Brian Miller, managing principal and senior vice president of the Turner Miller Group, came before the Board of Selectmen last Wednesday to discuss the work he’s done on the plan, which is a guideline for conserving and developing land in the future, and the bill for said work.
Miller sent the town a bill for $9,975 late last year for work that has been performed up until this point.
“All of the $9,000 plus has been done. There’s a couple thousand dollars that you have not actually been billed for. Some of it has actually been done, some of it hasn’t. It’s mostly finalization of the plan,” Miller said. “The issue tonight, I think, is the close to $10,000, all of which has been done.”
The town had originally hired Miller in 2010 to perform the state mandated updates to the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development for a total cost of $51,000.
The administration at the time intended to offset the cost of the work with federal and state grants. However, the town was never able to secure any grants for the work and has been paying Miller from the professional fees account since hiring him.
The town has paid Miller $32,000 for his work so far.
First Selectman Gerard Smith explained that the town needs to find a way to pay the bill, since it was not expected or budgeted for.
Smith was also concerned with how much more the town would have to pay for the work that Miller is doing.
“You say it’s a little bit of money. When the bill is $9,000 and you tell me it’s another $5,000, that’s a lot of money. That’s 50 percent of the bill,” Smith said. “I get it, it’s not here on this page right now, but you’re going to come knocking on the door looking for it and I don’t have it. That’s why I want to know. I don’t want to go looking for $10,000 when I need $20,000.”
Smith requested a full invoice for what the total price of the plan would be. At the meeting, Miller could not say what the full price of the project would be, but promised to have a grand total within the next couple of weeks.
The other concern the board had was with the amount and quality of work that was being done on the plan.
During the board’s regular meeting on January 14, former chairman of the Land Use and Open Space Committee Richard Minnick voiced concerns that the work was not up to the standards that he had expected from Miller.
During the special meeting last Wednesday, Minnick said he was still concerned that the Land Use and open Space Committee had voted to pass the plan on to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
“This committee, in good faith working with [Miller], and this is what makes me feel bad, went forward and said it’s good enough, he promised to give us a professional document that we could give to [Planning and Zoning]. We voted to do it,” Minnick said.
Minnick said that there were a lot of errors, including the use of Oxford rather than Beacon Falls, incorrect data, and grammatical mistakes. He pointed out that Miller had promised to produce a draft of the plan in early 2012, but it was not received until September.
Minnick was also upset that the report from Samuel Gold, the senior planner at Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley, indicated the same errors.
“You talk about the age restricted housing in there, but there was nobody on the committee that wanted to go forward with that,” Minnick said to Miller. “You’re playing a game and you’re playing against the wrong guy.”
Miller explained that he was neither intentionally leaving any mistakes in nor trying to do anything that would not be the best for the town.
“I will change whatever needs to be changed. I admit there were some administrative issues within my organization that might have failed on this. They will be changed. But I would also suggest a public type of dispute on the type of plan is not appropriate,” Miller said.
Miller also said that he would not intentionally go of out of his way to damage his relationship with the town.
“I’ve been the planner here for six or seven years. I very much value my relationship here. If I tell you I’m going to do something at a certain price, I’m going to do it,” Miller said.
The board requested that Miller meet with the Planning and Zoning Commission to go over any proposed changes to the Plan of Conservation and Development and for Miller to prepare a full cost analysis of what the town owes.