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Journal Inquirer: Residents from 3 towns pack hearing on crumbling concrete

August 22, 2018
In The News

VERNON — For over an hour Tuesday night, residents of three of the communities hit hardest by the crumbling concrete epidemic — Ellington, Stafford, and Vernon — registered their unanimous support for an application that could result in federal money for foundation testing.

Close to 100 people filled the Town Council chambers in Vernon Town Hall as speaker after speaker, including numerous elected officials, scrawled their names on a petition and spoke in favor of the three-town effort aimed at securing Community Development Block Grant funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A public hearing is a required first step toward a formal application, and the more people who attach their name to the proposal, the better the chance of success, officials said Tuesday.

“They are watching, frankly, to see if we are serious in taking on HUD as a partner,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph D. Courtney, D-2nd District, as he spoke in favor of the funding. “That’s an important message for us to be sending to the folks in Washington.”

Tuesday’s testimony ranged from short statements of approval to deeply personal stories of loss and anxiety, especially for older residents who viewed their homes as their biggest investment and are now nearing or at retirement age.

“I’m 70 years old, I just want to rest,” said Janet Johnson, who identified herself as a Vernon resident affected by failing concrete. “I worked all my life to pay for my home. I’m on a fixed income, so this testing, getting financial support, would mean everything for me.”

Dennis Farrar, an Ellington resident, said he had to cancel the sale of his home when an inspector detected the telltale cracking patterns in his basement walls.

“We’re not nearly as bad off as some of the people that might be sitting here tonight, where you can literally stick your hand through the foundation,” Farrar said. “We had made the decision to replace the foundation but not everyone can do that. And we’re hoping that at some point we can recoup some of that money.”

Several speakers touched on the multiple ways in which defective concrete impacts a community, from the psychological toll of families afraid to sleep in their own homes to the prospect of lowered assessment values, which depress grand lists and inflict greater economic strain.

“This will be some of the most important work you’ll ever do,” Tim Sullivan of Vernon told the Town Council. “I’m here to say thank you. God bless you for this work.”