April 5, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
When it comes to the $1.6 billion the Metropolitan District Commission will spend to repair the sewers in greater Hartford, State Sen. Eric D. Coleman and state Rep. Art Feltman want to make sure minority workers get their fair share of the work.
The two members of Hartford's legislative delegation announced Thursday that they have attached language to a bill guaranteeing a certain percentage of jobs associated with the massive project will go to minorities.
The legislation would authorize the MDC to pay for the project by adding a surcharge to the bills of its water users.
But new language added by Coleman and Feltman requires that 18.75 percent of the small business contracts needed for the project be set aside for minority-owned firms. It also requires that 25 percent of those employed in the entire project be minorities, and five percent be ex-offenders who have completed their probation or parole.
"During the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt conceived the idea that a public works project could serve twin public purposes: a capital improvement of benefit to taxpayers, and an opportunity to work and earn wages for the unemployed," Feltman said Thursday. "Decades later, this idea remains a model."
Compliance with those targets would be monitored by the state's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, which is also authorized to adjust them if the supply of minority contractors or workers is insufficient.
The two lawmakers are co-chairs of the General Assembly's Planning and Economic Development Committee, which approved the legislation last week and sent it for further review by the finance committee.
The underlying problem is that during about 50 heavy rains a year, untreated sewage overflows into the region's rivers and the city's streets from pipes too old, too small and too few to handle the volume, agency officials have said.
The problem is worst in Hartford, Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Newington and West Hartford. The overflow also pollutes the Connecticut River and tributaries and Wethersfield Cove.
Both the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have ordered the MDC to fix the problem.
Voters approved a referendum for $800 million, the first installment of the $1.6 billion project. Additional referendum votes are anticipated to raise the rest.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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