Hartford Common Council members got an earful on Monday night during a public comment session concerning a $1.78 million purchase of land for use by the proposed new Rock Cats stadium.
The mayor wants the council to buy vacant plots at 271 and 273 Windsor St. to develop for use to “move the Ballpark program forward,” said the resolution for the proposal of the purchase.
Councillors were not scheduled to vote on the measure on Monday night, but opponents of the planned baseball stadium took the opportunity to tell council members how they felt.
“The people in Hartford do not want this to happen,” said one person, after which the room erupted with cheering and applause.
Another Hartford resident said, “No more secrets. No more secrets,” aiming that jab at Mayor Pedro Segarra.
Some feel he was not transparent during an 18-month behind-the-curtain negotiation period with the owners of the New Britain Rock Cats. He struck a deal with them in which they’d relocate to Hartford if he could deliver a new 9,000-seat stadium in the North End of Hartford.
“I really, really, really urge you to talk to the residents because whoever Mayor Segarra is talking to, it’s not the people who are showing up here,” said JoAnne Bauer.
Earlier in the day some of the opponents let out their frustrations during a march down Main Street and a demonstration on the steps of City Hall.
Wildaliz Bermudez, a member of the newly formed “Hartford Coalition to Stop the Stadium,” said many people she has spoken with want taxpayer money to be used for other Hartford expenses.
“Our schools, such as Martin Luther King School, have been put on the sidelines and instead, this deal is getting pushed through without the consideration of the people,” Bermudez said.
Segarra withdrew initial plans to fund the stadium through $60 million in bonding earlier this summer.
He’s now seeking proposals for a public-private partnership, billing the ballpark as the “spark” for economic development in the area. A request for proposals went out at the beginning of the month and are due in the beginning of August.
Councillors are expected to consider a new proposal from Segarra in the future.
Coalition members say if the Common Council makes any approval that amounts to more than $2 million in public money that they are ready with a referendum.
“From what I understand, you only need 1,400 signatures to get this placed on the ballot, so we are planning other things besides the march,” said Cornell Lewis, a protester with the coalition.
At least one stadium supporter, Raquel Calderon, spoke at the council meeting. She said she is excited for something new in the city.
The mayor was not at Monday’s meeting, but his staff sent out a statement saying he “welcomes public input.”