Members of the Danbury City Council will meet for an ad-hoc committee meeting on Monday, Jan. 27 to discuss a $81,000 debt owed to the city by the Danbury Whalers hockey team.
The money stems from police presence and two fire marshals that city officials require for each game. The police presence is required for security, while the “fire watch” is required because the building doesn’t have a large enough sprinkler system, or enough exits, to handle a crowd of more than 500 people.
The issue goes back for nearly a decade, when trash czar James Galante paid $3 million in 2004 to have an additional 1,400 seats installed in the building. Galante needed the additional seating for the Trashers hockey team he owned that leased the facility.
Questions were raised at the time about whether Galante, who has since plead guilty to racketeering charges and is serving a federal prison sentence, received preferential treatment from the city because the project was proposed and completed within months of the team’s opening game despite numerous code violations.
Former building official Leo Null, who is now retired, said he told them at the time they had to install a larger system, but “they insisted they wouldn’t have the uses that would require it.”
Mayor Mark Boughton said the arena is still operating on a temporary certificate of occupancy issued a decade ago that required the sprinkler system be updated to the facility’s increased capacity.
The system was never updated, however, and the building continues to operate under a temporary CO.
Hockey team president Alan Friedman said they don’t believe they are required to pay for the services and if the city forces the issue, the team may go out of business.
Friedman, said they paid $40,000 in fees for police and fire protection services for the first year, but stopped in November, 2012 when the city couldn’t produce any documents showing why the services were required.
He said at the time they’ve requested both the agreement put into place for the fire marshals as well as any state or local laws that require additional police presence at the venue during large events. They’ve yet to receive the information, he said.
The ad-hoc committee will meet at 7 p.m. on Jan. 27 at City Hall.