Op-Ed: In Fields Project’s Wake, Town Treasurer Candidate Says New Canaan Can Do Better

There is an old saying about construction projects: “good, quick, cheap – pick the two you want because you can’t have all three.” I don’t know enough about the $800,000 additional funding requirement to complete the turf fields / track project to suggest which of these criteria mattered most at the time the project was planned, nor will I repeat all that has already been written about this matter, which divided the Town Council. What I will say, as a CPA and candidate for Town Treasurer, is that town hall needs to learn from the mistakes that were made and install stronger financial controls over major capital projects, from the budgeting stage, through bidding and contracting, and during construction. In public / private partnerships such as this one, it is the town that has to make up the shortfall if additional private funds are not forthcoming.

I am a director of a small gold mining company that has recently completed the development of a complex underground mine on time and on budget, for a cost of roughly ten times that of the fields project. We have undertaken other capital projects over recent years, smaller in scope, that have run over budget. We have tried to learn from our mistakes. We are more careful now with engineering studies and having them independently audited, we try to lock in suppliers and contractors to fixed rates where possible so they bear the risk of overruns, we check and recheck the financial calculations that underpin the cost estimates, we build in a generous contingency amount for the unknowns that inevitably arise in complex projects, and we employ qualified contract managers to oversee construction and represent our interests. We also consider the point I made in the first sentence: in industry, you normally require good quality work; sometimes you need to pay top dollar for quick delivery, other times, with adequate planning, you can take longer and pay less.

The town has undertaken many successful capital projects over the years, no doubt about it, but we owe it to taxpayers to get it right every time. If elected I will make my experience as a financial professional in the private sector available to town government the next time we have a multi-million capital project, and do my part to ensure we do things right.

Rob Fryer CPA

Candidate for Town Treasurer

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