Finch to defend solar panel plan at meeting
Posted in the Trumbull Forum
#1 Jan 26, 2014
BRIDGEPORT -- Mayor Bill Finch isn't going to sit idly by while critics throw rocks at his solar panels.
The mayor will co-host a Feb. 6 forum at Roosevelt School to defend his proposal to lease the ridge of the shuttered Seaside Park landfill to United Illuminating for a 9,000-panel solar field.
The idea for the forum was first floated by members of the City Council's Contracts Committee, which recently tabled a vote on a 20-year lease with UI because the company had no visuals of what the field would look like.
The committee's concerns were exacerbated when UI suggested the solar field may be surrounded by a fence with barbed wire for security.
Freshman Councilman Rick Torres, R-130, in particular, has demanded more information, arguing the installation would mar the city's shoreline and its waterfront view from the Black Rock neighborhood he represents.
The landfill is sandwiched between historic Seaside Park in the city's South End and Cedar Creek in Black Rock.
Torres, Councilwoman Susan Brannelly, D-130, and the two council members from the South End -- Jack Banta, D-131, and Denese Taylor-Moye, D-131 -- will also attend the February meeting.
Banta favors the solar panels, adding that he sees no other use for the landfill.
"How many years has that trash dump been empty?" he said.
For the record, the landfill was closed and capped in the late 1990s.
Torres and others believe the land should be left untouched or incorporated back into Seaside Park.
Finch and his allies say transforming the landfill into park land would be too expensive, while UI would pay the city about $7 million over 20 years in taxes and rent.
"This green energy project will generate tax revenue for the city and cut down on UI's dependence on fossil fuels," the mayor's office said.
Torres took issue with the decision to hold the meeting in the South End.
"More likely than not, participation by Black Rock residents will be minimal because it's across town," he said.
Torres said he may still pursue hosting an event for his constituents.
Brannelly said she is fine with the choice of Roosevelt School for the solar forum.
"It was suggested it should happen in the district where the park actually resides," she said. "I thought that was a very, very good idea."
While the solar field has been in the works for a few years, it was not widely promoted before late October, when Finch and Daniel Esty, the state's outgoing Department of Energy and Environmental Protection commissioner, appeared in Black Rock to tout preliminary approval by state regulators.
The mayor sees the solar panels as a major accomplishment in his ongoing efforts to make the city a leader in an environmentally sustainable economy.
"That's going to change the image of the city of Bridgeport," he said in October.
Torres, who was elected in November, has criticized the mayor for treating the solar plan like a done deal, even though it still needed the council's review and blessing.
"Mayor Finch's desire to be regarded as a selfless civil servant and custodian of the earth necessitates the solar panels be in a highly visible location, hence his proposal to place them at Seaside Park," Torres said.
Since: Aug 10
#2 Jan 26, 2014
How much is UI is going to pay the city? We demand answers.
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