Against the backdrop of the defunct Waterbury State Office Complex, Cassandra Gekas, the Progressive/Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, told reporters on Monday she supports Gov. Peter Shumlin’s decision to break ground for new facilities. A little over a week ago, the governor said his administration would move ahead with plans to build a new facility on the site without waiting for a definitive figure on how much funding FEMA will provide.
Flanked by Vermont State Employees Association’s (VSEA) President John Reese and legislative coordinator Conor Casey, Gekas told reporters: “It’s not time for heel dragging.”
Both the VSEA and Gekas say they are convinced that the “lingering federal money question,” as Reese described the pending FEMA decision, isn’t reason enough to put off construction of new state offices. Gekas said that as Lt. Gov., she would take a leadership role in the Senate to ensure “the facilities are safe, they are adequate, and that they are state of the art.”
Gekas didn’t mention her opponent, Republican incumbent Phil Scott, until prodded by a member of the press to differentiate her stance from his.
“There is uncertainty about the FEMA money, and I think there is a feeling amongst some elected officials, including my opponent, that we need to take a step back, that we shouldn’t have the courage to move forward, that we need to focus on things like, what are the details of how we are going to pay for it before we move forward and maybe we have to scale back … and in my opinion, that is the wrong way to be having the discussion,” said Gekas.
Gekas maintained an optimistic outlook on a situation that Shumlin described several weeks ago as a source of “extreme frustration.”
“On the energy investment, we are looking at reducing overhead costs of running these facilities by up to 50 percent ... and when you bring the agencies together, when they are within earshot of one another, you can reduce a lot of red tape.”