Norwich alderman takes aim at handling of ice rink problems

Norwich - One day after his wife was appointed to the Ice Rink Authority, Alderman Charles Jaskiewicz sent a letter to that authority criticizing recent decisions on rink management, operations and finances regarding efforts to reverse the rink's financial woes.

Jaskiewicz said Tuesday he did not consult his wife, Patrice Jaskiewicz, before sending the letter and said she would receive it along with other authority members through the mayor's office.

The letter received mixed reaction from authority Chairman Michael Goldblatt and fellow Alderman and Council President Pro Tempore Francois "Pete" Desaulniers, who was appointed to the authority in June to oversee the turnaround.

Desaulniers said Jaskiewicz jumped the gun in launching criticism, as the turnaround plan is just getting started. He said the council agreed to give the authority the current fiscal year to make reforms or seek a new direction. But Goldblatt said Jaskiewicz made some good points, and the authority will discuss the letter during Thursday's 6:30 p.m. meeting at the rink.

In the letter, Jaskiewicz said "many citizens of Norwich and I" felt the authority's vote in June to replace former rink manager Jim Sanca - who resigned amid the financial criticism - with his wife, program manager Mia Sanca, was improper. Jaskiewicz said many complaints involved her.

"Why was the position not reviewed, a job posting created, and an open application period established choosing from a pool of candidates?" Jaskiewicz asked.

Jaskiewicz also questioned the authority's recent advertisement for a new concessions vendor. If the authority has not yet decided whether to continue operating the rink or turn it over to an outside firm, Jaskiewicz asked, why did the authority offer a three-year contract?

Jaskiewicz said he has been contacted by two outside parties interested in operating the rink, including a Simsbury-based group that includes former Hartford Whaler Bob Crawford.

"In a timely fashion, these options should be evaluated and the option that has the most financial benefit to the city should be chosen," Jaskiewicz wrote.

Desaulniers Tuesday responded with his own criticism of Jaskiewicz's timing. He said Jaskiewicz was well aware of the authority's proposed time frame and the need to fill vacancies before considering major changes in rink management operations. The council filled four authority vacancies Monday.

"He should have waited for us to get the authority together before shooting off," Desaulniers said.

Desaulniers and Goldblatt both said Sanca was appointed on a six-month trial basis in response to the immediate need to have a rink manager. Her husband resigned without warning in June, and the authority at the same time laid off the rink financial accountant, turning finances over to the city. That left no on-site manager, Goldblatt said.

"There was discussion about putting it out for resumes (for people) to apply for the position," Goldblatt said.

"I knew of one or two people interested who qualified, but the authority as a group felt we needed some continuity, and Mia deserved a chance to prove herself."

Desaulniers said if the authority is not satisfied after the six-month trial period, the position would be advertised.

Goldblatt did agree in part with Jaskiewicz on the proposed three-year concessions contract. Given that future rink management decisions have yet to be made, he said, perhaps the authority should consider a one-year concessions deal.


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