"Responsible Growth" ongoing as of 2012 - FAST system for W-W "Y"not working?  Or was it never expected to work?  Weston has tertiary treatment plant in the center of town for the schools.

Here's an interesting story about regionalism - Stratford Sewage Treatment Plant to be purchased by...New Haven.
Stratford Town Council agrees to sale of WPCA plant
John Burgeson, CTPOST
Published 10:08 pm, Thursday, April 9, 2015

STRATFORD -- The Town Council agreed Thursday to sell Stratford's waste treatment plant at the foot of Birdseye Street to the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority, a move that had been championed in the past few months by Mayor John Harkins.

The 8-1 vote means that Stratford will become a part of the GNHWPCA and will have two seats on its board of directors. The regional waste treatment authority includes New Haven, Woodbridge, East Haven and Hamden. Now, with Stratford as its newest member, the authority will serve a population of about 250,000...story in full: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Stratford-Town-Council-agrees-to-sale-of-WPCA-6190604.php

Ridgefield development linked to its sewer system
Robert Miller, Danbury News-Times
Updated 12:00 am, Saturday, September 28, 2013
RIDGEFIELD -- The future of the town's sewer system collided with present-day zoning problems Thursday, with no easy way to reconcile the two.

The discussion was part of the initial work on a 20-year plan for the town's sewer system, which has two sewer plants, to serve the town's center and the Copps Hill area.

The meeting -- held jointly by the water Pollution Control Authority, the Board of Selectmen and the Planning and Zoning Commission -- mostly concentrated on the upgrade that will be needed at the two plants and the need to check the additional water now flowing into the sewer plants on South Street.

But it veered for a time into a discussion of Connecticut Statute 8-30g.

This controversial regulation was intended to diversify the state's housing stock and create more affordable units in towns that lack them.

But to the consternation of town officials throughout the state, it has allowed developers a way to propose projects that are hard to stop.

As the law is now written, 8-30g applications reverse the ordinary regulatory process. Instead of developers having to prove why the housing should be built, the onus is on a town to prove why it shouldn't

In recent years, the town has been overwhelmed by such applications.`

"I've talked to other towns," said Rebecca Mucchetti, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission. "No other town is seeing what we're seeing. At one point, we had four 8-30g applications in a three-block radius."

"It's changing the character of the town," said Selectman Andrew Bodner.

But Amy Siebert, chairman of the town's Water Pollution Control Authority, said trying to limit use of the town's sewer system to check such development raises problems of its own. Moratoriums mean no to everyone, she said.

"If a restaurant came along and it was desirable, you still couldn't give it a permit," Seibert said. "If the library was building an expansion, you'd have to say no to the library."

However Selectman Di Masters pointed out that if a developer tried to build a project that added significantly to the flow into one of the town's sewer plants, that might be a reason to deny the request.

"We are not obligated to add more to our plant," she said.

The discussion of the town's future will be ongoing as part of the 20-year study of the sewer system. The study is looking at development and needs.

Planning and Zoning Commission member John Katz said the study will not look at expanding the existing sewer districts.

"Absolutely not," he said.

The study will also look at upgrades the town's two sewer plants may need.

The plant on South Street was built in the 1970s, but upgraded in 1992. A smaller plant that serves sewer customers along Route 7 was built in 1984.

John Pearson, of Aecom, the company preparing the study, said much of the equipment in sewage treatment plants has about a 20-year life span. The chemicals such plants use are corrosive enough to wear out many parts.

Therefore, he said, both plants are due for an upgrade.

"It's like a car," Pearson said. "You can still use it with 200,000 or 300,000 miles on it, but the reliability goes way down."

The study is also looking at ways to reduce flow into the South Street system, both by mending leaking pipes and getting homes to disconnect things like illegal sump pumps from the system.

Siebert said right now the WBCA prefers to work with homeowners to end such connections, rather that punish them.

"It's very expensive," she said of the cost of routing a sump pump to an outside dry well. "I don't think we want to fine people on top of that."

Georgetown restaurant owner charged with dumping sewage in river
Weston FORUM
By Christopher Burns, Hersam Acorn Newspapers on July 11, 2013

On Friday, June 21, Matthew Criscuolo Jr. turned himself in to Wilton police upon learning of a warrant issued for his arrest. The warrant was issued after an investigation by Wilton officers concluded that Mr. Criscuolo was responsible for raw sewage being pumped from the septic system at the Toozy Patza Pizza building on Rt. 7 in Georgetown into the Norwalk River.  He was released on a promise to appear with a court date of July 2. The court date was then moved to July 29, when Mr. Criscuolo is expected to enter a plea.

Mr. Criscuolo was formally charged with discharging sewage outside of his permitted parameters as outlined in Connecticut state statute 22a-430. The charges under this statute were supplied to Wilton detectives by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).  These charges stem from an incident discovered by Wilton police around 12:30 a.m. on June 4, when an officer discovered an automated pump discharging raw sewage from a septic tank into a parking lot and the Norwalk River.

At the scene, police called the DEEP and Wilton Department of Environmental Affairs. John Aceto, emergency response coordinator at DEEP, responded for the state. Pat Sesto, Wilton’s director of environmental affairs, arrived around 1:30 a.m.  A company was called to clean the catch basin and remove what contamination it could, Ms. Sesto said. “The Georgetown Fire Department hosed down the road” and a remediation company sent a truck to suck up the contaminated water, she said.

