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Argument Erupts at Board of Aldermen Meeting [Videos]

Overall, Democrats oppose and Republicans favor building permit waiver.

Before waiving fees for rebuilding homes destroyed or damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, the Board of Aldermen engaged in heated arguments at its Monday meeting at City Hall.

Bernard “Bob” Joy (R-2nd D) -- the Republican candidate for mayor of Milford -- had initiated an ordinance that would grant a waiver of permit fees for rebuilding due to damage caused by Hurricane Irene.

During discussion, Benjamin “Ben” Blake (D-5th D) – the Democratic candiate for mayor of Milford -- argued that waiving these fees would not help the injured homeowner, but would rather, give relief to the insurance companies. 

“What should concern us here, is that it [the ordinance exempting injured homeowners from permit fees] doesn’t necessarily focus on distressed property owners as [much as] it does provide relief for insurance companies,” said Blake.

Blake cited an email from the director of the Permit Board that he said listed 11 reasons as to why the proposed waiver should not be approved. 

“According to the permit director [Jocelyn Mathiasen],” said Blake, “she speculates that people may confuse the need for no permit fees with no permits.”

“Would I be correct in saying that the memo you are referring to is an email that you received, and that you were the only one that received that email?” asked Republican Chair of the Board of Aldermen Greg Smith.

Blake claimed that Republican Mayor James Richetelli had also seen the email, and Smith called a five-minute recess to look at the email. 

This was the first of three recesses called during discussion of the ordinances that would waive fees for homeowners affected by Irene.

Following the first recess, Blake said, “I applaud the efforts of the proposal, but I don’t necessarily think that the way that it’s drafted is going to fulfill the interests that we’re looking for.”

But Smith argued heatedly, “The City of Milford shouldn’t be making a profit off of Hurricane Irene.”

Joining Smith, Joy said, “These are fees we would never have collected were it not for Hurricane Irene…It’s just not right.”

Arguing continued, sometimes quite heatedly.

Alderman Raymond Vitali (R-5th D) sided with Joy, saying, “These are people who need help.”

Alderman Nick Veccharelli, Jr. (D-2nd D) asked to see the email, and the “eleven points” made by the permit director.

Blake blamed Richetelli for not circulating the email or having Mathiasen come speak to the Board of Aldermen regarding the issue of permit fee waivers.

Veccharelli went on to say that the city could use the approximately half a million in fees, and said that if, in fact, the insurance companies pay the fees, the money should go to the City of Milford.  Still, Veccharelli emphasized that injured parties shouldn’t have to pay for permits.

The mayor said, “This is not an easy process for the homeowners… They’re hurting right now. …If you waive the fees, that’ll be one less expense these homeowners have to pay.”

Alderman Paula Smith (R-3rd D) was outraged at the suggestion that permit fees would be great income for the city, or that homeowners in need would consider this waiver a windfall, as had been suggested by the opposition.

“I don’t even know where to begin here,” Smith said.  “My family, my neighbors, none of them is going to say, ‘Yeah, this is a windfall’ [if they don’t have to pay permit fees to rebuild].  … We shouldn’t even be having this discussion.  To the people of Milford, I am so sorry that we’re even having this conversation.”

But Alderman Philip Vetro (D-4th D) argued on Blake’s side, and from his own point of view as a licensed contractor.  According to Vetro, permit fees are part of the estimate he debates with insurance companies over, along with other fees such as Dumpsters and trucks. 

“I’ve never had a situation where I’ve left a homeowner dry [to pay their own permit fees],” said Vetro.

The argument went on for more than an hour, with one side arguing that waiving permit fees would hurt the City of Milford not only in lost revenue, but in confusion over the permit process.

The other side argued, in the words of Alderman Pamela Staneski (R-5th D), "(We need to be) focusing on what we can do about making these people whole.”

In the end, all ordinances to waive fees incurred during the rebuilding effort of homeowners were passed by a 10 to 4 majority of the aldermen.  These ordinances include waivers for:  permit fees, Planning and Zoning Board application fees, and Zoning Board of Appeals application fees and filing fees.

In regard to the lengthy arguments among the aldermen over the ordinances, Alderman Bill Bevan (R-4th-D) put it this way: “I’ve been listening to this conversation and wondering, 'Would we even have it if this weren’t an election year?' ”

In the end, however, despite the different opinions of the aldermen, the focus returned to the homeowners.

