CT Construction Digest Tuesday January 3, 2023
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to visit New London this week
New London ― U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg will visit New London on Wednesday to highlight the recently announced $158 million federal grant the Gold Star Memorial Bridge is getting for repairs to the northbound span.
It’s one of a few visits from the Biden Administration throughout the country Wednesday, to highlight the impacts of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Biden signed in November 2021, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
President Joe Biden will visit Kentucky near Cincinnati on Wednesday and will be joined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear; and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, according to an administration spokesperson. Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Chicago on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, announced that the Federal Highway Administration has awarded Connecticut $158,150,000 for repairs to the Gold Star Memorial Bridge. This is through the agency’s competitive Bridge Investment Program, which the IIJA established.
The northbound span of the bridge, the longest in Connecticut, began the first phase of a $407.7 million rehabilitation in 2020.
The Gold Star Memorial Bridge was built in 1943 and has seen superstructure work and other rehabilitation projects over the years, but the condition of the northbound bridge prevents the passage of oversize vehicles
East Coast Greenway — spanning from Maine to Florida — will link Bloomfield and Simsbury
BLOOMFIELD — A small slice of a trail running from the Canadian border to Key West is now under construction, connecting Bloomfield to Simsbury.
The East Coast Greenway is a 3,000-mile trail from Maine to Florida for active transportation like biking, walking, running and inline skating. Connecticut is home to 200 miles of the trail, 104 of which are protected and separate from the road. The route is considered 53 percent completed in the state.
The trail remains a work in progress, with the latest update bridging a 1-mile gap from Bloomfield to the Tariffville neighborhood in Simsbury, where bicyclists previously needed to scale a steep hill. The new connection will run along Route 189.
“The problem in America is we're dealing with infrastructure that was built in the '40s, '50s, '60s,” said Steve Mitchell, Connecticut committee chair at the East Coast Greenway. “The Departments of Transportation throughout America didn't [care] about bicyclists or pedestrians, and we're now trying to recreate or modify our infrastructure to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians.”
The project received a $1 million grant from the state. Additionally, Simsbury passed a May budget referendum that allowed funding for the planning and engineering of the trail. Construction began in November and Mitchell said he hoped it would be completed by the end of 2023.
Bloomfield Town Councilor Joe Merritt has been championing the trail connection for years. He wants to continue the trail through the center of Bloomfield and into Hartford.
“I think this is the biggest thing going for this,” Merritt said.
Merritt lives in Bloomfield and can access a section of the East Coast Greenway from his backyard.
“It's a wonderful thing,” Merritt said. “People walking dogs and local people as well as people who drive from other places.”
The new trail from Bloomfield to Tariffville will run along a cliff so the road will be narrowed to allow more room for a bike path.
“They have to really worry about making sure rocks don't fall on the bikers and walkers,” Merritt said. “And there'll be a barrier between the highway and the bike path, but there's not a lot of room there. What they had to do was put the highway on a road diet.”
Across the state, the Greenway combines multiple local trails, including the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, the Charter Oak Greenway, the Hop River Trail, Quinebaug River Trail and others. In the gaps, bicyclists and pedestrians make connections on the road. Each new project, like the one in Bloomfield, limits the need for road travel.
Mitchell highlighted the recent pedestrian deaths in the area as proof the Greenway is a worthy investment.
“Texting and cellphone use and drunk driving — greenways are becoming more and more important because it's the separation of bicyclists and pedestrians. We know as pedestrians or cyclists. You don't have protection around you in a crash. You're very vulnerable.”
Drivers killed more than 70 pedestrians in Connecticut in 2022, data shows.
The Greenway “allows everyone to get out and exercise,” Mitchell said. “It allows everyone to travel on a bicycle or by foot safely.”
North Haven first selectman says more development will come to Washington Ave in 2023
NORTH HAVEN – Two large housing complexes are already under construction on Washington Avenue in North Haven, which also became home to several new businesses in 2022.
But First Selectman Mike Freda, who has long prioritized economic development, has even more ambitious goals for the neighborhood next year.
Residents can expect development at several Washington Avenue locations in 2023, according to Freda.
The sites Freda is eyeing include properties on the north and south side of the driveway entrance to Amazon’s campus and a four-acre lot across from the North Haven fairgrounds.
“On the south side and the north side of the Amazon driveway, leading into Amazon, I am currently working on two projects there that will materialize sometime in the middle of 2023,” he said.