Matthew Maddox, attorney for Mr. Criscuolo, said his client is a “well-known restaurateur, a conscientious guy, and a respected member of the community who is doing whatever he can to make sure that everyone is happy.”

The troubled septic system at 991 Danbury Road — the site of Toozy Patza Pizza and several other businesses — has been an issue since April when Steven Schole, Wilton’s health director, issued several health code violations in response to sewage bubbling up from a manhole cover in the parking lot. Mr. Criscoulo was to submit a plan to permanently remedy the situation. 

In a letter to Mr. Criscuolo dated April 5, Mr. Schole said, “Pumping of the septic system is required until a permanent repair is in place. Elimination of this sewage overflow by reduction in water use or other approved methods is mandatory.

“The retail and food service establishments may be subject to closure if the sewage overflow continues.”

Mr. Schole said Mr. Criscoulo hired a professional engineer and they met at the site on April 26 to review alternatives. The leaching area needs repair, Mr. Schole said. It may need to be expanded.  Mr. Schole said, weather permitting, the situation must be remedied by the end of July.

“In the meantime, pumping is required. If that is followed, it’s not a problem. You need a licensed pumper to take the material to a sewage treatment plant,” he said.

“What matters is don’t let it become a public health problem by having sewage come out onto the ground. Sewage cannot be disposed of improperly or come out on the ground or in any watercourse.”

Mr. Schole added, “This situation of a failed septic system and remedies has been discussed with the town attorney.”

Mr. Criscoulo also owns Wilton Pizza and Piccolo’s Pizza in Ridgefield and is a partner at Bistro 7 in Georgetown.

Bill Gates' foundation puts money on solar-powered toilet
By Bill Rigby | Reuters – Tue, Aug 14, 2012

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Bill Gates is betting the toilet of the future for the developing world will be solar powered.

The world's leading private philanthropist handed a $100,000 prize to the California Institute of Technology on Tuesday for its work on a self-contained, sun-powered system that recycles water and breaks down human waste into storable energy.

Gates is focusing on the need for a new type of toilet as an important part of his foundation's push to improve health in the developing world. Open defecation leads to sanitation problems that cause 1.5 million children under 5 to die each year, Gates said, and Western-syle toilets are not the answer as they demand a complex sewer infrastructure and use too much water.

The Microsoft Corp co-founder is looking to change that by sparking new inventions in toilet technology, which he says has not fundamentally changed since the invention of the flush toilet in 1775.

"Imagine what's possible if we continue to collaborate, stimulate new investment in this sector, and apply our ingenuity in the years ahead," Gates said at his foundation's Seattle headquarters on Tuesday. "Many of these innovations will not only revolutionize sanitation in the developing world, but also help transform our dependence on traditional flush toilets in wealthy nations."

His foundation announced $3.4 million in new funding on Tuesday for toilet projects being worked on by various organizations, bringing total investment in its "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" to about $6.5 million.

About 2.6 billion people, or 40 percent of world's population -- mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia -- lack access to safe sanitation and are forced to defecate in the open, according to Gates.

Last year the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave grants to eight universities around the world to help tackle the problem by creating a hygienic toilet that uses little or no water, is safe and affordable and can transform waste into energy, clean water and nutrients.


Gates presented prizes on Tuesday to the teams that showed the most progress, handing Caltech the first prize of $100,000 for its working model of a solar-powered bathroom, where a solar panel produces power for an electrochemical reactor that breaks down feces and urine into hydrogen gas, which can be stored in hydrogen fuel cells to provide a back-up energy source for night operation or use in low-sunlight conditions.

The workings of the toilet are designed to be buried underground beneath a conventional-looking stall and urinal set-up, which the Caltech team showed in cross-section at the Gates Foundation courtyard. Water recovered from the continuous process is pumped up again to provide water to flush the toilet.

Gates also handed out prizes to Britain's Loughborough University and Canada's University of Toronto for their designs, which focus on transforming feces into usable resources.

The software pioneer is hoping many of the universities work together to develop the best technologies and is aiming to get new-style toilets into use in the next two to four years.

Gates' foundation is spending about $80 million a year on water, sanitation and hygiene issues, areas where it thinks it can make a marked difference in people's lives.

The $370 million in total it has committed to that area so far is still only a small slice of global funding for health, development and education provided by the foundation, which has handed out, or is committed to, more than $26 billion in grants since Gates started his philanthropic endeavors in 1994.

The foundation, which Gates co-chairs with his father and wife, Melinda, is the world's biggest private philanthropic organization with an endowment worth more than $33 billion.

Regional Sewer Board May Vote This Month On Adding Middletown
Chairman Says Questions Remain On Measure That OK'd Expansion

The Hartford Courant
By SHAWN R. BEALS, sbeals@courant.com
8:32 PM EDT, August 7, 2011

CROMWELL —The Mattabassett District board chairman said questions still remain about a recently signed bill allowing the district to expand to include Middletown, but said he is hopeful the board will approve the measure soon, the final step in the process.

William Candelori said state legislators have been seeking information from state officials to try to put some concerns of board members at ease so they can vote.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill recently that allows Middletown to join New Britain, Cromwell and Berlin in the regional sewer district and increases the board of directors from 12 to 15 members. The bill allows Middletown to shut down its own aging sewer treatment facility, and share the costs of a required $100 million upgrade to the Mattabassett plant.