“One way or another, we’re going to do the work to get the homeowners the help that they need,” Richetelli said.

Alex September 13, 2011 at 08:20 PM
"In regard to the lengthy arguments among the aldermen over the ordinances, Alderman Bill Bevan (R-4th-D) put it this way: “I’ve been listening to this conversation and wondering, 'Would we even have it if this weren’t an election year?'" Well, no, we wouldn't - because Mr. Joy might have done some research before submitting an ordinance if it weren't an election year.
Michael Brown September 13, 2011 at 08:38 PM
The Mayor told the DPLU director Jocelyn Mathiasen to stay home last night and not to list her objections to the Bob Joy's ordinance. Richetelli told her HE would distribute her objections. He did not. She had eleven (11) objections. http://bit.ly/qFuIKf Why would you not let the director of land use speak Mr. Mayor? I'm sure Mr. Joy could have handled these objections. (There were 11 objections.) Didn't you think the people had a right to know what was in you possession all along.
robert frank September 13, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Why can't they just be normal and have a "fee waiver" application for those who need it or cannot afford it. Its always the same old B.S. of giving it all away. Now we are going to spend more money with this Joy Characted by opening a police substation? I feel like I am in the twilight zone. The city is 300M in debt and this liberal Republican has not stopped spending! He is becoming a tax and spend nighmare.
RONALD M GOLDWYN September 13, 2011 at 08:56 PM
For one resident who was attending another meeting yesterday, I find this posting most interesting and believe the Democratic minority to be wrong in their conclusion. I for one don't see how it will be a windfall for the insurance companies as the replacement cost is not determined by the cost of each electrical outlet, each light fixture or the permit costs. They give the homeowner a check and say this is for the total cost of rebuilding that which we insured. Last year I had a major rebuild to my house and while I didn't secure the permits I did have them listed as part of the cost of doing business. I have read the letter of the Director of Land use and find that while it may involve additional costs and time for her, She must realize that her job is to serve the people of Milford at all times, not only in normal times, but more especially when disaster strikes. This was true for our firefighters, police officers, menand women at the DPWs and she must not feel that she is exempt from extra work. It is none of her business as to who pays for permits as long as it is normally paid.if required. TO BE CONTINUED
RONALD M GOLDWYN September 13, 2011 at 09:01 PM
CONTINUED Other Boards will determine if the repair is Irene related, so she should have no concern. In an emergency you will have to find the time to do your work. If you have a problem in compling with our new law tell it to your superior and admit that you can't do it. If someone goes beyond the actual footprint they lose their exemption and you can bill them for that which exceeds the footprint unless they have an exemption. and I can assure you that those who will be exempt under this law will be educated as to its meaning. As for your software leave it alone and at the bottom just add a credit to the bottom line, thus leaving a $0 balance. As for General Funds, that too is no concern of yours. As for taxpayer subsidy that too is a matter for the BOA and not you. Yes this was a very pessimistic report by a city employee and not an optimistic one that should have been expected. Now let her write one as to how her office will carry out her job.
Michael Brown September 13, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Yes. The mayor threw the DPLU director under the bus, just as you are doing now. I had no real damage from the storm, but I did have to replace my roof. Gotta go get me one of those free permits. How's the city going to find out when the damage occurred. Hallelujah. Free money.
State Representative Kim Rose September 14, 2011 at 01:15 AM
I normally don't get involved in these heated political debates but this one just mystifies me. I have worked for the building department in one of the states largest cities so I am knowledgeable in this. The fees pay for the administration of the permits as well as the inspections, the fees will be paid for by the insurance company. Bad enough there is only one admistrative person in the department, she will be inundated, perhaps the additional fees would pay for another staff member. The homeowners deductables have been waived by the Governor. This is not saving any homeowner money it is costing the rest of us money, which most of my constiuents don't have. I can't wait till election season is over and pehaps Ben can get us back on the right track with REAL cost savings. Thank you to my colleagues for trying to stop this insane ordinance. Sorry Bob I just don't agree with you on this one. State Rep. Kim Rose
Alice September 14, 2011 at 01:34 AM
