… how did this monstrosity ever get approved in the first place? How was this ever considered a priority? Catch me up to speed here… so I can be better equipped to defend my gut instinct to tell people we need to stop throwing good money after bad and pull the plug on this thing.

  13. BigMike

    So they can’t remove the steel, so why not making it a multi level parking garage. Way more useful, and cheaper too.
    I lived across the street from the majestic movie theatre as a bachelor and watched the parking garage go from dirt to 5 levels in less than a week.
    It was incredible.
    Prefab at its best.
    Kill the project
    Kill the people in charge
    Kill em all’

  14. BigMike

    Just got the GPS newsletter.
    Nothing about MISA obviously.
    But they did mention “phase 2” of the technical learning initiative.
    Mckersie has decided that the best way to educate our kids is with the Acer Chromebook.


    it will be infected with viruses before the kids finish

    • No, it won’t. Chromebooks don’t need virus protection because all the power is in the Google cloud, and Google updates the operating system of each Chromebook every 2 weeks for free. Google knows every owner of every Chromebook, and where it is. Every kid, rich or poor, gets instant access to one of the fastest computers on the planet. Chromebooks are cheap and capable. Google gives free cloud storage.

      I’m not a big fan of BOE, but they got this one right.

  15. Glad I left town

    Town should have bought this property as new high school when they had the chance.

    Are the Italian contractors who dumped all that fill in 1968 still liable? The PCB’s came from Hudson River drenging operations courtesy of good old Jack Welch of GE.

  16. Greenwich Gal

    Bill Effros –
    If what you say is true and the Town of Greenwich is in fact doing all these things illegally – secret meetings, improper remediation of a toxic site, etc – why have the Feds not come and filed cease and desist orders? Where are the lawsuits – other than yours? Why isn’t anything happening outside of your efforts to protect the rights of the people? Wondering…

    • Greenwich Gal,

      The Feds and The State ARE doing things. That’s why the costs keep going up, and the time keeps stretching out. Some Town Officials are trying to end-run the regulators. It hasn’t worked–they have only tricked Town taxpayers.

      To a certain extent, we have only ourselves to blame. Who has time to learn about PCBs? Who has time to sit through endless committee meetings?

      The RTM is very powerful, but much too big. Nobody has a paid staff. The issues are complex. Sorting through the issues takes time and dedication. The work is thankless.

      Our First Selectman is paid $126,000 a year. It’s a full-time job pursuant to The Town Charter. Seriously, what experienced, competent executive can afford a full-time job that pays only $126,000/year? No wonder nobody runs.

      We have cops earning a quarter of a million dollars a year. Our carpet-bagging school superintendents earn more than that. Who’s minding the store? (Not me.)

      The regulators don’t have sufficient staff to oversee everything they are charged with reviewing and regulating. They count on private citizens to blow the whistle. In my experience they have been extremely responsive in following up citizen complaints.

      The secret meeting complaint was filed by the Hearst Corporation, not me. State DEEP administrators turned down all the cheap options for GHS fields remediation. Federal EPA administrators gave the Town only conditional approvals whose conditions have not been met. The Town made unsolicited stipulations in Court to settle suits brought by my neighbors.

      I am the vocal one in my neighborhood, but many people help quietly, and quite effectively. The same is true for many other neighborhoods.

      I will be circulating a “Notice of Violation” petition shortly, to be sent to The EPA administrator. I will sign, and I will ask others to join me. I hope you will consider signing.

      Bill Effros