Despite concerns about liability, the Town Council allowed First Selectman Tim Herbst to sign a 25-year lease of 40 acres of state-owned riverside property off Quarry Road for $1.
Two 25-year options would follow, and the town would have access to a small office building and a shot at a larger building on the site. Bridgeport currently uses the site for storing its Parks Department vehicles and materials.
It will likely be used as part of the riverwalk from Trumbull through Bridgeport. A small office on the site could become the Park Ranger station.
The lease will begin Feb. 1, 2013 and the town will first test the ground for contaminants. If cleaning the site is too expensive, the town can walk away, Town Attorney Bob Nicola told the Town Council. The council voted 12-1 with one abstention.
"Seventy-five years, 40 acres, one dollar, that's a pretty good deal," said First Selectman Tim Herbst.
"I'm happy that this came to closure. All the heat I took in the municipal campaign was worth it," he later added.
Councilwoman Martha Jankovic Mark, who voted against it, asked to see an environmental report. She said she did not have enough information to vote in favor.
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She also asked if the state would allow Trumbull to own the land, but the state had refused to allow it.
Councilman James Meisner asked, "Why is the lease necessary and why is the town cleaning up a big mess?"
"It looks like a dump," he said. He later added he would rather see Trumbull controlling the land, so he voted for the proposal.
Nicola said negotiations with the state and Bridgeport for the lease had begun five months earlier and delaying past the end of the year could have undone that work.
Trumbull won the right to negotiate for a land lease after the state legislature and the governor moved the boundary of Fairchild Memorial Park, placing it in Bridgeport, to accomodate an interdistrict magnet science high school.
Trumbull's Planning and Zoning Commission had been reviewing the magnet school proposal for several months. Issues such as whether Bridgeport or Trumbull would be first responders were causing problems.
Herbst said the boundary shift helped both sides by giving Bridgeport more seats in the school and resolving the emergency response question, among other things.
"The resolution was better for all parties," he said.
He added that Bridgeport is struggling financially and would not have been able to pay taxes and other monies to Trumbull, especially for roadwork promised in the school's intermunicipal agreement.
Two other supporters were Brian Bidolli, executive director of the Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency and Scot Kerr, a member of the Trumbull Conservation Commission.
Finally, Councilman Tony Scinto supported the proposal too. "I'd rather Trumbull be in control of the property than Bridgeport," he said.