High:
Low:
Wind:
Chance of precipitation:

Forecast

close
Saturday, December 14 Local

New Milford approves deal on sewer debt

NEW MILFORD — The Town Council has formalized a longstanding agreement with the sewer commission on who pays for the debt, an issue that has been controversial in the past.

Mayor Pete Bass proposed the Memorandum of Understanding between the town and the New Milford Water Pollution Control Authority at Monday’s Town Council meeting where it was unanimously approved.

Under the agreement, the town will pay the difference in whatever the sewer commission can’t pay on the debt payments for the water treatment plant expansion that was completed back in 2012.

“This is essentially what the town has been doing since the bond,” Bass said, adding this agreement was needed for the past decade.

The plant expansion was ordered by the state because it was bringing in a lot of nitrogen and effluents were going into the Housatonic River. The town received about $7 million in grants from the Clean Water Fund and bonded the remaining $26 million.

Bass, who spent years on the sewer commission before becoming mayor, said the plan had been for the sewer commission to pay off the debt through connection fees within the sewer expansion footprint, but weren’t able to get the needed money.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen,” Bass said. “The town is obligated to pay the bonds so whatever shortfall happens, the town picks up the difference. It has been since day one.”

This is largely due to the economic downturn that happened while the plant was being built, preventing new businesses from coming into town and existing businesses from expanding.

The bond payments are generally about $1.8 million to $1.9 million and the split between the town and commission have varied over the years.

“We’re going to continue to work together to mitigate these costs,” Bass said.

The sewer commission has done a few things to bolster its revenue, including increasing rates and bringing in more septage, but both of these had problems.

The higher rates deterred some businesses from coming to town, so Bass said they are working with the sewer commission and economic development office to help more businesses come with various agreements. He said there are now 23 businesses in the works to build new or expand in town, which should give some one-time bumps in revenue with the connection fees.

Relying on septage harmed the plant because a New York hauler was bringing in commercial waste, which damaged the equipment. The hauling policy has since been revised and the area the plant accepts waste from was reduced.

Bass said the goal is to have more places in New Milford connect to the sewer line because it will help cover expenses and increase the plant’s operating capacity, which is at about 30 percent right now. More capacity will also help the plant run better and helps with the nitrogen credits.

Read Full Article 

Plans for infrastructure improvements and incentives are also in the works, Bass said.

He added that the sewer commission is able to cover all of its other expanses, apart from the plant expansion debt. This includes the $1.1 million or so renovation project scheduled for the westside pump station.

“They have the money to do that,” Bass said. “They’ve been saving in their capital reserve to do that, but once that is done, the capital reserve is dwindled pretty substantially.”

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345

Katrina Koerting|Reporter

loading