Adding Middletown to the district would spread the costs for the upgrade over four towns instead of three. Sewer rates will go up, but not as much if Middletown joins, officials said.

In July, board members said they were frustrated by the limited input they had in final negotiations of the bill. Some said it was unclear where a yearly $100,000 payment to Cromwell for hosting the facility would come from.

Candelori said he hopes the board can vote on the expansion at the next regular meeting Aug. 15.

"What came out isn't what we anticipated," Candelori said. "I think the legislation was poorly put together and rushed, and it wasn't the intent of the legislators."

State Sen. Paul Doyle said he agrees the bill isn't perfect, but it achieves the goal of keeping rates low for customers.

"It's not a perfect statute but it achieves the overall goal of helping the ratepayers," Doyle said. "The stakes are very high if it's not approved."

If the Mattabassett board approves the expansion of the district, approvals from all four towns will be needed, Candelori said.

He said if board members do not take a vote, the four towns would have to wait until the next regular legislative session, so passing the measure soon is important.

"I don't think it serves everyone's best interests to wait any longer," Candelori said.

Officials have said recently that a proposal in Berlin to build 83 homes off Orchard Road and extend sewers could delay the $100 million expansion project. State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials said that particular sewer extension would require several approvals, which could hold up the release of state money contributing to the project.

Candelori said that is a separate issue the Mattabasett District would have to work out with Berlin and the state, but it shouldn't have any impact on any votes to add Middletown to the sewer district.

Town set for sewer showdown
Greenwich TIME
By Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Published January 22 2008

Town officials are bracing for a possible showdown tomorrow night with North Mianus property owners upset over the individual cost to them for a major sewer installation project in their neighborhood.

The Condemnation Commission will hold a 7 p.m. public hearing at Central Middle School to discuss the formula it used for determining individual shares of the estimated $23.5 million project, which was completed in 2004.  A number of the 800 homeowners who received sewer hookups have publicly complained about the formula, as well as some of the expenses that were included in the overall cost of the project.

"I think there are going to be some people who are going to be angry based on what I'm hearing on the street," said Sam Romeo, head of the Mianus Valley Association, a homeowners group in the neighborhood.

The formula developed by the commission calls for 75 percent of the project's costs to be divided evenly among those with new hookups, with the remaining 25 percent to be calculated based on individual property tax assessments.  That works out to an average of $30,379 for individual homeowners, who will have 20 years to pay for their share of the project.

Romeo said the commission's formula overcharges those with smaller homes. The commission expected to hear from a pair of condominium associations that each received a single connection that allowed them to tie-in to a new sewer main built during the project. The condo associations, whose shares are five times higher than for individual homeowners, have said they should be charged less because they are already paying sewer taxes. Previously, the two developments had their own private sewer line and pump that they payed to maintain.

"We've had to go out and get counsel because the double-taxation is nothing we want to participate in," said Charles McConnell, the president of the Lansing Meadows Condominium Association.

The 24-unit development has been paying sewer improvement and maintenance taxes since it was built 24 years ago, according to McConnell.

"The way they've gone about it is just ignoring the historical facts about the situation," McConnell said. "They might just think that because we're 24 homeowners, we'll roll over."

Robert Tuthill, the commission's chairman, said the town needs to start billing homeowners and collecting their payments so it can repay the debt from the project.  While the commission could change the formula, Tuthill said that would require another public hearing and possibly delay a billing date scheduled for April 1.

"That would be my perception that it's unlikely the formula would be changed," Tuthill said. "Basically, the commission feels comfortable with what we did."

Tuthill said he doesn't know what to expect at tomorrow's hearing, where speakers will be encouraged to keep their comments under three minutes.

"I'm going to try to make it move along," Tuthill said. "We're here to hear what the public has to say. We want to make sure everyone gets a chance."

An even bigger gripe for Romeo is the overall bill for the project, which he said the town padded with unnecessary paving and drainage improvement projects in the neighborhood.

First Selectman Peter Tesei pointed out that the town audited the project and ended up lowering its overall price by $600,000, which had been spent on rebidding and redesigning the project when the original contractor had to be replaced.

"I think every effort was made to be fair and balanced," Tesei said. "I don't know what more at this point can be done."

Romeo said members of his group are particularly frustrated because almost all of the town officials responsible for the project have since retired or taken jobs elsewhere.

"Definitely, I think we're going to have to wind up (resorting to) litigation," Romeo said.

Water authority increases rates
By Doug Dalena, Staff Writer
Published September 8 2007

STAMFORD - Sewer users in the city and in Darien will see a 2.2 percent increase on their semiannual bills beginning next month.

The Water Pollution Control Authority voted after a public hearing Thursday night to raise user charges from $2.96 to $3.03 per 100 cubic feet - or 748 gallons - of water used. At its Magee Avenue plant, the authority treats sewage from about 95 percent of Stamford homes and buildings south of the Merritt Parkway, as well as from Darien; it charges customers for sewer use based on water consumption.

The average four-person household uses about 84,000 gallons of water per year, so that household would pay $7.84 more this year, WPCA Executive Director Jeanette Brown said. Customers will see the increase next month, when they receive the first of two bills.

Brown had originally proposed a 4.4 percent increase, to $3.09 per 100 cubic feet, but during a meeting before Thursday night's public hearing, board members voted to increase the projected collection rate for sewer bills, which alleviated the need for a higher hike.