Freda said he had promised confidentiality to those involved and was unable to share details about most of the developments, but he did say residents might expect one new retail plaza.
“On the northside (of the Amazon driveway), we will be looking for a retail plaza there, with stores and perhaps a restaurant,” he said. “On the south side, you know, there’s a variety of different opportunities that I can’t really share.”
Several construction projects are already underway in the area. Connex Credit Union, which currently has a location at 412 Washington Avenue, is building a new headquarters on an adjacent lot.
On a property behind the future headquarters, 88 apartments are under construction, Freda said.
Across the street, a new apartment complex also is in the works. It will have 225 apartments across three buildings, according to Freda, who said one of the buildings is mixed-use and could feature stores or restaurants.
20 percent of the units will meet state affordability requirements, he said.
In addition to the housing developments, a number of new businesses opened on Washington Avenue in 2022.
Island Cho, which serves Trinidadian and Jamaican dishes, brought a taste of the Caribbean to North Haven in July, while the burger-and-fries chain Five Guys recently opened its doors to customers in the plaza at 146 Washington Avenue.
More unusual developments include Xperiment VR, a virtual reality gaming arcade that opened in the Stop & Shop Plaza. (In late 2021, the virtual golf facility Golf Cove opened its doors across town on State Street.)
But regardless of Washington Street’s recent successes, Freda says he is not yet satisfied.
“I am fully and totally driven to do better and get more done,” he said.
In addition to pursuing new developments, Freda wants to see vacant business spaces occupied.
“(At) the south end of the Stop & Shop plaza, there’s roughly 80,000 square feet of vacancy,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out a solution for that.”
270 Washington Avenue was once home to the restaurants Donato’s and Howard Johnson’s. It is currently vacant, Freda said, and he is aiming to get a business to move in.
Other locations Freda hopes to fill include the neighboring sites of 575 Washington Avenue, once home to a produce store, and 585 Washington Avenue, formerly Sips Café.
Steelpointe soil contamination slows plan for Bridgeport luxury apartments
BRIDGEPORT — It took a few decades for development to start at the Steelpointe site, and now the latest phase for the East Side property between Interstate 95 and the harbor — a 1,500-unit luxury apartment complex — is again delayed.
But whereas the developers previously blamed the lack of a groundbreaking on the global coronavirus pandemic that reached Connecticut in early 2020, the current problem is related to tainted soil from the land's industrial past.
The property was at one time home to the former Bridgeport Steel Works as well as an electrical substation, so it has been known remediation would be necessary to build housing on site. A 2005 state-funded analysis concluded the area had a range of pollutants left behind, including petroleum, heating fuel, corroded underground tanks, hydrocarbons, copper, lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium and PCBs.
And it is elevated levels of that last toxin — hazardous, federally-regulated PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls — that have complicated the apartment plans there. It has added a level of federal oversight and requirements that were not initially anticipated.
In late October the Christophs, the father/son team who have spent the last several years slowly trying to transform Steelpointe into a waterfront destination, submitted a revised soil remediation plan to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for review and approval.
"Being residential, we have to be conscious of protecting the tenants," said Kevin Neary, a supervisor with the DEEP, emphasizing there is nothing unusual about the situation.
“I've had many, many (cleanup) sites in Connecticut. This is nothing out of the norm," he said.
But it can be time-consuming, particularly if federal environmental regulators need to also be involved, which is what happened over the past year at Steelpointe after the DEEP reached out to the EPA for further consultation.
"It was determined ... the site needs to go through the formal federal process of review and approval (of how to address the dirty soil)," Neary said.
According to the DEEP, PCBs are a "suspected human carcinogen" that "persist for many years in the environment" and are widespread throughout the nation. Connecticut banned their manufacture in 1976, and the federal government in 1978.
Specifically, the Christophs are seeking an "engineered control variance" — essentially a means of capping some of the pollution.
“There’s multiple remedial strategies going on," Neary said. "They're going to be removing some waste off site (and) keeping some impacted soil under a 'cap' either under the parking garage, the actual building or the paved surfaces. But there will be no soil left within two feet of the structure or paving. There's a buffer there."
The Christophs and Mayor Joe Ganim's administration had instead hoped to have been celebrating the actual groundbreaking this year on the first 400 units of the anticipated 1,500 unit high-end apartment complex. After some debate, the City Council a year ago approved a 12-year tax abatement to help finance the long-anticipated project.
