Panel presses proposed Walk Bridge consultant on her abilities

2017-12-06 | The Hour

Dec. 06--NORWALK -- A Common Council committee on Tuesday evening agreed Norwalk needs assistance with the Walk Bridge project, but questioned how officials arrived at a particular consultant and asked how she would help.

"What do you see as the accommodations or concessions that can be provided, or acquired, from the state DOT for what's going to happen to this town?" asked Councilman Michael Corsello, an at-large Democrat on the Public Works Committee. "And what do you see as the leverage we have to induce them to provide that?"

Susan Prosi, former senior transportation planner for the South Western Regional Planning Agency, said much remains to be determined regarding accommodations from the state Department of Transportation on the bridge replacement. She pointed to an upcoming meeting between Mayor Harry Rilling and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

She said she doubted the DOT will build a new train station in the Wall Street area as part of the Walk Bridge replacement, but expressed confidence in her ability to otherwise advocate for Norwalk.

"I've had similar roles and responsibilities as the city is looking for in this position," Prosi said. "So I'm confident that I can promote, advocate and advance the city's interests with state and federal entities, (and) establish good engagement and public involvement."

The DOT expects to begin the nearly $1 billion Walk Bridge replacement in 2019. Residents and businesses have expressed alarm about the resulting disruptions.

At issue for Public Works Committee members Tuesday evening was whether to recommend hiring Prosi as the city's program manager for the project. She has offered to perform the work for $100 an hour for an average of 20 hours per week.

Committee members voted 3-0 to recommend retaining Prosi with Chairman John Igneri and fellow Democrats George Tsiranides and Tom Livingston voting yes, and Democrats Corsello and Travis Simms as well as Republican Douglas Hempstead abstaining from the vote.

Livingston asked Director of Public Works Bruce Chimento if hiring Prosi will provide his department the help it needs on the Walk Bridge replacement.

Chimento said the project is burdening his staff and other city officials. Prosi, if hired, would report to Rilling but work in the public works department.

The public works director said $100,000 has been allocated in his department's current fiscal-year budget for consulting services. Any future funding would require a special appropriation, he added.

While noting Prosi is no engineer, Corsello and other members praised her resume, which includes eight years at the Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency, six years as transportation planner for the city of Stamford and 24 years with SWRPA, which was replaced by the Western Connecticut Council of Governments.

Prosi emphasized her familiarity with Norwalk, as well as with DOT officials such as Commissioner James Redeker.

Several public works committee members questioned how Rilling's office and public works officials arrived at their recommendation to hire Prosi.

Chimento said the city reached out to several prospective consultants. He said he did not want to publicize their names given their current jobs.

Hempstead, a District D Republican, asked why the city didn't issue a request for qualifications. He found the city responding to Prosi's proposal rather than vice versa as backward.

"(Before) this winds up on the council floor, I think it probably needs to be a little bit better format than we're approving somebody else's written scope of work," Hempstead said. "That doesn't seem to be the standard operating procedure."

Prosi, under her proposal, would submit monthly reports to the city. Igneri, a District E Democrat, asked that she periodically attend meetings of the public works committee to update members on her work.

The full council will take up the proposal to hire Prosi during its meeting at City Hall next Tuesday evening.