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Dems Question GOP Senator’s Former Business Venture

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 14, 2012 2:55pm
(12) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2012

Hugh McQuaid Photo

State Democratic Party Executive Director Jonathan Harris with Dante Bartolomeo

There is a brownfield now in Massachusetts where state Sen. Len Suzio once ran a log cabin company, and the state Democratic Party took the opportunity Friday to call him hypocritical for letting taxpayers foot the bill for it.

Beginning in the 1980s, Suzio, now an outspoken first-term Republican senator, was president of New England Log Homes Inc. The company, which folded in 1994, treated logs for log cabins at a factory in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

At a Friday press conference at a Meriden brownfield, Jonathan Harris, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said Suzio shouldn’t be faulted for having run a business that ultimately failed. But he did take the Meriden Republican to task for leaving an environmental mess that cost taxpayers “at least $1 million” as well as failing to pay $263,000 in property taxes.

“When Mr. Suzio’s company failed the government, believe it or not, had to bail him out,” Harris said. “... We have Mr. Suzio, who constantly rails on government, who constantly says that government is the problem, who says that only the private sector gets the job done. It’s ironic … that Mr. Suzio had to be rescued by government.”

The abandoned factory burned down in 2001 and the property was purchased in 2007 by the Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire for redevelopment.

Reached by phone, Tim Geller, executive director of the CDCSB, said the site was contaminated by the chemicals the company used to treat wood logs.

Geller said restoration estimates are actually closer to $3 million. But that’s just to make the property usable again. He said it’s financially unfeasible to remove all the contaminates from the soil when the highest concentration of contaminants are 12 feet down in the soil.

“They’re going to be there forever,” he said Friday.

Geller wouldn’t speculate whether the company behaved irresponsibly when the property became contaminated. There’s no way to know whether they were aware of the environmental impact of the chemicals they were using, he said.

“What is irresponsible is once the contaminants were known, to not take any responsibility for them,” Geller said. “Clearly they knew there was an environmental issue there and they walked away from it.”

Geller said Great Barrington taxpayers forgave approximately $300,000 in back taxes so the property could be sold for restoration.

“It’s been an eyesore,” Great Barrington Town Manager Kevin O’Donnell said. “That’s why it was turned over to the [Community Development Corporation].”

In a response circulated by his campaign at the Meriden press conference, Suzio said the event was a poorly researched campaign stunt by his senate seat challenger, Dante Bartolomeo. He suggested it was motivated by the fact that the League of Conservation Voters gave him a perfect scorecard for his environmental voting record.

“Ms. Bartolomeo’s poorly researched accusations reflect her lack of experience and willingness to say and do anything to win election. This is the kind of negative, mudslinging that voters reject,” Suzio said, adding that the accusations border on slander.

The press release said that the property been used for industrial purposes for over 130 years and the contamination can be traced back to the 1880s. The site was also contaminated by chemicals released into the Housatonic River from the General Electric plant upstream, the statement said.

“During [Suzio’s] tenure as president of NELHI no additional contamination of the property beyond what had existed prior to his arrival at NELHI occurred,” the statement said.

Bartolomeo said the contaminants in the soil at the site point to the company Suzio co-owned.

“The chemicals that were found are chemicals that are used for treating wood logs. So that will show that it was done from his log treating business,” she said.

Harris and Bartolomeo were joined by Olga May Milligan, a Great Barrington resident who said she heard about the press conference and invited herself. Milligan, who said she was an unaffiliated voter, said residents of her town were “most disgusted” such a mess was left for taxpayers to clean up.

“I’m really shocked to think he is a senator representing American people, hard working people,” she said with a British accent.