Mikayla Rumph, an EPA spokesperson, said, "EPA initially became involved after the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection contacted us concerning the Steelpointe property owner’s determination that a portion of the site had PCB contamination that was the result of PCB activities that were conducted prior to 1978."
Rumph said it was early June when that agency informed the Christophs that more sampling of the PCB-tainted soil was required, leading to the confirmation of some higher concentrations, a subsequent redesign of the development and drafting of the engineered control variance pending before both the federal and state environmental officials.
Rumph said both the EPA and the DEEP "provided comments" on the submission to a consultant for the Christophs on Dec. 8 and are awaiting the revised plan for approval.
That final review and authorization could take two to three months.
Neary indicated it is not uncommon for developers to pursue capping options and removing all of the dirt "may be two to three times the price."
And just to allay any concerns about the harbor, Neary noted there is no current evidence of the Steelpointe PCBs entering the water.
"It’s been there a long time but it's not currently impacting or having an impact (on the harbor)," Neary said. "Can I say it never had an impact 75 years ago? I don’t know. But currently it’s not having an impact.”
Robert Christoph Jr. in a statement said, "From day one, we hired the best and brightest engineering and environmental firms to
complete this work to ensure that all environmental issues are fully resolved before the start of construction."
"Our team has been working well with both agencies (DEEP and EPA) and are looking forward to receiving approvals in the coming weeks and months so that we can continue with this transformative project as soon as possible in 2023," Christoph said.
The tax abatement the Christophs received drew some controversy a year ago. Christoph noted, "We are not looking for any additional financial assistance from the City of Bridgeport to address these environmental issues."
Having evolved under multiple mayoral administrations, Steelpointe took a big step forward in 2015 when, under then-Mayor Bill Finch and the Christophs, anchor retail tenant Bass Pro Shops opened a store there. The property also boasts a new marina, a seafood restaurant and Bridgeport's first Starbucks.
Besides the apartments, the Christophs are also aiming to build a hotel there. As of earlier this year when the downtown Holiday Inn shuttered and was sold for conversion into apartments, Bridgeport has no major hotel.
Danbury area leaders say work on capital projects are among resolutions for 2023
Kendra Baker, Trevor Ballantyne, Rob Ryser, Sandra Diamond Fox, Kaitlin Lyle
As 2022 comes to a close, local leaders say they are looking forward to a number of things in the New Year. For many, completion of capital projects is a top-of-list goal they are aiming for.
Mayor Dean Esposito says his priorities for Danbury going into the New Year range from grant opportunities and downtown investments to public safety and water system improvements.
“Since my tenure as chief of staff, I have always believed that the city is missing out on grant opportunities at all levels of government,” he said.
Esposito said he plans to create an Office of Local, State and Federal Grant Opportunities that would provide additional resources to department heads “to find every penny they can for the city of Danbury.”
“This could be transformational for a city of our size,” he said.
Esposito said he plans to continue investing in Danbury’s downtown in 2023, and part of that plan involves the proposed reactivation of the old Maybrook train line as a commuter route from downtown Danbury to the Southeast train station in nearby New York, where it would connect to Metro-North’s Harlem Line to Grand Central Terminal.
“In the first year of my administration, we completed a feasibility study (and) have been awarded full funding for an environmental impact study to occur,” he said. “This is a big deal for our community and means that a train with quick and easy access to New York City is in our future.”
With public safety a top priority, Esposito says the city will continue hiring more police officers in 2023, “with a goal of reaching a full 160 officers,” and make sure the city’s fire department has all the resources it needs.
The mayor said one of his other New Year’s resolutions is to improve Danbury’s water system — something he said hasn’t been done since 1984.
“In 2023, we will fund critical upgrades and improvements to our water system and sewage treatment process,” Esposito said.
Mayor Pete Bass said moving forward with New Milford’s infrastructure projects — such as creating the new public works facility, moving the town’s ballfields and continuing to work on the roads — are among his New Year’s resolutions for 2023.
He said his other resolutions include continuing work to raise awareness of bullying and domestic violence, helping those in need and making New Milford a safe community.
Though he’s proud about the new roof at Town Hall, completion of four bridges and town-planned events that gave the public a chance to socialize after COVID-19, Bass said he wished he had accomplished other things in 2022.
“We had hoped to have the library open by now, but because of the supply chain issues and COVID, we got pushed back,” he said. “We hoped for that to be open in early January, so people could come in and see how beautiful the library is.”
