Connecticut spent $16 million in taxpayer money cleaning up contaminated Stamford waterfront land to lure the world's largest hedge fund to the city.
Even though the deal has fallen through, the state will not get that money back, the state's economic development agency disclosed Tuesday.
"This cleanup was necessary to allow for any future development on the site," said Jim Watson, a spokesman for the state Department of Economic and Community Development. "There is no obligation for repayment."
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the city's former mayor led a two-year-long recruitment of Bridgewater Associates, offering $115 million in incentives for the company, which manages $150 billion in global assets, to move its headquarters from Westport to Stamford. The agreement required the company to create 1,000 new jobs.
On Friday, Bridgewater Associates walked away from the deal, which had been the subject of local opposition in Stamford.
"The state has wasted money going after this deal to the extent that money the state has already spent improves the property of a private property owner," said McKinney, R-Fairfield, state Senate minority leader.
The money was spent on a brownfields cleanup and replacing a damaged bulkhead on the 14-acre site known as Harbor Point, an investment that will still pay dividends.
McKinney called on the state to be more judicious when spending taxpayer dollars on economic development.
"I would have expected the state to have at least protected the taxpayers if the deal didn't go through to get that money back at some point in the future," McKinney said. "Where we're left right now is state taxpayers spent $16 million at a minimum to the benefit of a private property owner."
Foley, who is seeking a rematch with Malloy in November, bemoaned the costs borne by taxpayers.
"This nonsensical policy shouldn't have been engaged in the first place and now he wasn't able to execute on the deal and is leaving the taxpayers holding a $16 million bill," Foley said of Malloy. "Connecticut needs a comprehensive plan for economic growth, and we don't have that right now."
Andrew Doba, Malloy's spokesman, said in a statement. "Tom Foley and John McKinney are wrong. This was a contaminated site that required remediation regardless of what eventually happens with it. Are they just looking for something to criticize or do they really believe we shouldn't clean up the environment?"
Devon Puglia, a Democratic State Central Committee spokesman, said McKinney and Foley have no understanding of what it takes to create jobs and promote economic development.
"These are two candidates who were silent while the last two Republican administrations drove this state into a ditch," he said.
Malloy's would-be challengers weren't the only ones to criticize the deal, however. Some in other brownfield-laden communities viewed the state-funded cleanup with envy.Read Full Article
"The state has invested billions of dollars in Stamford and nowhere close to that in Bridgeport, and it is frustrating," said former Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi, a Democrat who is considering running again in 2015. "I understand how these deals work. ... However the state of Connecticut has to be cognizant of places like Bridgeport."
The developer of the former brownfields site is Stamford-based Building and Land Technology, which ran into local opposition over the displacement of a boatyard during the highly contentious and lengthy vetting of the project.
A spokeswoman for BLT declined to comment.
While the developer does not have to repay the state, "BLT cannot sell, lease or transfer the property without DECD's written consent," Watson said.
McKinney characterized BLT as the beneficiary of corporate welfare.
"As it stands right now, BLT has an improved property because of state taxpayers," McKinney said. "BLT is certainly a good upstanding company by itself. They could have afforded those improvements. They didn't need the taxpayers to do it."
Staff writer Brian Lockhart contributed to this report.
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