Some board members had argued for reducing the increase by using $250,000 from a $1 million reserve account created specifically to hold rates down, but the board rejected that plan.

"You've got to have cash, because this is all supported by user fees," city Director of Administration Sandra Dennies said, adding that the reserve account must remain intact for unforeseen costs, such as utility bill spikes. "You can't go back to the city and ask for more money."

The WPCA operates the treatment plant and sanitary sewer system with revenues from sewer user fees, as well as connection fees for new users and assessments from neighborhoods that are added to the sewer system. Its budget is separate from the city's, although it has to be approved by the city Board of Representatives and Board of Finance.

City Rep. John Boccuzzi, D-2, and Director of Operations Ben Barnes, both WPCA board members, argued that holding down rates, as long as it was done responsibly, also was important, especially when ratepayers are experiencing increases in electricity, water and tax rates.

Boccuzzi suggested that WPCA board members may be insulated from criticism.

"They don't get the feedback that we get," he said.

Instead of using the reserve fund, members agreed to increase the projected collection rate from 95 percent to 97 percent, adding more money to the revenue side of the WPCA budget.

The authority's billing director, Bill Napolitano, told the board that collection rates in the last two years have approached 98 percent.

"We're at least a couple of points over what we projected for the budget," Napolitano said.

None of the four residents who attended the public hearing spoke about the rate increase.

Instead, the speakers complained about the hearing location - in a conference room at the sewage treatment plant - and the difficulty in finding it.

"Why aren't you having a meeting that is of public interest in a public building?" asked Sheila Carmine, who spoke about errors on her bill.

Brown said that while the legal notice printed in The Advocate included the address for the treatment plant, it should have included a map. Notices for some hearings on sewer connection charges and assessments for sewer construction projects have included maps, she said.

"From now on, we will hold all public hearings at the Government Center," Brown said. Regular board meetings will remain at the WPCA headquarters.

The public notice also included a proposed 6 percent rate increase, instead of the 4.4 percent Brown proposed at Thursday's meeting. That was because the WPCA agreed on a preliminary rate in August, when it prepared the public notice. At the time, Brown said the Aquarion water company had not provided the most recent water consumption figures because it was updating its computer system.

Brown also said she would look into why WPCA meeting minutes, agendas and notices of public hearings are not posted on the city's Web site.

Several months ago, Brown said the WPCA would start putting agendas and minutes online, but that hasn't happened.

Barnes, Brown's boss, was discouraged that meeting information was not online.

An artist’s rendering shows a concept for Oak Harbor’s new sewage treatment plant. - Image submitted

Sewage plant may include plaza, water park
by JESSIE STENSLAND,  Whidbey News-Times Co-editor
Jul 12, 2014 at 6:00AM

Plans for the new sewage treatment in Oak Harbor may include an event center and outdoor plaza adjacent to Windjammer Park.

The new proposal also supports longer-range goals for the park, which include new amenities — such as a splash park — in place of the old sewage treatment plant that’s being removed as well as the relocation of the ballfields so that Bayshore Drive can be extended through them.

City Engineer Joe Stowell unveiled city staff’s preferred siting plan for the new sewage treatment plant during a workshop Wednesday; under the proposal, a small section of Bayshore Drive will be built on the south end of the sewage plant property and protrude into the park.

Nobody objected to the plan, which will be on the Aug. 6 council agenda for final approval; councilwomen Beth Munns and Tara Hizon were absent.

Councilman Rick Almberg said he wants to ensure that the project takes up as little of the park as possible. He said council members promised the community to make an effort not to take away any park space with the project.

“That’s a big deal to a lot of people.”

Mayor Scott Dudley pointed out that the old sewage treatment plant and adjacent parking lot, which are in the middle of the park, will be removed as soon as the new treatment plant comes online.

He said there may be a “net gain” of park space.

During an interview after the meeting, Dudley said the city will be obligated to turn that property into park space; he suggested that a “splash park” for kids is nearly a certainty, but that the public will get the chance to suggest many other ideas for amenities.

On Wednesday, Stowell said approving the site plan was a vital step because it allowed the engineering firm to move forward with the design of the facility, which will consist of several buildings.

Stowell said the site plan will just decide “where the boxes will go” on the site.

The plan was created by a group of city staff members after public sentiment was gauged with public open house and an in-depth charette process.

The city purchased the Whidbey Island Bank building on Pioneer Way earlier this year in order to build the sewage treatment plant on the large rear parking lot, which is adjacent to the waterfront Windjammer Park.

It cost $2.6 million.

The site plan would solve a parking issue by adding four dozen additional spaces to the Peoples Bank parking lot, but on property owned by the city. The bank, which is next door, has a parking easement for employee cars on the property the city purchased for the treatment plant.

Stowell and the city officials also discussed several other dreams and ideas about the project beyond what is strictly in the site plan. He showed the council a conceptual drawing, created by the consultant, which included an event center and a plaza area.

Dudley said he is especially excited about the event center proposal; he said the first floor of one of the buildings could house administrative-type operations, but the second floor could become a meeting place for the public.

“It would overlook the windmill and overlook the water. It would have beautiful views,” he said, adding that it would fill a need in the community.

Under the concept, the paved, outdoor plaza area would be created next to the event center. Stowell said such a space would be an ideal for events like the farmers market.