The town of Bethel has a lot lined up for the start of the New Year.
“We’re starting right off with a referendum for the HVAC systems for the high school and then going into the special election for first selectman, so there is a lot going on,” said Bethel’s acting first selectman, Rich Straiton.
The Feb. 7 special election was scheduled as part of a settlement agreement reached in a lawsuit filed by resident Daniel Nostin in response to the swearing in of Straiton as first selectman after Matt Knickerbocker’s Sept. 7 resignation. The lawsuit alleged that Straiton was illegally sworn in and called for voters to decide who would fill the first selectman seat.
Straiton, a Democrat, and Republican Dan Carter are running for the open first selectman seat.
February is also when the town will start working on its 2023-24 budget, and Straiton said he doesn’t expect it to be an easy process.
“The schools are asking for a lot of programs to recoup from the pandemic, so their budget is going to be up, and we need to work with them to get a good budget,” he said.
For the coming tax season, Straiton said Bethel’s mill rate would go down, but residents' taxes would likely go up a bit as a result of this past year’s revaluation.
“Hopefully, there will be only a modest increase, if any,” he said. “There are a lot of challenges before us, but we’re strong here and we’ll get through it.”
First Selectman Rudy Marconi said his resolutions for 2023 include building a trail along Ligi’s Way in Ridgefield that will encourage walking, jogging and bird-watching.
The project includes the design and construction of about 2,510 feet of an 8-foot-wide walkway along Farmingville Road and Ligi’s Way.
According to the project site plans, it will include a wooden boardwalk and a 60-foot prefabricated steel pedestrian bridge. The nearly half-mile walkway will begin at Danbury Road and Farmingville Road, extend along Farmingville Road and Ligi’s Way, and then end at Ligi’s Way and South Street.
Construction of the project — which was initially expected to take place during the summer of 2021 — was delayed due to a supply chain shortage.
Marconi also said he hopes to promote civility among town leaders in the New Year and is distributing a new guidebook he has developed.
In creating the guide, he said the goal is to “work harder to discuss more about compassion, about civility, about respect for all of us regardless of our perspectives in life, and how we should listen more and talk less.”
The 20-page pamphlet, called Information and Guidelines for Boards, Committees and Commissions, will be distributed to all appointed and elected officials in the town. It touches on topics such as attendance, meetings, public participation, legal opinions and executive sessions.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said one of his New Year’s resolutions is to continue working with local officials and volunteers to make Newtown “the great place it is to live and do business.”
He also hopes to complete major capital expenditure projects such as the town’s emergency communications upgrade and HVAC improvements at Hawley School.
“Another goal is to finally sell the old police and town office facility at 3 Main St. — but more importantly, to secure the future of that important corner and gateway to historic Main Street for generations to come,” Rosenthal said.
He said 2023 should also be the year that Newtown finalizes a path for the future of Fairfield Hills, noting that the town didn’t get that done this year.
“The historical credit process is critical to any future development on the campus, and that has dragged on longer than I would have expected for much of 2022,” Rosenthal said.
First Selectwoman Tara Carr provided a list of her priorities for Brookfield going into the New Year.
It includes building a new communication system for first responders, establishing a 10-year financial capital plan for the town, collaborating with the Northwest Connecticut Land Conservancy to create land trusts and protect the town’s remaining forest land, and completing Brookfield’s charter revision.
Carr said she’s also looking forward to the opening of Brookfield’s new elementary school — the completion of which has been stalled by supply chain issues. And she said she wants to work with the Historic District Commission to create a second historical district in town.
Realignment project of State Route 69, 72 continues
BRISTOL – The realignment project of State Route 69 and 72 continues to march closer as some structures in the West End have been demolished in preparation for coming construction efforts.
“That is a long-time planned state project that’s paid mostly by the state but a little by the federal government,” said Mayor Jeff Caggiano. “Some buildings came down in October and then another one recently. There’s more demolition and they’ll straighten out that corner and dead end Divinity Street. They’ll put beautiful streetscapes in and along around there and we’re hoping to continue that up Park and then all the way up Riverside eventually to bring our gateway to downtown up to snuff.”
The mayor called the effort methodical and there would likely be a lot of utility work that needed to be completed as demolition continued and roadways were prepared for realignment.
“That will really get underway in earnest in spring as well during construction season,” said Caggiano.
Connecticut Department of Transportation Project Manager Joseph Arsenault has said around 15,300 average vehicles travel through the State Route 69 and 72 intersection area daily. Congestion gets particularly bad in the morning and evening rush hours.
