SOUTHINGTON - A proposed resolution opposing highway tolls in Connecticut was defeated 5-4 along party lines at Monday’s Town Council meeting, which was attended by more than 40 members of the anti-toll group No Tolls CT and local legislators.
The proposal had been included on the agenda after a request by Republican Councilor Tom Lombardi at the council’s last meeting.
However, after a two-hour discussion, the proposal was defeated, with Democrats Chris Palmieri, Dawn Miceli, John Barry, Kelly Morrissey and Chris Poulos voting against it and Republicans Mike Riccio, Tom Lombardi, Victoria Triano supporting it.
State House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, a Democrat who represents Southington and Berlin, spoke at the meeting.
Republican state Reps. Gale Mastrofrancesco, who represents Southington and Wolcott, and Rob Sampson, who represents Southington, attended but did not speak. Former Republican legislators Len Suzio and Joe Markley were in the audience.
According to Town Manager Mark Sciota, 40 to 50 members of No Tolls CT attended the meeting and several spoke during public comment. They also held a protest along Route 10.
“The majority on the council reached a decision that they did not have enough information to vote one way or the other,” said Sciota. “Speaker Aresimowicz talked about three toll bills that are making their way through the legislature. However, he said that he did not know which version would go through. Therefore, he couldn’t answer any specific questions. Those councilors in favor of adopting the resolution said that they did not want tolls based on its effect on the citizens of Southington.”
Lombardi said that Aresimowicz told the council that there are still “a lot of unknowns” regarding the toll proposal. He said he thanked Aresimowicz for attending the meeting, since tolling is an important issue to residents.
Aresimowicz said he had heard of Lombardi’s proposed resolution and called it “premature.” He said presenting such a resolution was “political grandstanding.”
“There is no set toll plan,” he said. “There is the governor’s bill, the House bill and the Senate bill. Passing a resolution saying no is like voting no on the budget before knowing what is in it. Plus, we are still waiting to see what sort of funding the federal government gives us and what density there will be.”
Lombardi said it was “unfortunate” that his Democratic peers on the council had used “excuses” to “avoid making a decision.”
“This is an issue that impacts 100 percent of our residents,” he said. “Chris Palmieri has taken stances on other state issues, like Bradley Hospital and Tobacco 21 - just not ones that go against the state party leadership.”
Palmieri could not be reached for comment.
A public hearing was also held on the 2019 community development block grant, but there was no public participation.
Sciota said the town is pursuing an $800,000 grant, which includes both state and federal funds, which will be used to renovate Southington Housing Authority properties.
“The most recent renovation occurred in 1984 and it just goes backwards from there with many other buildings,” he said.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.