The officials also discussed the future of Bayshore Drive, though the sewage treatment plant calls for the construction of only a short section of the road extension; the larger road construction project isn’t part of the project, but the site plan for the sewage treatment facility sets the stage for what may come later.

For many years, the city’s comprehensive plan included a goal of extending Bayshore Drive so that it runs parallel to Pioneer Way all the way to Scenic Heights Road.

According to the conceptual drawing for the plant site, Bayshore would be run along the north edge of Windjammer Park and through the middle of the baseball fields.

Several people pointed out that the project would be a boon to the property owners on the north side of the new road by creating new access and new road frontage.

Stowell said the idea isn’t to create a freeway, but a narrow road that would be both safe and scenic.

As for the ball fields, several officials had ideas for relocating them elsewhere, including the site of the old Memorial Field.

Dudley said he’s in the process of creating a regional baseball field plan that could draw tournaments to the city.

Latest reports here.
Freeland’s new sewers could cost $15 million; Hook-up charges could cost property owners from $6,400 to $284,400
South Whidbey Record
Feb 16 2008

FREELAND — A new sewer system for Freeland will cost $15 million, according to a consultant’s memo prepared last week for the Freeland Water and Sewer District.

Most of the money to pay for the project would come from Island County. The memo lists County Rural Sales Tax revenues as a source for $6 million of the money needed to build the sewer system. Other funding would come from a $1 million grant from the county and a $1 million Centennial Clean Water Fund grant from the state.

Most of the money needed to pay for the rest of the project would come from a low-interest Public Works Trust Fund loan.

According to the memo, the sewer district has been studying three options for financing the project over the next two decades. The options include raising millions of dollars in hook-up fees assessed to property owners, and creating a local improvement district where property owners would help share in the cost of creating the new sewer system.

Depending on the financing option that is eventually chosen, property owners in Freeland could pay connection charges ranging from $6,400 up to $284,400.  Connection charges would be based on the amount of treatment capacity needed by each property owner, measured by the equivalent of a residential home.  The sewer system’s biggest users would pay the highest sewer hook-up fees. Topping the list is China City ($284,400), followed by Island Athletic Club ($260,700), Pay-Less ($205,400) and Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Inc. ($158,000).

Customers would also pay monthly maintenance-and-operation rates that would cost between $37 and $44 for each equivalent residential unit, starting in 2011.  Steve Shapiro, the owner of the Island Athletic Club, was pretty shocked when he heard rumors of what his connection fees might be. His view didn’t change when told of the connection charge for his property that was listed in the sewer memo.

“That’s absurd. We have a rather new, functioning septic system and if we had to pay that kind of money, we’d go out of business,” Shapiro said.

“That is a quarter million dollar hookup fee for no benefit, because we have a system that works fine,” he said.

Freeland Chamber of Commerce officials familiar with the report could not be reached for comment by presstime Friday morning.  Sewer district commissioners met earlier this week to talk about the study. District representatives also briefed county officials on the report later in the week.  The draft memo was prepared for the Freeland Water and Sewer District by Lindsey Consulting. Sewer district officials repeatedly refused to release the public document to The Record this week after the newspaper requested the memo under the state’s Open Records Act. The memo was later obtained from a different source.

Installing a new sewer system is a critical step in the urbanization of Freeland. Although county commissioners have approved a long-range growth plan for Freeland, the area cannot be developed under the plan until urban-style infrastructure — including the new wastewater treatment system — is in place to handle higher density development.

Island County Commissioner Phil Bakke said officials from the sewer district are expected to gather with city and county leaders at next month’s Council of Governments meeting to request their support on devoting rural sales tax revenues to the sewer project.

Bakke said many realize the new sewer system is the most pressing infrastructure project on the South End.

Sheehan Retiring As CEO Of MDC, Region's Water & Sewer Agency
Hartford Courant "Capitol Watch"
Oct. 11, 2014

Charles “Chuck” Sheehan will retire in February after 10 years as chief executive officer of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), the Hartford region’s water and sewer authority.

“For a decade, I have had the distinct honor of serving with hundreds of dedicated MDC employees, past and present,” Sheehan, 65, of Suffield, said in a Friday email to workers at the Hartford-based agency. “Time advances and we all must move on in our lives. Accordingly, after long and careful consideration, it is with regret that I inform you today, I will be stepping down…effective February 1, 2015.”

For the complete column:  http://www.courant.com/politics/capitol-watch/hc-sheehan-to-retire-as-ceo-of-mdc-regions-water-and-sewer-authority-20141011-story.html

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut to get involved
Executive Director, Margaret Minor; f
ormer Senator DiBella, the "Silver Fox" at an MDC meeting (c);  Judge Burns' decision story below.

Key Opponent To MDC's UConn Pipeline Plan Muzzled By 1998 Agreement

The Hartford Courant
By ERIK HESSELBERG, Special to The Courant
7:39 PM EST, December 13, 2012

The Farmington River Watershed Association acknowledged Thursday that a 1998 agreement it signed compelled it to call off its campaign opposing a plan by The Metropolitan District to supply water to the University of Connecticut.

The advocacy group, a voice for the Farmington River for more than 50 years, had been leading the fight against the MDC's proposal to construct 20 miles of pipeline and pumping stations from Manchester to Mansfield to bring millions of gallons of water to the university.

But the association's director, Eileen Fielding, said her group had to end its opposition because of the agreement it signed with the MDC in 1998.