The intersections of Landry, Divinity and Park streets have contributed to further challenges in the area along with the design of traffic flows within the intersection itself. State officials said the intersection functions as “one big six-leg intersection versus two intersections.”
According to previously shared plans, the state intends to create a more conventional four-way intersection for traffic and pedestrian needs while also meeting ADA accessibility concerns along with the creation of four-foot wide shoulders for cyclist travel.
Route 72’s alignment will be shifted northward to lead into the intersection and improve sightline for drivers. The Landry, Park and Divinity streets intersection will be taken away and traffic will no longer be able to use Divinity Street to bypass Route 72. Officials said curvature will be “softened” on Route 72’s west and eastern sides of the intersection with Route 69 in order to standardize it with intersection models. On Route 72, left turn lanes will be added to more efficiently move vehicle traffic onto Route 69. Turns are also slated to be improved to accommodate larger trucks moving from one route to another more efficiently. On both Route 69 and 72, overlapping left turn lanes are set to be removed.
Renovation eyed for historic Keeney building in Newington
The new owners of a historic Newington building are seeking a change of use from industrial/office space into retail and office space to revitalize the central downtown landmark.
The 109,200-square-foot complex of three buildings at 1170 Main St., formerly known as the Keeney manufacturing site, was purchased for $3.1 million by Omni Broussard Two LLC in December 2021.
The owners signed a lease in February with Data Mail Inc., which has been in business in Newington for 50 years and employs nearly 1,000 people in its facility on Hartford Avenue.
Data Mail is growing, the applicants said, and the Keeney 42,500-square-foot high-bay warehouse “was the perfect space for them to expand into while staying close to home in Newington.”
The owners submitted a petition for the change of use to the town Planning and Zoning Commission with plans for Data Mail and other tenants to occupy the space once it is renovated.
Other potential uses include a brewery/tap room, restaurant, coffee shop or hair salon, along with green spaces in the Main Street front yard and north alley near Market Square, the petition application says.
The lower-level is at parking-lot level and “offers a second option of retail, which could operate more like showroom spaces with light manufacturing or maker space adjacent,” according to the application.
“A good example would be a kitchen cabinet manufacturer who produces in the rear of their space but welcomes customers into the front showroom of the store,” the document says.
Upper level and lower-level spaces have delivery access and would be ideal for industrial, light manufacturing or start-up company space.
Once renovated, the building will become “an attractive multi-use property and hub in the center of Newington for residents and visitors to shop, dine, drink, work and congregate,” according to the application.
Renovation plans to the 6.8-acre parcel include work to the exterior of the building, which would restore the original art-deco-inspired facade.
Town officials said this will make the building look less like a factory, and therefore be more appealing to future tenants and a more attractive centerpiece in the downtown area.
“This application has the ability to further enhance future development within the Business Town Center,” and enhance foot traffic within the downtown business center, town officials wrote in a report supporting the application.
They applauded the owner’s intentions to preserve the history of the building in its new use and appearance.
The Keeney Manufacturing Company was founded in 1923 in New Britain, producing residential plumbing and heating fittings.
In 1925, the company moved to its current Newington location, where the building was expanded numerous times from the 1950 to the ‘80s and took on production, sales and distribution.
Operations stopped in 2019 and the building sold in 2021.
East Hartford gets $4 million federal grant to help expand library using former post office building
East Hartford — East Hartford has received a $4 million grant to help it purchase the former downtown Post Office on Main Street and renovate the historic building as an annex to the Raymond Library.
The $4 million is a part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, the government funding package that will bring $38.7 million to organizations in Connecticut’s Congressional First District.
U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1, who recently voted for the Consolidated Appropriations Act, said the government funding package will make a difference in the community locally and across the country, He also gave credit to U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3 for her leadership in working to get this package passed. DeLauro is chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
“I am proud to have secured over $38.7 million for Connecticut’s First District that will support victims of gun violence, move our infrastructure projects forward, and provide our community members with resources like workforce training and financial literacy programming,” Larson said.
Connor Martin, chief of staff for East Hartford Mayor Michael P. Walsh, said that they are grateful for the support from Larson and excited for his shared vision for the Main Street post office.
“The Main Street post office is located in the heart of East Hartford’s downtown area directly adjacent to the Raymond Library. With these funds and vision for Main Street, we have the potential to expand our excellent library, stabilize downtown and bring much needed economic development to East Hartford,” Martin said.
