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    Saturday, November 26, 2022

    OPINION: Groton Town Council stays mum on $1 sale of Mystic Oral School to a criminal

    I thought maybe, this being an election year, that Gov. Ned Lamont’s outrageous plan to sell the magnificent former Mystic Oral School and its prime 40 acres for $1, to a criminal, might generate some protests from his opponent.

    So far, though, we’ve heard crickets about Lamont’s giveaway from Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bob Stefanowski, whose campaign seems to be otherwise preoccupied, in its obviously fatal tailspin.

    After all, a majority of Democrats on the Groton Town Council this week managed to shut down attempts by two independent-minded Democrats and one Republican councilor to possibly discuss putting the town officially on the record against the $1 sale.

    Thankfully, neighbors of the oral school, who are appalled at the governor’s mad plans to give away the amazing state property, with no assurances of how it may be developed, are pressing on.

    There was a protest at the council meeting this week. They’ve organized a phone call barrage of protest to the governor’s office.

    And a lawyer hired by the neighbors, Edward Moukawsher, on Wednesday sent a sharp letter to the governor and Attorney General William Tong, asserting that Lamont’s planned giveaway violates state law pertaining to how the state should dispose of surplus property.

    Moukawsher explains that state agencies and General Assembly committees that are supposed to sign off on the deal have not.

    Hello eastern Connecticut lawmakers? Anyone there? Or does Lamont have your tongues?

    “The efforts to develop the property have recently taken an alarming and illegal turn,” Moukawsher wrote to Lamont and Tong. “Neither the newly involved party nor the proposed development have been approved by the state entities required by statutes for the sale of surplus state property.”

    In addition, retired Judge Steven Spellman of Groton, a Democrat who also once represented the town in the General Assembly, wrote an open letter to Lamont in a full-page ad published Sunday in The Day, explaining the legal reasons why the state is not bound by the sales contract.

    “The alternative if the state does not terminate is the irreparable loss of 47 acres of prime Mystic real estate for $1 to a convicted (criminal) so that he can flip it and make enormous profit at the expense of the people of Connecticut,” Spellman wrote in his very public letter.

    “Please, Governor Lamont, don’t let this happen on your watch and under your leadership.”

    I also should give a shout out here to three Groton town councilors, Democrats Aundre Bumgardner and Portia Bordelon and Republican Scott Westervelt, who tried to bring the topic up for a vote but were shut down by Mayor Juan Melendez and four other councilors.

    The town attorney explained that the town is not a party to the sales agreement, but that councilors could express their opinion about it to the state. But the five obstinate councilors would not even allow Westervelt to raise a motion for a discussion about the town getting involved.

    Please remember that vote when the next election rolls around.

    Both Bumgardner and Borderlon expressed their frustration with Town Manager John Burt, who never even informed the council that a sale by the state was imminent. That news came from a resident who did the research that should have been done by the paid manager and told The Day what was happening.

    Curiously, the camera for Tuesday’s council session was over Burt’s shoulder, and you could see clearly how he angrily crossed something out on his notepad, over and over again, creating a big, thick blob of ink, during a terse exchange with Councilor Bordelon.

    I see his frustration, because she made many good points about how the town’s professional managers have left the community in the awkward position of having to honor a development agreement with whomever the criminal developer that gets the property for $1 flips it to.

    Bordelon and Bumgardner both seem angry about the governor’s absurd giveaway, an insult to the Groton community. And they are mad at town government’s complacency.

    Good for them.

    This is the opinion of David Collins

    d.collins@theday.com

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