FirstLight firm on plan to cut for Candlewood Lake Authority funds

By:  Susan Tuz
News Times

FirstLight Power Resources said it intends to follow through with the funding cut it announced in February for the Candlewood Lake Authority.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., contacted FirstLight's parent corporation, GDF Suez, in March after learning the company was reducing its $50,000 annual funding to the CLA to $10,000.

FirstLight plans to divert the money to a new grant program open to all 23 municipalities in the Housatonic River region that the CLA and two other lake authorities overseeing Lillinonah and Zoar could also apply for funds.

Murphy asked the company to reconsider and conduct a further study before making any funding changes.

Zen Smati, president and CEO of GDF Suez, responded to Murphy in a March 20 letter that the funding changes would remain as planned.

"We believe that a competitive grant program will have a greater positive impact on the communities around Candlewood Lake," Smati wrote. "It was only after a significant deliberation process that we made this decision."

Smati said the new funding structure requires local organizations to describe the proposed use of funding, which provides the company with a means of accounting for money used and benefits achieved.

"Our commitment will remain to support the communities around Candlewood Lake," Smati wrote.

Murphy said Tuesday he appreciated Smati's response, "but I maintain my position that FirstLight has a responsibility to contribute their fair share to maintain Candlewood Lake."

Murphy said he will continue to "press this issue" and is sure that a company "worth $44 billion," like GDF Suez, will do the right thing.

"They certainly haven't heard the last from me," Murphy said.