Wednesday morning at the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments' regular meeting, SCCOG Executive Director Jim Butler read a letter by New London Mayor Daryl Finizio saying that New London can’t pay its dues this year and will withdraw from the group.
“The (SCCOG) hasn’t dealt with this situation in 30 or 40 years, I believe,” Butler said. “I think it is a terrible precedent should it happen.”
New London owes $15,191 for its annual SCCOG fee, which is 10 percent of the total the 20 SCCOG municipalities give, and that loss will be a “big hit” to the group’s budget, Butler said. Meanwhile, SCCOG has secured millions of dollars for infrastructure projects in the past few years for New London, he said.
“I hope we can meet with the mayor and maybe the city council as soon as possible,” Butler said. “Every time something like this happens, it just takes a little bit away from the strength of the other 19 municipalities.”
Finizio said in a letter to Butler that the City Council removed funding for the membership during deliberations on the 2013 fiscal year budget. He said he would be unable to approve funding for the membership without council approval.
"I hope New London's withdrawal of membership is not seen as an unwillingness to work with the region on issues that concern us all," Finizio wrote. "In future budget cycles I hope the city of New London will be able to renew our membership."
SCCOG Chairman and Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said SCCOG should give a presentation to the city council about the positive aspects of the group. SCCOG member and Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon agreed, saying the group should emphasis the positive.
“The message from (SCCOG) needs to be positive,” Congdon said. “(New London is) an integral part of this region.”
What Is SCCOG, Benefits
SCCOG is one of several councils of governments across Connecticut. The group is composed of 20 municipalities and the two Native American tribes in Southeastern Connecticut, and once-a-month a representative from each town (generally the first selectman or mayor) meet in Norwich.
The group aims to get funding on regional projects such as regional transportation and regional water service, among other duties. New London has specifically benefited from SCCOG, as the group has secured millions of dollars to upgrade the city’s infrastructure, Butler said.
As an example, New London is expected to receive more than $1 million in funding secured by SCCOG to complete Phase 2 of the Montauk Avenue project, Butler said. If New London withdraws, SCCOG funds will go to projects in other towns and cities that do pay their dues, Butler said.
“This isn’t a threat,” Butler said. “It’s just an opportunity for (SCCOG) to spend money on its members.”