Chaos reigns at Ansonia WPCA meeting

May 2, 2019

ANSONIA-Newly appointed members were not allowed to participate, motion requests were ignored while WPCA commissioners shouted over each other and a contractor stormed out when his bills were not paid..

“So I don’t get paid,” shouted an exasperated Frank Pepe, holding a letter of guarantee from the city and bills totaling $1,108,619.38 for repairs his construction company did on three collapsed sewer lines.

“I’m sorry Frank,” said Nunzio Parente, the Authority’s chairman. “I was ready to pay half of your money plus ten percent but he wouldn’t go along with the program.”

The “he” Parente pointed to is Charley Stowe, a first ward alderman and WPCA commissioner. Stowe has been battling with the chairman to pay Pepe’s entire bill using the roughly $2.2 million WPCA emergency balance. The commission voted to do so in March but Parente claims that vote was illegal.

“I know each and everyone one you have your own little agenda,” interrupted Bart Flaherty, a longtime Democratic public official who was sitting in the audience with former Democratic Town/City Clerk Beth Shortell Lynch. “But I just ask you to step up to the plate, put those aside and go forward with the business of the citizens of Ansonia.”.

And if all this wasn’t enough DPC Engineering which is studying the city’s nearly century old sewer system advised the WPCA it found widespread infiltration. So they are formulating a ten-year plan with graduated costs totaling $3 million to discover and repair bad lines.

So went another monthly meeting of the city’s Water Pollution Control Authority Wednesday night. All its chaos was captured on video recorded by three separate women.

This once silent and staid group has been immersed in controversy since the massive Feb. 21 Pershing Drive sewer collapse. That collapse flooded the basement of the Lemko Social Club with raw sewage and threatened restaurants along the commercial road. It was followed by two other collapses last month on Woodland Avenue and Hull Street.

“To treat me like this after I saved you $240,000? I got to get paid,” pleaded Pepe, head of Frank Pepe Construction. “I did three jobs for you. I jumped off Derby’s job and ran over to Hull Street and left Derby hanging with a hole in their road.”

Mike D’Alessio, the city’s public works director and a new WPCA appointee who Parente refused to acknowledge, told Hearst Connecticut Media Group “a massive root ball” broke through and shattered the sewer line on Hull Street near the Route 8 overpass in mid-April.

“Pepe was out there four or five days,” he said. “They installed 60 to 70 feet of pipe.”

“This is wrong,” Stowe said when Parente refused to hear a new motion to pay Pepe’s bill.. “The next time something like this happens they don’t want to show because Nunzio Parente is not going to pay the bill.”

“It has to be done legally,” Parente said.

It was back in March when Parente stormed out of a WPCA meeting after Commissioners Stowe, Henry Boladz and Domenico Filippone, another alderman carried a 3-2 vote to pay Pepe’s full bill. Parente said that vote is illegal by citing the WPCA organizational section of the City Charter which reads: Membership shall include one member of the Board of Aldermen and one member of the Board of Public Works.”

“That means one alderman,” he said. “Not two, not three.”

However Corporation Counsel John P. Marini, when asked to look at that section by Hearst, maintains that’s the mandatory number and “doesn’t preclude additional members from those groups being appointed by the mayor.”

Nevetheless the Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance last month to increase the WPCA from seven to nine members and add the words “at least one alderman and two members of the Board of Public Works.”

Those additional appointees showed up Wednesday night.

But Parente was ready and refused to acknowledge them. He brought in Joseph D. Szerejko, a lawyer with Murtha Cullina which represents the WPCA.

Szerejko told the Authority that since the ordnance did not contain an effective date, state law does not allow it to take effect until 30 days after its publication (April 19) in a newspaper.

That settled the appointment question but not the billing.

“This board even though you don’t believe it did, passed a vote we would pay for the bill when it came in,” Stowe told Parente.

“You did vote on it but it was illegal because he (Filippone) should not have been on the board,” Parente charged. He then pointed out the bill payment was not on his revised agenda.

“It’s not on because you took it off,” Stowe argued.

“I amended the agenda which is my right to do,” Parente countered.

“I don’t care if you get it out of your right pocket or you left pocket, somebody has got to pay the bill,” Pepe fired from the audience. “I went into my pocket deep and I did your jobs. On top of it I saved you guys $240,000 because we changed the whole pipe and the manhole (on Pershing Drive).”

“If we don’t vote he’s going to get away with what he’s doing,” Stowe advised his colleagues.

“Charley I told you at the next meeting you will have an appropriate board,” Parente retorted. He then turned to Pepe and said: “I tried to get you half of it so at least you can take care of incidental stuff and...be able to breate a little bit. He (Stowe) did not want to cooperate.”

“You gotta pay the bill,” chimed in D’Alessio, the Public Works director and a new member. “Why do you have to hold this guy up?”

“I don’t know why I’m even talking to you,” Parente said. “You’re not even a member...The WPCA is not responsible for (maintaining and installing) the pipes in the ground...If you want to do that you need to change the Charter.”

By this time Pepe had enough

“You know there’s interest on that bill for next month....Good night,” he added upon walking out.