"Around our office we call it the Portland agreement," Fielding said. The agreement — signed when the MDC extended its reach into Portland — bars the watershed association from opposing MDC water diversions as long as they do not exceed the district's capacity. The capacity has been estimated at 70 million gallons a day.

Fielding said her group agreed to the conditions in exchange for assurances from the MDC that it would limit its use of Farmington River water and would seek alternative sources, such as wells, should demand reach a certain threshold.

She said she was reminded of the agreement by the MDC on Wednesday, the day she was to speak against the water diversion plan at a hearing at UConn.

A large crowd turned out for the hearing, with many in the audience voicing strong opposition. UConn, which has faced water shortages in the past, said it could use an additional 2 million gallons per day; MDC said it has the capacity the supply up to 5 million gallons.

"We just need to look at the terms of the agreement and see where can comment and where we can't," Fielding said. "If we can't, we can't. It's not as if dropping out of this will end the conversation. There are a lot of groups that still have something to say about this."

Margaret Miner, executive director of the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, said her organization plans to step up its opposition now that the Farmington River Watershed Association is blocked from speaking out.

"We intend to oppose such a large out-of-basin transfer," Miner said. "It appears there are better ways for UConn to get its water than to ship it that distance."

The MDC supplies water to its eight member towns — Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Bloomfield, Newington, Rocky Hill, Wethersfield and Windsor — as well as to Glastonbury and Portland. Its daily demand is estimated at 50 million gallons.

The MDC's supply comes from reservoirs in the Farmington River watershed northwest of Hartford, including the Barkhamsted Reservoir on the East Branch of the Farmington, the largest body of pure potable water in Connecticut.

The MDC has said drinking water for UConn would not come directly from the Farmington but from one its reserviors.

Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant

"This will just feed more urban sprawl…"
UConn's Plan To Tap MDC Water Supply Criticized
The Hartford Courant
By PETER MARTEKA, pmarteka@courant.com
10:40 PM EST, December 11, 2012

STORRS — A plan to quench the thirst of the University of Connecticut by piping in millions of gallons of water from the Metropolitan District has upset residents on both sides of the state.  Full story here.

MDC Increasing Sewer And Water Rates
Hikes Of 4.5% And 10.85% Respectively To Begin Jan. 1

The Hartford Courant
By AMANDA FALCONE, afalcone@courant.com
6:06 PM EST, December 16, 2010

The Metropolitan District Commission will raise its water and sewer rates Jan. 1.

The MDC, which approved its budget this month, is expecting to receive $32.4 million in fees from the eight towns that receive sewer services from the agency, an increase of $1.4 million, or 4.5 percent. The district hasn't raised sewer rates since 2007.

Water use rates, which are charged directly to households, will increase by 10.85 percent, or 23 cents per hundred cubic feet. Rates were increased last year by 5 cents per hundred cubic feet. In 2009, they were reduced by 14 cents.

Also on Jan. 1, the district will levy an additional 10.85 percent increase in water customer service charges. For the average resident, that means a rise from $13.50 in service charges each quarter to $15.30.

The MDC's budget was set at $124 million for 2011. The district serves the municipalities of Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Newington, Wethersfield, Windsor, Bloomfield and Rocky Hill.

The amount the governments pay for sewer services is based on the average total tax revenue collected over three years. Municipalities like Hartford and West Hartford pay the most; next year their costs are expected to rise an additional $500,000 and $370,000 respectively, according to the MDC.

For a town like West Hartford, the sewer rate increase could mean a tax increase for residents. The value of taxable property is not growing and additional costs could require higher taxes, said Town Manager Ronald Van Winkle. He pointed out that the impact of the rate increases for towns will be greater than reported by the MDC because of a difference in financial calendars. Towns have a fiscal year that begins July 1, while MDC's fiscal year starts Jan. 1, so towns will have to pay half a year's increased rates from their already approved budgets.

John Zinzarella, the district's chief financial officer, said the rate increases are necessary because of debt costs for capital projects and an increase in the cost of employee medical benefits. Inflation, new health care reform measures and an aging workforce contributed to higher benefits cost, he said.

The MDC has tried to limit rate increases, Zinzarella said, explaining that when MDC first began to talk about its 2011 budget, the proposed sewer rate increase was 12 percent.

"We just fell out of our chairs when we got the first numbers," Van Winkle said.

The district found ways to cut costs. For instance, the district instituted an early retirement program that will eliminate 45 of the MDC's 638 positions over the first three months of 2011 and result in a savings of $4.7 million, Zinzarella said. Savings were also achieved through competitive bidding for utilities.

Lyle Wray, executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, which represents all eight MDC towns, said Thursday that he has not heard any complaints about the rate increases.

Officials in West Hartford recently said that while it's unfortunate that rates are going up, they were pleased the initial rate increase was reduced.

Van Winkle said West Hartford appreciates that MDC has not raised rates in recent years and said that the town understands that rates cannot be frozen forever, especially as the agency begins expensive, but necessary, capital projects.

MDC Chairman William DiBella said people need to recognize that to maintain the level of service expected of MDC, the agency must continue to maintain its infrastructure.

"We feel very comfortable that what we are doing makes a lot of sense," DiBella said.

