The Second Company Horse Guard will continue to exist, although its herd will be reduced to 10 and its operation handed over to a public-private partnership, if state employees ratify the agreement Gov. Dannel Malloy reached with union leaders, local lawmakers announced Thursday.
“We tried to kick around with the Military Department various ideas,” said Rep. Chris Lyddy (D-106), who helped negotiate the deal with Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-112).
At the same time, Col. John Whitford, the spokesman for the Military Department, said a discussion was held with legislators Thursday but no agreement was reached because the unions have not ratified Malloy's concession plan.
"There was never an agreement made," Whitford said. "It all boils down to what the unions do."
Whitford, in a follow-up, said that the discussions did include a "proposed way ahead," which would require union ratification of concessions as well as approval by the governor, including restoring the Military Department's program funding.
Under what officials discussed, if rank-and-file state workers ratify the concessions agreement Malloy reached with union leaders by August 22, the Horse Guard's herd will be reduced to a total of 20 between the Second Company in Newtown and First Company in Avon, Lyddy said. The reduction will save the Second Company about $38,000 in operation costs, he said.
“A lot of those horses are getting very old, so they cost a lot of money to maintain,” Lyddy said.
In addition, officials will establish a pilot program in which a public-private partnership will be created between the Military Department and Friends of the Second Company Horse Guard to operate the Second Company.
Whitford confirmed such a partnership might be established under what officials discussed.
The friends group will be expected to contribute $35,000 in privately raised funds the first year, Lyddy said. The second year, the friends group will be expected to contribute $50,000, the representative said.
If the funds can be raised, the unit will be able to add younger horses to the herd incrementally over time, Lyddy said. The key will be to ensure that the public-private partnership is capable of paying for the cost of managing the herd, which was one reason the number of horses was reduced, Lyddy said.
A more manageable smaller herd also will likely mean the Second Company won't need a full-time worker, though a part-time worker will be retained, Lyddy said.
“There could be additional savings,” he said of the staffing changes.
In Avon, although the herd also will be reduced to 10, the First Company will be allowed to continue operating unchanged in the upcoming year.
“They are not going to be expected to do the public-private (partnership) until we get an idea of how that’s going to work,” Lyddy said, adding that if the Second Company program proves successful, Avon may be moved to the public-private model in future years.
All of these plans are dependent on the unions ratifying the agreement, Lyddy said. If approval is not given before August 22, then the Second Company volunteers will be expected to transport the unit’s 10 strongest horses to Avon. The other horses will be retired, he said.
If the union ratification occurs after August 22, the Second Company can return to Newtown and continue forward with the public-private partnership, officials said.
Editor's note: This article has been updated from an earlier version to include a comment from the Military Department spokesman who said discussions took place but no agreement was reached. Col. John Whitford then followed up by saying that there had been a "proposed way ahead" but that it was dependent on union ratification and approval by the governor.
Clarification: If the deal goes forward as proposed, Avon's herd would still be reduced to 10. An earlier version of this story was not clear in stating the herd reduction amount.