The 16,541-square-foot-building was originally built in the 1930s and will now house additional library services and programs.
Library Director Sarah Morgan said they are happy about adding the historic post office to their Main Street campus.
“At the library, we couldn’t be more excited at the prospect of adding the historic post office building to our Main Street campus. Congressman Larson is a library champion and his devotion to this project will enable us to expand our services in the long run to better serve East Hartford residents,” she said.
Ideas for the post office addition in 2021 included a coffee shop to help draw more people to the library and a permanent office for Literacy Volunteers of America, Town Council Chair Richard Kehoe said at the time.
He also said that the overall goal “is to make the library more visible to the public and create additional reasons for residents to utilize library services.”
Hearing set for water proposal: Winsted officials want to clarify issue before Saturday vote
WINSTED – Town officials want to be clear: borrowing $2.3 million from a state fund for water department projects is not going to translate into a higher tax rate nor a higher water rate.
Other unrelated factors, however, like the cost of electricity, could mean higher rates.
At 5:30 p.m. today, the Water and Sewer Commission is holding a hearing at Town Hall regarding the proposed borrowing from the state Department of Public Health’s Drinking Water Revolving Fund. The intention of the hearing is to provide information and clear up any confusion about the proposal before voters go to the polls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday at the Pearson School to decide whether they support it.
The $2.3 million is in addition to the $6.2 million voters approved in 2021. If voters approve the additional borrowing, the commission will have enough money to replace two water storage tanks. If they do not, only one of the tank projects will be done now.
The original $6.2 million was for both the tanks and the replacement of 4,000 feet of water mains under Case Avenue, Center Street, Greenwood Avenue, Thibault Avenue, and the eastern section of Holabird Avenue, from Whiting to Florence streets. Those projects were estimated to cost $6.2 million three-and-a-half years ago, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Public Works Director James Rollins has said. Since then, costs have risen 37%, to $8.5 million.
The water main project cost $2.2 million, $833,000 more than what was originally projected, Rollins has said. But that project is covered with the $6.2 million.
The $2.3 million is to help pay for the tanks. The commission wants to replace a decommissioned 1.5-million gallon tank on Wallens Hill with a 500,000-gallon tank to maintain fire protection, water quality and water pressure on the east side of town, and have a 690,000-gallon tank built at the Crystal Lake water treatment plant on Route 263 so that a 25-year-old 1-million gallon tank can be repaired.
Bids for the two tanks combined total $4,881,000; with the water mains, the total is $7,081,000. Add another $1,419,000 for the design, inspection and contingency and the total is $8.5 million.
Rollins has said the commission is paying back the state, for each project, over 20 years, at 2% interest (subject to change), with the rate charged to water users. While the projects alone are not going to cause an increase in the water rate, Rollins told the commission on Dec. 22 that “the one complication to this is the water rates are going to have to go up, because of the (increased costs of) electricity and chemicals,” according to meeting minutes.
Commission members, at their Dec. 22 meeting, debated whether they should move forward with the proposed borrowing now or wait a few years, fearing that voters will not support it. The potential problem with waiting is that the tanks could cost a lot more in two or three years, commission Chairman John Massicotte said.
Rollins pointed out that the state reimbursement may be less in a few years.
“I feel we should go ahead with it, for a couple of reasons,” he said. “I think it will cost us and the ratepayers more if we don’t. It is an urgent need which is why it was one of the top three of all the projects that were proposed to the state revolving fund. If we pull the plug then we are liable for that decision. If the public doesn’t fund it, then we did our due diligence in trying to do the right thing.”
Taxpayer advocate David LaPointe said he is urging voters to not support the additional borrowing because he feels town officials are misleading them into thinking their bills are not going to increase.
Based on the population served by the water department – there are 2,573 public water users in town – each of the three loans qualify for a 25% subsidy upon their completion, according to information provided on the town web site. Under certain circumstances, a 50% subsidy may apply. A 46.4% subsidy was applied to the water main project.
In actual dollars, Rollins has said the state is “forgiving” $947,000 on the loan for the water main project and could forgive $1.6 million on the Wallens Hill tank and $1.5 million for Crystal Lake, depending on the actual final cost of the projects.
The Water and Sewer Commission is an entity of the town but is separate financially, yet cannot borrow money on its own. The commission needs the town to co-sign any loans it tries to obtain, thus the need for voter approval.