70 towns get cash in CRRA suit

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Dec. 20, 2007

The leaders of 11 area towns are receiving checks totaling nearly $2.6 million following a judge’s ruling to release $27 million to the 70 towns suing the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.

Among those receiving the largest checks in Greater New Haven are Old Saybrook, with $584,995; Guilford, $334,175; and Clinton, $348,802. The checks were mailed Tuesday.

“It’s been a long, hard, complicated legal battle, but I’m really pleased that we’ve reached this point and that we get some redress,” Guilford First Selectman Carl Balestracci said. “The money is very important, but the other part of it that I feel is that justice is being done here.”

The 70 municipalities sued CRRA four years ago over a loan the trash authority made to energy company Enron. After Enron went bankrupt, the towns’ attorneys argued, CRRA raised the towns’ trash dumping fees to make up for the lost money.

In June, Superior Court Judge Dennis Eveleigh in Waterbury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered CRRA to pay them $36 million. After a series of motions from CRRA to stay the distribution of the money, the funds were sent out this week, minus $9 million for lawyers’ fees.

“This (money) represents just the increase that our taxpayers have had to pay since the situation,” Balestracci said.

Michael Pace, first selectman in Old Saybrook and chairman of CRRA, said the authority would have stabilized or lowered rates and eventually reimbursed the towns. CRRA’s trash disposal agreement with the municipalities lasts until 2012.

“The towns would have gotten 100 percent of their dollars,” Pace said. “Now, with this court case, it’s less whatever their attorneys’ fees were.”

Pace said that CRRA is continuing to appeal Eveleigh’s decision for the plaintiffs, primarily on the basis of designating the municipalities as part of a class-action suit. Pace said he will put Old Saybrook’s check in a separate account until the final resolution of the suit.

Balestracci said Guilford’s Board of Finance will determine how the money will be distributed among town departments.

David Golub, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the breakup of the $27 million was based on the tonnages of garbage that each town delivers to CRRA. The amounts range from $23,713 for Cornwall to nearly $3.6 million for Hartford.

“The appeal is still pending, and technically (CRRA) could win the appeal and the towns could have to give the money back, but we think that Judge Eveleigh wrote a very strong opinion,” Golub said.

The other towns in Greater New Haven that received checks are: Chester, $60,704; Deep River, $103,339; Essex, $159,118; Killingworth, $84,092; Madison, $278,789; North Branford, $261,878; Oxford, $156,580; and Westbrook, $184,065.

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