Will we have no-excuse mail-in voting or police cameras in every town in Connecticut? What about paying for HVAC system upgrades at your son’s or daughter’s school?
All of these things could be up for debate in the next legislative session, in a few days.
And that’s just part of the list that leaders from dozens of small towns would like to see on the agenda when the session begins.
NBC Connecticut‘s Mike Hydeck spoke with Joe Delong, director and CEO of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, about the concerns he brings to the table.
Mike: “So saving money for cities and towns in Connecticut, regional services has long been a debate. What would your members like to see happen to move forward with something like this ?”
Long“Well, I think the only thing they would like is to just see some barriers to service sharing removed. Right now, one of the biggest challenges we face with service sharing is that we have collective bargaining in the state, our municipal leaders are not suggesting that we get rid of it, but quite often when you try to combine a service and resolve it through collective bargaining, you end up having to negotiate with three, four or five different bargaining units on the exact same And what ends up happening in a lot of these cases, it doesn’t become a municipal fight against union, it becomes a union fight against union that the unions don’t necessarily bargain from the same position, so one of the things that we advocated for that was actually voted down by the House of Representatives last year, but that i was not passed by the senate, was whether you are trying to put in place an initiative to share services between communities or between different entities, that only one bargaining unit is responsible for representing the interests of everyone involved. So, you know, basically city governments have to negotiate as a coalition with a position. And workers need to bargain as a coalition with one position in order to get these things done. And right now, that’s just not happening. We therefore hope that the General Assembly will finally take action on this very important issue.”
Mike“For people watching who don’t understand this so much – let’s talk about a case in point. Are we talking about DPW workers being able to cross city lines? Are we talking about emergency services? When you are trying to share this kind of intermunicipal services, what services are you talking about? And why would it be difficult?”
Long“Well, you know, here’s how simple it can be when you’re having trouble. The city of Hartford, years ago, not this combination of services with neighboring towns, but actually within the city, went to combine its IT departments from the board of education and the general government on the city side and everyone was in favor of that and thought that was the best idea and it was going to create a better service , that was going to save Hartford taxpayers money but unfortunately what they ran into was that you had different bargaining units, bargaining units that were with Board of Ed bargaining units that were with the general government, the city government, and the bargaining units couldn’t agree on their position, they couldn’t get. einly. So if we can’t even do it in a city because of these types of conflicts, that should give you an idea of how difficult it can be to do it outside of a community within, you know, several communities.
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Mike: “Okay, so let’s talk about something that was a big problem at the start of the pandemic, it’s still a problem now – trying to improve HVAC in schools. It’s a big problem, because schools get a lot of money every year from the state. And sometimes they choose not to do the HVAC upgrades, that’s the position of the state. Like look, we give you money, you should be spending it where it needs to be spent. But now there is an argument to say, look, let’s do this differently. Can the state fund or fundraise for CVC? Is that how you would like to see things, your membership?”
Long“Yeah, well, I think it’s important to point out that there are state programs that recognize that there is an end of life for a roof on a building. And so the state plays a role in funding the roof replacement. There are state programs programs that recognize that there is an end of life for windows. And so, as windows reach a certain age limit, the The state will help fund the replacement of these windows. But the way the state program is currently written, it does not recognize that there is always an end of life on an air quality system. So, as they team up to replace a roof and they team up to replace a window, they say, “hey, we’re not going to team up to replace the air quality systems because if they deteriorated, it’s because you haven’t done the proper maintenance. Without using the city, without there being a recognition that, you know, you can do the right maintenance on it, that things have an end of life. So what we’ve been working on with the state is trying to get them to recognize pretty much the same way they do with rooftops, the same way they do with windows, that there is an end of life for HVAC systems and that we should all work together to replace these systems when they no longer work. “