Now that the vote on the sale of the South Park property has passed, I want to address some information that you received prior to the referendum in a leaflet delivered to every mailbox in Easton. The leaflet was lengthy and included a number of issues that I would like to clarify. Those clarifications will take several columns to cover, and this will be the first.
For some time there has been discussion about an agency called METROCOG (Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments). The state of Connecticut is divided into nine planning regions or Councils of Governments (COGs), where the local municipal leaders in each region work together to plan for the betterment of their respective regions and the state of Connecticut. The COGs, at the direction of the chief elected official of each member municipality, support municipal functions by providing a variety of services to benefit the local governments and their residents.
The planning regions were originally created to provide a mechanism for inter-municipal collaboration when the state of Connecticut formally ended the county governmental structure in the 1960s. Our COG is METROCOG, which includes Bridgeport, Stratford, Trumbull, Monroe, Easton and Fairfield. In counties that have formal county governments there is often a legislative and executive structure. METROCOG has a board of directors comprised of the chief executives of the six municipalities. For the purposes of running the meeting we elect a president (currently the first selectman of Monroe), but the president, like all six board members, has only one vote. All of the authority of the COG rests collectively, and exclusively in the board. There is a non-voting administrative staff and an annual budget which the municipalities contribute to.
METROCOG’s mission is to work with the municipal partners, as directed by the board of directors, to identify projects, programs, funding opportunities and best practices that are strategic to achieving the shared vision for the region. For instance, when we have repaired/replaced bridges, the funding was identified by METROCOG’s staff and then programmed and authorized by the METROCOG Board. The Town of Easton and METROCOG then coordinated with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) to design and fund the projects that were previously authorized by the METROCOG Board as a priority project for the region.
METROCOG and all the COGs are established by state statute and our participation is mandated in our own ordinances. There are no prescriptions where leaders gang up on one town or one leader. This is not at all as it was portrayed. It is a cooperative through which state or federal money flows, which we could not live without. It is not about forcing regionalization because we, the regions’ mayors and selectmen, are METROCOG. Every town or city in the state participates in a COG under the same circumstances, and there is no secret agenda.
To cast this as a sinister organization trying to rip home rule from our towns is grossly inaccurate. METROCOG exists to coordinate projects across the region, which is entirely different from forcing regionalization. If you have any questions about the role of METROCOG please reach out to me at Town Hall.