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(12) Comments

posted by: wmwallace | September 15, 2012  1:35am

You should have checked into more before printing this article. I guess the ctnewsjunkie is just an arm of democrats running for office. If not you would have researched this.

posted by: Christine Stuart | September 15, 2012  9:54am

Christine Stuart

Did you read the entire article? If you had you would see we called two independent sources up in Great Barrington for comment on the site. Suzio was out of state on business but we included the bulk of his statement handed out by his campaign at the event. So I’m going to have to agree to disagree with you here.

posted by: wmwallace | September 15, 2012  11:51am

To me it is political plain and simple. She Dante Bartolomeo has nothing to run on so this is her issue. How a site in Massachusetts is contaminated though the past 130 years and putting the blame on senator Suzio. Sorry but I see this as strictly political by you and CTnewjunkie in aiding candidate Bartolomeo

posted by: Christine Stuart | September 15, 2012  12:56pm

Christine Stuart

Completely disagree. This was not a political act, it was a fair and balanced news story.

posted by: meridenite1 | September 16, 2012  5:32pm

Fact:  He took deposits, didn’t deliver on product
Fact:  He didn’t pay $260,000 in taxes
Fact: The guy can’t be trusted!

posted by: redlady | September 18, 2012  6:30am

Fact: Sen. Suzio is circulating a petition demanding Gov. Malloy suspend flawed legislation that allows early release of violent offenders, following the murder of 70 yr old man by Resto, an early release offender.
This is simply political bullying and payback for that effort. Typical of partisan politics.

posted by: CT Jim | September 18, 2012  9:13am

What does Suzio passing around a petition on easrly release got to do with the fact that the tea party style senator who wants smaller government and less taxes totally polluted a piece of property in Massachusetts and cost the tax payers over $3 million and counting?? Sounds more than a little hypocritical to me. And to try to explain it as partisan politics is a joke. He poisened soil in a town probably reliant on well water and left the government to clean it up. Maybe the good senator might want to show why he didn’t take personal responsibility and clean up his own mess.

posted by: redlady | September 18, 2012  9:39am

Jim, please read the whole article. Keep in mind that many Democrats give out free grants to all sorts of private industry to take care of these issues on the back of the taxpayer, which makes this protest a joke coming from that arena. And, Suzio has been around, so why do the Dems dig now?  Simple; they didn’t appreciate him tearing apart a bill that they passed which jeopardizes us all. Funny there is no outcry about that tragedy from the Democrats. Instead this is what they come up with. They should be helping Suzio solve the Early Release Program debacle before someone they love gets killed by another Resto.

posted by: CT Jim | September 18, 2012  1:43pm

Again I don’t see where this article has to do with early release program. As for the instance your talking about I believe I read the convict got out 120 days early and under the previous policy he would have gotten out 99 days early so if you believe the extra 21 days was going to be a deterrent from what seems like a madman go ahead. I don’t believe the 21 days would have made him an upstanding citizen. Funny I’m sure you had no problem with the ex gov (felon) Johnny “hot tub” Rowling getting out 75 days early. As for the subject here are you suggesting there should be no funds for brownfields? That guys like Suzio can just poison water supplies and walk away???

posted by: wmwallace | September 18, 2012  5:01pm

CT Jim what about the companies before he was there and afterwords. To put all blame on Senator Suzio shows your bias towards anybody not democratic. 

As for the early release program it has been a failure from the standpoint that two lives were taken because of this program. Throwing governor Rowland in there shows you lack of being able to discern between murder and hatred for the ex-governor.

posted by: Katydid | September 18, 2012  5:58pm

Suzio says the contamination occurred before he arrived on the scene. The fact that the property had been used for more than 100 years as an industrial site before he took over the company certainly gives good ground to believe he didn’t contribute to the problem. Is there any proof that he is not telling the truth, or is it just mudslinging for political points? A person is innocent until proven guilty, or so I thought.
Also, as far as the taxes are concerned, I noticed that the town apparently continued to tax the company for years (at least 13 years - 1994 to 2007) after it went out of business. They seem to have been taxing a property that was not operational. How do you expect a defunct company to pay taxes after the company has failed? Is it fair to hold Suzio for events after the company failed?

posted by: redlady | September 19, 2012  6:28pm

My thoughts exactly:  no proof that Suzio caused the contamination, but it sure looks like the Dems want him convicted.