With Bonding Capped At $1.9B, Agenda Receives Scrutiny
HARTFORD, CT — The state Bond Commission approved $70 million Friday for investments in a handful of projects and businesses, including a parking garage, a soccer stadium, and a hydroponic vegetable farm in Torrington.
Friday’s agenda, which didn’t include $30 million for local road improvements, took Connecticut another step forward in making the state “a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said.
Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith said the $1 million loan for New Opportunities Inc. to create 18 jobs at its aquaponic fish farm and hydroponic vegetable farm may not have been something the state would have invested in today. However, she defended the spending saying it was “a decent investment for us, even though, again, if it had come in today we would have underwritten it slightly different.”
Rep. Chris Davis, one of two Republican members of the Bond Commission, said “but this is the day it’s being approved.”
Davis said he understands its 18 jobs, but $1 million for a company that’s taking the excrement from fish to fertilize its vegetables “I don’t know if we’re going to get that kind of return on investment on fish excrement to the tune of $1 million.”
The state Bond Commission also approved a second forgivable loan to the world’s largest hedge, AQR Capital Management, to assist in its expansion.
Davis said he doesn’t want to see the state spending money on furnishing the offices of one of the largest hedge fund managers in the world.
AQR Capital Management has already received money from the state. This was the second $5 million of the $35.5 million already approved for the Greenwich company.
The loan will be forgiven if the company retains 797 jobs and creates 189 jobs within five years and then retains that total for two years. The company is eligible for an additional $7 million in grants if it creates and retains another 140 jobs for a total of 1,126 jobs.
The Bond Commission also approved funds for the town of Waterford to acquire and demolish the structures across the river from the U.S. Navy Submarine Base. Another $1 million was allocated to Viiv Healthcare Company to move from Wallingford to Branford, $2 million for Polamer Precision Inc. in New Britain to help purchase equipment. There was also $4 million for Morgan Truck Body to help establish a new manufacturing facility in Plainfield, $2.5 million to Okay Industries to help them expand their facilities in New Britain, $14 million for ASML US, LLC of Wilton to help them expand and create 524 jobs within the next seven years, and $1 million for Global Atlantic Financial Company to help them relocate from Simsbury to Hartford and create 59 new jobs.
There was also $5 million on Friday’s agenda for the Capital Region Development Authority to help repair the parking garage across the street from the XL Center.
The state of Connecticut purchased the parking garage from the city of Hartford in 2015. The money will be used to help waterproof and finance other structural repairs.
The garage generates more than $1 million a year, according to Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes and helps offset the losses from the XL Center.
“This is the largest source of positive cash flow for the XL Center,” Barnes said. It’s still unclear whether the garage would be considered as part of the sale of the XL Center.
Malloy has sought funding to make improvements to the XL Center and get it ready for a buyer.
Davis and Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, voted against the item.
The Capital Region Development Authority also received $10 million from the Bond Commission Friday to make improvements to Dillon Stadium and the area surrounding Colt Park.
Asked if this was the same stadium involved in a federal investigation, Malloy said it was. He said the stadium is “bordering on dangerous.”
“Either we appropriate money to put it in good shape, or we appropriate money to take it down,” Malloy added.
The commission also approved the first $350,000 for the Connecticut Foundations Solutions Indemnity Company, which will provide the initial capital and professional services to begin administering the Crumbling Foundations Assistance Fund.
The state Bond Commission can only borrow up to $1.9 billion in general obligation bonds this year based on the new bonding cap that was adopted as part of the two-year budget signed into law on Oct. 31, 2017.