I think the fee waiver is nuts, and I am disappointed as a rational person and as a Milford taxpayer that it passed. I know that Milford is a "small city with a big heart", but the problem with the permit waiver is that it doesn't in any way relieve the property owners from the lengthy and perplexing permitting process, it only waives fees that would have otherwise been paid by the insurance companies. This is a bad idea. It makes it seem like the property owners will have a smoother ride to get their houses reconstructed, but instead it is costing the rest of us a huge amount of money and in the end won't make it any easier for anyone to get their buildings reconstructed.
JE September 14, 2011 at 01:56 AM
I'm all for showing compassion for those who suffered huge losses from the storm, but this whole thing has me a bit perplexed. Most contractors I know include the permit fees in the estimate, and pull the permits themselves. There are so many fees and figures in an estimate, it's really the contractor who will make out here. Anyone who thinks the cost of the permit will not be buried somewhere in the estimate is just being niave - while the contractor gets a free ride when he actually goes to pull the permit.
robert frank September 14, 2011 at 03:39 AM
I personally do not know Mr. Joy, but for those of you out there who are intimately close to him does he have a big heart, is he excessively generous, donate money to the guy holding the sign at the on ramp or could it be something else? Like, for example he is running for Mayor and doing charitable things that he believes will impress the good people of Milford enough to earn him their support? Could it be one or the other?
Michael Brown September 14, 2011 at 11:14 AM
What are you fishing for Rocco? Is this some feeble attempt at character assassination. Man, you are desperate.
robert frank September 14, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Mike how would you describe your political ideology? Reading your thoughts and ideas in the places you post certainly leads me to believe you have been a "Row" voter for a long time. Just out of curiosity have you ever voted for someone other than a Democrat, or perhaps the Working Families Party that only cross endorses democrats. Do you care to elaborate on how you judge people who run for office?
Michael Brown September 14, 2011 at 02:40 PM
All you need to know is I'm not voting for you.
Gina September 22, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Point of Clarification - there is no waiver of insurance deductibles The Governor had originally asked insurance companies to waive the Hurricane deductibles that are usually higher than non Hurricane deductibles, the insurance companies agreed to this HOWEVER the storm had been officially declared a Tropical Storm and was NOT a hurricane when it hit CT, therefore there would not be a Hurricane Deductible applied. The standard deductibles still apply to all homeowners making claims on auto, home or flood insurance.
Gina September 22, 2011 at 08:51 PM
Kim please see my note below, you are mis-informed about waiver of insurance deductibles and perpetuating rumors. It is not costing you nor anybody else anything, I'm embarassed that you are a state rep. I lost my house and you are so self absorbed that you think YOU are impacted? Get your facts, educate yourself then speak, otherwise you insult other who are emotionally, financially and physically drained. It will be months before we see any payment from the insurance companies, these payments will be ACV (look it up yourself) in the meanwhile we have to spend our emergency fund to rebuild our lives. It will be months before we know what we can rebuild and how much it will cost ME the homeowner. Even with insurance coverage, this disaster will easily cost me 100k to get back to where I was on August 27th. Your complete lack of compassion and intelligence is impressive, I have never been more disappointed by an elected official, guess I know exactly where I stand.
Gina September 22, 2011 at 09:00 PM
To ALL You know what would really help a person impacted by this disaster? Compassion. Ask anybody you know who has been impacted "what can I do?" you know what? I need so much that even the smallest offer of help actually helps. Help me buy cleaning supplies, help me replace some fo the items I lost, I lost everything on the first floor of my house and two cars, how about asking me if I need a few sweaters for fall or an umbrella or $20 to spend at Target for personal care items. How about offering to keep me company as I have to inventory destroyed items and seek out that which can be salvaged? How about you just take me for a cup of coffee and let me be distracted for a little while by your friendship. Maybe you know somebody that can give me a discount on appliances, groceries, a car. Fighting doesn't help. How about asking those impacted what can be done? How about instead of fighting somebody help us coordinate efforts with our insurance adjusters, contractors, FEMA and SBA? How about donating your time if you have experience in any of these areas to helping some of us who are trying to keep our smiles on for our day jobs and spending every free moment trying to salvage belongings? I treasure the friends who have reached out to me and said "just tell us what you need and we will be there for you" THAT is impact, THAT is compassion. That is what your grandmother would expect of you, so why aren't you doing that?
Michael Brown September 23, 2011 at 03:01 AM
The city will lose $500,000 in fees. Thank you Bob Joy and the Republican Aldermen.

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