Gregory W. Gray
Gregory W. Gray CTMIRROR.ORG

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s first veto of the 2015 session preserves the authority of the Board of Regents for Higher Education to make decisions about closing college campuses.

In a message delivered Monday, the governor vetoed a bill that would have stripped the Regents of the ability to close college facilities or manufacturing programs without legislative approval.

“The Board is best positioned to take appropriate measures to take in light of fiscal constraints, enrollment changes or health and safety issues,” Malloy wrote in his veto message.

The bill was quickly passed by the legislature after the system’s president, Gregory W. Gray, ordered the closure of a Middlesex Community College satellite center in Meriden.

It passed unanimously in the Senate and on an 86 to 56 vote in the House.

The day after the House vote, Gray announced the campus would stay open.

“Because of the faith that I am putting in the legislators and the trust that we are providing, I am hereby announcing that we are abandoning our decision to close the Meriden Center as well as the manufacturing center,” Gray told his governing board.

Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden, the co-chair of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, said the episode raised questions about Gray’s fitness to lead a system that includes the community colleges and the four universities in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system.

Gray had failed to notify Bartolomeo, whose district is home to the satellite campus, or any other legislative leader. He also ordered the closing without obtaining the approval of his board.

The decision to close the Meriden facilities — which enroll nearly 700 students each semester, of whom 286 also take courses at the Middletown campus — was made in an attempt to help close the system’s looming budget deficit.

Middlesex Community College President Anna Wasescha estimated the closure would have cut $524,000 from her $25 million budget by avoiding having to pay utilities, security and cleaning costs.

The college system would, however, have had to continue paying $16,000 a month in rent through December 2016.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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