Council OKs search for new health district

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PROSPECT — Chesprocott Health District may soon learn the high cost of requesting extra money.

In May Prospect, Cheshire, and Wolcott, the three towns that make up the health district, all received letters from Chesprocott’s Director of Health Thomas Wegrzyn informing the towns that Chesprocott was going to run out of money before the end of the fiscal year.

Due to this set back, Chesprocott sought extra money from the towns at the cost of $1 per resident. For Prospect, that bill totaled nearly $9,500.

“This is very annoying because we’ve been with Chesprocott since 1976 and never had a problem like this. In fact, their auditor, in their annual report, chided them because they were using too much money out of surplus,” Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said during the Town Council meeting on June 5.

Being annoyed was only the beginning for Chatfield, Cheshire Town Manager Michael Milone, and Wolcott Mayor Thomas Dunn. The three town officials are currently discussing the possibility of joining new health districts. Nothing has been decided yet, as they are all in the very early stages of his decision.

On Tuesday night, Prospect’s Town Council voted to allow Chatfield to begin to look into the costs and ability to move to another health district.

“I think it kind of gives some teeth to the thing to look for alternatives,” Council Chair Tom Galvin said.

Chatfield has already been talking with Dunn and Milone, and has already looked into the possibility of other health districts.

“During May and June, after I received the bill for $9,494, I talked with the Naugatuck Valley Health District and the Quinnipiack Valley Health District,” Chatfield said.

The towns have not completely given up on Chesprocott yet, however. They just believe that the health district needs to make some changes before they can commit to staying customers.

“Would like to see them work, but they have to make some major changes,” Chatfield said.

Dunn explained that he wanted to look into making it work at Chesprocott, but did not rule out leaving there for another health district.

“Well be making the same move [as Prospect and Cheshire]. Hopefully we can stay together,” Dunn said

However, even though the towns have begun to look into the possibility of moving to another health district, they are contractually obligated to remain with Chesprocott until July 2013.

If the towns wished to leave Chesprocott by that date, they would need to submit a letter stating that before Jan. 1, 2013. Due to the wording of the contract, any letter submitted after Jan. 1 automatically goes to the July of the following year, according to officials.

Prospect’s Town Council felt since the town has to remain with Chesprocott for another year, it wanted to see some changes happen. The first change would be a shake up of the management.

“I thought it was our hope that the management would change in Chesprocott,” Councilor Patricia Geary said.

Galvin said he talked with Chesprocott and the company indicated that, although there had been problems, it would remain the same. He explained that the top officials at Chesprocott could only be removed by a vote of its board of directors or if the officials resigned, neither of which looked like viable options.

Councilor Michael Scaviola felt that the council should let Chesprocott know they were serious about looking into other options.

“I think we should put them on notice that we are going to withdraw. We could always retract that, but I don’t think we should wait,” Scaviola said.

Geary wondered why the towns couldn’t just force Chesprocott to change, since it serves the three towns.

“We let them know we are unhappy about the additional monies that they wanted, but now it seems like we are almost being held hostage. Why can’t we just say change the way you are running the place, get it together,” Geary said.

Galvin explained since Chesprocott is a state agency, it does not have to answer directly to the towns.

“They’re just like any other state agency, they need more money, they don’t cut expenses, they just raise your fees,” Galvin said.