MDC Water Rates (per hundred cubic feet): 2010: $2.12 2011: $2.35

During Sewer Project, Businesses In Peril
As worthwhile MDC work goes on, merchants in Hartford's North End deserve some help
Hartford Courant
Rick Green
August 13, 2010

A redesigned and renovated Albany Avenue, including a much-discussed new sewer system, will be a boost to the small merchants that line the street, with improved sidewalks, curbs, lighting and other improvements.  That is, if they can survive to enjoy the benefits.  Business owners say the long-awaited and much-needed work, which is being combined with the Metropolitan District Commission's massive sewer improvement project and will take a couple of years, is already killing them.

``We are in trouble here,'' said Eugene Scott, whose family runs Jamaican bakeries on North Main Street and Albany Avenue. "Whether we can recover depends on how much the future work affects us."

The bitter irony here is that the people who are putting their sweat and money into keeping Hartford vibrant are the ones facing ruin. The Ross sisters are a good example.  Hortense, Precious and Monica Ross bought a run-down Albany Avenue building in 2003, renovated it, and opened up their uniform shop on the corner of Garden Street. Customers come from across the city and outside of Hartford.  Because of sewer construction along Albany Avenue that will tie up the street for the next few years, the Rosses' business may not survive. There have been weeks this summer where not a single customer has come in.

"I think they just take the people in the North End for granted,'' Precious Ross told me as I sat in her shop, surrounded by colorful nurses outfits and school uniforms, the other day. "The economy is bad. This just makes it worse."

Hortense Ross said the long-planned, billion-dollar sewer upgrade by the Metropolitan District Commission should have done something to protect the small businesses, such as financial compensation for lost business.

"If this was West Hartford Center, you know what would happen? They would have been taken care of,'' Hortense said. "I don't have the money to pay for a lawyer. But I'm not going to sit down and lose my business and my building."

The MDC, which faces a massive challenge in the $2 billion project that will separate storm water from wastewater sewers, has been trying to help the business owners but it cannot use state or federal money to compensate merchants for lost business.

"Whenever you excavate in front of someone's property there are going to be problems,'' said Charles Sheehan, chief executive officer for the MDC. "You try to mitigate.''

Sheehan has been personally working with merchants for months on behalf of the MDC, which is overseeing the construction work. He has proposed doing some of the work at night and creating new temporary parking lots.

"We had exactly the same issues on Franklin Avenue. We had exactly the same issues on Columbus Boulevard. It happens wherever there is a major project."

Sheehan, at least, is trying. Merchants say they've gotten little help from city hall. I didn't get a response from Mayor Pedro Segarra when I called his office.  George Scott, whose bakery has been a landmark for decades, told me business owners are frustrated that their plight appears never to have been considered in the long-planned project.

"Albany Avenue has always been marginal. The people are struggling,'' Scott said. "When they get hit with something like this, they go out of business."

Everybody agrees that the work has to be done, of course. But it's hard to grasp how in Hartford, where the new shopping district down at Front Street lacks any tenants, merchants in the North End are being pushed into bankruptcy.  More effort could be made to do the work in the evenings and at night to accommodate businesses that need daytime customers. A low-interest loan program could be set up for struggling businesses. For Mayor Segarra, showing up at neighborhood meetings and listening to worried merchants might be a start. Somebody in charge needs to look into whether there are federal or state programs that could assist some of these business owners.

Above all, somebody with connections and power needs to step up here.

It's a promising sign that U.S. Rep. John Larson's office told me he's willing to help out and "bring the parties together."

That could be a small start. Something must be done before Hartford loses even more businesses.


Did the Schnauzer (r) attacked the bear?  Or at least provoked the attack by barking fiercely?  Was he off lead?  Black Bear (c) checking for directions and rules at Alaska public park area.

Bear attacks dog; owner shoots at bear

Associated Press
Updated 01:54 p.m., Monday, July 16, 2012

WEST HARTFORD -- Authorities say a man fired eight shots at a bear that attacked his dog as he was walking near a reservoir in West Hartford.

West Hartford police Lt. Jeff Rose tells The Hartford Courant the man used a handgun in the shooting Monday morning on the property of the Metropolitan District Commission. Rose said investigators are still trying to piece together what happened.

The schnauzer was taken to a veterinarian and its condition was not known.

An entrance to the reservoirs to the south was closed for several hours because the bear had last been seen in the area.

Chris Stone, an official with the MDC, says guns are not permitted on its property.

Lawmakers approve recreational land liability bill
Hartford Courant
By Daniela Altimari on May 17, 2011 5:27 PM

The state House of Representatives approved a bill this afternoon that grants limited legal immunity to municipalities that open their undeveloped land to the public for recreational use.

At the start of the legislative session back in January, the measure looked to generate significant controversy, pitting the state's trial lawyers against bicyclists, hikers, and municipal leaders fearful of lawsuits.

Yet when the vote was taken, it was 142 to 1. Andrew Fleischmann, a Democrat from West Hartford, the sole "no vote,'' said he was concerned about cases of negligence.

The lopsided vote -- and the fact that the bill had 80 cosponsors -- can be attributed to a compromise worked out last month that would still hold municipalities liable if they are found negligent in maintaining recreational facilities such as playgrounds and ball fields.

"This bill contains fair compromises that were addressed by multiple parties,'' said Rep. David Baram of Bloomfield, the measure's chief proponent. "I believe this bill is fair to all parties.''

Twenty seven other states currently provide some measure of limited liability to municipalities, Baram noted.

Rep. Gail Laveille, a Republican from Norwalk, called the bill "an excellent example of collaboration among such a large number of parties and legislators."

