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Stonington Board of Finance agenda will include Haberek's use of a leased town car

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published October 07. 2013 4:00AM

Stonington - Once the spring is over and the annual budget is passed, meetings of the Board of Finance during the rest of the year are typically mundane affairs.

That won't be the case Wednesday night when the board meets at 7 p.m. at the Wequetequock firehouse. On the agenda is a discussion of First Selectman Ed Haberek's controversial use of a leased town car, the possible approval of money to design an elementary school renovation and expansion project and a request to appropriate additional money to hire a director of planning.

Two weeks ago, Board of Finance Chairman Glenn Frishman said the board would seek answers from Haberek and implement new rules to limit Haberek's use of the 2011 Ford Fusion, which Frishman said was not authorized by the board.

Frishman said it is has been the understanding of the finance board that Haberek would use the town-leased car to travel to out-of-town meetings but would use his own car for in-town business and would be reimbursed for gas. Frishman said he also was unaware that Haberek was taking the car home at night, something he said the finance board never envisioned when the car was leased.

Haberek said the car is not assigned to him, and other employees may use it. Haberek said the car, which the town leases for $348 a month, is filled with gas from the town's highway garage.

The town's past two first selectmen have said they used their own vehicles and paid for gas with their expense accounts.

The town's policy regarding the use of town vehicles states that vehicles must be parked at Town Hall or at the Human Services Department when not in use, unless otherwise authorized.

The K-12 School Building Committee appeared before the finance board last month to request up to $50,000 to hire an architect to design the long stalled elementary school project.

The board told committee members to return Wednesday with details about the scope of the project, a rough cost estimate and actual estimates from architects of what it will cost to design the projects so it can make a decision.

The finance board has opposed going forward with a project in the past, most recently in 2009 and 2011, because it did not want to add to the town's debt.

The committee's preliminary plan calls for most of the work to be done at West Vine Street School, which would be renovated and expanded to also accommodate students from the 113-year-old West Broad Street School, which would close. Deans Mill School would also be upgraded.

The town has been without a director of planning since the death of Bill Haase in April of 2012. Haberek has been serving as the acting director of planning since September of 2012 while Town Planner Keith Brynes has taken on many of the responsibilities of the office. The current budget includes $40,000 to hire a director of planning for the last six months of the fiscal year but Frishman said Haberek is looking for additional funds to hire someone sooner.

While Frishman has recently criticized Haberek for receiving almost $1,800 in per diem payments while attending trade shows to promote the town instead of using his $24,000 in expense account money during that time, that item is not on Wednesday's agenda. Frishman said the board will discuss that issue at a later date.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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