North End Lot Hurts Development, Unhealthy For Residents, He Says
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
March 01, 2008
City Councilman Matthew Ritter and several council colleagues have asked Mayor Eddie A. Perez to review possible new locations for the school district's bus fleet, currently on Main Street in the North End.
The current location hampers the neighborhood's development potential and causes health problems for residents, Ritter said. In a Feb. 28 letter to Perez, the council members also asked that the new school bus contract include a provision guaranteeing the buses get "retrofitted" to be more environmentally friendly.
The bidding process for the new five-year contract is ongoing, city officials said. The city originally wanted bids by December, but after several changes to the contract requirements, the deadline for responses was pushed to March 6. Bidders are expected to meet current federal emissions standards. The contract would start July 1.
Hartford has the highest asthma rate in the state of Connecticut, Ritter said. And within Hartford, the highest rates of asthma occur in the North End, he said.
It's unclear if any required retrofit of the buses would delay the start of the new bus contract.
"My council colleagues and I feel strongly that when the new school bus contract is executed, it must include provisions guaranteeing that our school bus fleet be retrofitted as has been done in other cities across the state," he said. "The state has set aside financial resources to retrofit the fleet, so once we have a new contract these buses can be retrofitted immediately without financial detriment to the city."
State money already exists to cover the cost of retrofitting the buses, Ritter said.
Councilmen Pedro Segarra, Luis Cotto and Kenneth Kennedy, along with Majority Leader rJo Winch, Assistant Majority Leader James Boucher, and Minority Leader Larry Deutsch also signed the request.
Ritter said there are "far better sites" in the city to place the bus fleet and said he hopes to work with Perez to identify an alternate location. The present location is a "major obstacle to North Main Street's capacity to become a true economic boon for the Northeast neighborhood and the city," Ritter said. Ritter plans to propose a resolution soon outlining his and his colleagues' requests, calling it one of their top priorities and imperative to the health of Hartford's children.
Lee Erdmann, the city's chief operating officer, said Friday that he was not sure if the mayor had received Ritter's letter. But, Erdmann said, the mayor agrees the buses should run as cleanly as possible and that the terms of the new contract will include a requirement for buses to meet the 2007 federal emission standards.
Erdmann said he plans to talk to Perez to see what can be done to move the bus fleet.
"We'll see what can be done in that regard," Erdmann said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at