As the City looks to progress on two projects, facts are unclear as to what exactly is the truth. The New Britain City Journal sat down with Mayor Erin Stewart to try to clear up the issues.
Q. When the company came here did they ask for a tax abatement?
A. This was before my existence here as Mayor. It is my understanding that they did not.
Q. How much is the tax abatement?
A. The tax modification is $2.1 million.
Q. Why the change in lower taxes?
A. When I first came into office I wanted to talk Costco. I found no one was at the table for two years. We tried to broker a deal between Costco and Target. They were unable to come to a deal.
Costco comes up with a separate entrance which costs an additional $2.1 million. The land is on a hill and grading has to be done as well as light fixtures and new road improvement. There is a $2.1 million overage.
Q. Will the City be paying in anyway for the company to come here?
Absolutely not. That is one of the biggest misnomers about this project. It will not cost the taxpayers of the City of New Britain a dime. The abatement just lowers the amount we will be receiving for 7 years.
Q. What are the benefits of Costco coming to New Britain?
A. Two-hundred and fifty well paying jobs with insurance. Costco is one of the best retail employers in the nation. They also set up a scholarship account with Central Connecticut State University. They promise to make a commitment to the City of New Britain. They have certainly expressed in interest in putting their footprint in this City as they have in many others.
Q. Will they positively leave if we do not approve a tax abatement?
A. It has been said that there are inquiries to other municipalities in the Greater Hartford area about sites for a potential Costco. Costco has not threatened to leave.
Q. How will it hurt the City if they do not come here?
A. It would not create new jobs and we lose on an economic development opportunity. If they leave it would be one of the worst things that could potentially happen to the City.
Q. What are the misconceptions about this sale?
A. The biggest one is that it would cost the taxpayers money because of a tax modification agreement. It does not cost anyone a dime.
The state grant will come out of taxpayer’s pockets. A modification agreement on a piece of land where money never came from before, does not take money out of anyone’s pocket. You are just not getting the full potential. But, you give the company a chance to build and get off their feet and expand.
Just because they are big does not mean they have money to throw around. They stay very strict to their budgets.
Patton Brook Well
Q. Is this part of the water department properties?
A. Yes. Patton Brook Well is owned by us and sits in Southington on 0.6 acres. The well is falling apart and needs to be rebuilt. We don’t use.
Q. Is it part of a process to sell the water department to MDC or elsewhere?
A. Absolutely not. Those negotiations were terminated on my first day in office.
Q. Is it part of our safe yields plan?
A. No. Safe yield plans are a back up plan if something goes wrong at the reservoir. This is not part of that.
Q. What exactly are we selling?
A. We are selling 0.6 acres, but what we are really selling are the rights. It is registered to New Britain and Southington. The right to use the land is the real value.
Q. Why does Southington want it?
A. Southington wants it for their safe yield plan. It is their back-up. No one else could buy this. Either we sell it to Southington or they back away from it all together. If they do not buy it they will find another back up plan.
Q. How will selling it benefit New Britain?
A. It would make money for the City on property that is virtually useless for us. It’s a no brainer. We are getting $1.3 when their original offer was $200,000.
It would cost New Britain $1 million to fix it, so really it is a negative million or getting $1.3 million.
Q. Where does the $1.3 million go?
It goes back into the water department. We know the water department fund was raided by the tune of over $10 million. It is scary because when something breaks at the water department it is not cheap to fix. We can’t bond for that type of equipment because of our limitations. Any money we are able to put back into the water department for infrastructure in case of emergency is extremely important.
Q. What are the misconceptions about this sale?
A. That I am selling the water department and I am absolutely not. This is not functioning property of the water department. It is not utilized.
The struggle to sell a City asset – it has a negative value to it. I don’t consider that an asset. It’s not like a parking garage.
The amount of land is only 0.6 acres and the only place this could be sold to is to Southington. No one else can access it. No one would want to purchase it except the town of Southington.
Their lease expired June 30. We are not collecting any money on this well any longer. It was $100,000 a year.
Their originally offer was $200,000. To get them up to $1.3 million shows the value of it to them for their yield plan to the state.
The investment to fix the well is on Southington.
New Britain has numerous other back-up plans. There are many other options.
There is no threat to our water supply.
This sale increases our water department funds and that increases our water department assets. It does not decrease it.