By KAITLYN NAPLES
The area of Roberts Street Extension will start to look a little different come mid-August as the town begins demolition of several homes that have been heavily damaged by flood waters in the past.
Last week, the town awarded a $257,935 bid to Martin Laviero Contractors of Bristol for the razing of 13 homes, which was $95,000 less than what the town estimated it would have to pay.
Earlier this year, Plainville received $2.54 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to purchase the homes endangered by their position on the Pequabuck River flood plain. In 2011, the town accrued millions of dollars in damage after Tropical Storm Irene, and many residents in the area of Roberts Street area were displaced from their homes. The grant reimburses 75 percent of the costs associated with purchasing and demolishing the homes.
Residents were asked a year ago if they wanted to participate in the program, and also have the option of using the funds to move their home to a higher elevation in the same general area or to move their utilities to a higher elevation. The homes, which are vacant, will be demolished by the town and the properties will become open space.
Town Manager Robert Lee said the homes are expected to be bought in mid-July, and demolition should begin in mid-August.
“Things are moving along very smoothly,” Lee said, adding that there were nine responses to the bid and Laviero was the lowest. Laviero also has done work in Plainville in the past, he said.
Also at last week’s council meeting, Lee said the town’s Tax Collector, Debra Guerrette, had been placed on administrative leave after Bristol police informed him of a criminal investigation involving her.
Bristol police are taking on the investigation since that is “where the improprieties occurred,” Lee said, and has nothing to do with the town of Plainville. Lee said it was confirmed by the association’s attorney that Guerrette, who served as the association’s treasurer, was under investigation for possible embezzlement of money from the Tax Collectors Association. Lee said she was placed on paid administrative leave because these were only allegations at this point.
“No charges have been made, it is just the beginning of the investigation,” he said, adding that he is looking into meeting with an accountant to make sure the town is still in good standing, just as a precautionary measure.
“We feel we have a lot of safeguards” regarding tax payments, as most payments are in the form of check or credit card, said Lee. “There’s very little cash, but we have to do our due diligence to make sure everything is being done properly on our side.”
He said the town is not able to take any definitive actions at this point on its employee, because these are just allegations of wrongdoing. Lee added that there isn’t a timeline of the process.