Cities and towns, fearing costly lawsuits, vigorously pushed for such protections for years. But the idea always faced steadfast opposition from the state's trial attorneys.

The issue gained new urgency last year, after a woman who crashed her bicycle into a closed gate while mountain biking at the West Hartford reservoir won a $2.9 million legal judgment against the Metropolitan District Commission. In response, the MDC threatened to close its land to the public.

But it isn't just a West Hartford issue. Numerous elected officials came to the Capitol during hearings on the bill, citing lawsuits their communities have faced from people injured while sledding, hiking and walking on public lands.  

The bill gives municipalities, including water authorities, limited protection from lawsuits filed by people injured while using open land for recreation.   

At one public hearing on the proposal last month, dozens of outdoors enthusiasts turned out to press for the bill. They said the measure was needed to make sure public land remains open to the public, especially in a densely populated, highly developed state such as Connecticut. (State-owned properties, as well as land owned by private individuals and groups, already have a measure of legal immunity.)

The bill now goes to the state Senate for approval.

Compromise may give MDC, towns liability protection

Mark Pazniokas, CT MIRROR
April 15, 2011

A compromise reached Thursday should lead to approval today by the Judiciary Committee of a bill limiting liability for recreational accidents like the one resulting last year in a $2.9 million judgment against the Metropolitan District Commission.

It's been on the wish list of municipalities for 15 years, and the bill has nearly 40 co-sponsors. But it was opposed by trial lawyers, so a bill limiting liability seemed destined to die today from inaction in the legislature's Judiciary Committee.  But Rep. David Baram, D-Bloomfield, said a compromise reached with the trial lawyers should give municipalities and entities such as the MDC some protection from lawsuits arising from the recreational uses of public lands.

Towns still will face liability for the failure to properly maintain ball fields, basketball courts, swimming pools, sidewalks and other improved areas.  A court decision 15 years ago stripped municipalities of the same legal protection afforded the state and private land owners who open their property for free to hikers, bicyclists and other users.

"It's not a new issue, but we're dealing with all the attention to the MDC issue," said Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, which has been lobbying for passage.

Last year, the MDC, which is the Hartford's region's water authority, debated curtailing access to its 25,000 acres of watershed, including a heavily used 3,000-acre recreational area in West Hartford.  The MDC considered the closure after a woman collected a $2.9 million judgment for injuries sustained after riding her bicycle into a closed gate.  Ultimately, the MDC declined to close the recreational area, but the debate alarmed the large community of hikers, walkers and bicyclists who use the MDC's extensive trail system.

"It is impossible to predict when, if ever, the number of similar damage claims will of necessity result in a dramatic shift in MDC policy," the authority warned the Judiciary Committee in written public-hearing testimony.

The MDC verdict is on appeal. If upheld, Hammerling said, the fear is the MDC and other public entities could reconsider closing access to trails.  A broad array of groups submitted testimony backing the passage of the bill, including the New England Mountain Bike Association.

"Municipalities should not be penalized for providing opportunities for healthy recreation: they simply cannot afford to be dragged into court because they have opened up public property to recreation," the association said in its testimony.

But the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association told the committee that court decision 15 years ago was a well-reasoned analysis of why it was bad public policy to deny access to the courts to persons injured on public lands.  The intent of the original recreational immunity statute was to encourage private land owners to open their lands to the public. Municipal land already is owned by the public.  Baram said the trial lawyers association is dropping it objections in return for a more narrowly focused bill.

Today is the deadline for the Judiciary Committee to report out bills. Any legislation not approved by 5 p.m. is considered dead, and panel's agenda has more than 50 items. It is scheduled to begin its all-day meeting at 10 a.m.

MDC Land To Remain Open To Public
By AMANDA FALCONE, afalcone@courant.com
July 23, 2010

HARTFORD —The Metropolitan District Commission has no intention of banning public use of its more than 10,000 acres in Greater Hartford, MDC Chairman William DiBella said Thursday.

The commission was being responsible and thorough when it asked residents to comment on its recreation policies and facilities earlier this week, but there was never a proposal to close the trails, DiBella said.

The MDC must review its recreation policies and risks now that a Superior Court judge awarded $2.9 million to a Rocky Hill resident for a 2002 incident that happened on the regional water authority's property in West Hartford, DiBella said. The commission must also wait to find out if the judge's May ruling has any impact on its insurance premium, he said.

"We are acting as a responsible public body," DiBella said, adding that public input is important.

More than 350 people gathered at West Hartford Town Hall Tuesday, and they overwhelmingly supported keeping the land open to the public, including 3,000 acres at the West Hartford reservoir. The reservoir was where Maribeth Blonski, of Rocky Hill, suffered serious injuries when she crashed her mountain bike into a gate while riding the wrong way on the trail.

The judge's ruling in favor of Blonski says that the MDC, a quasi-public agency, as a municipal corporation, was not immune to liability. MDC is appealing.

MDC officials are also talking with state lawmakers, trying to persuade them to consider a proposal that would give the district immunity from all lawsuits. Some changes to a state law could help the MDC in the future, DiBella said.

At Tuesday's hearing, several lawmakers, including state Rep. David Baram, D-Bloomfield, pledged to close a loophole in state law that allows a municipal entity like MDC to be sued for recreational injuries. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said his office would look into the issue.

In total, the district's properties include the West Hartford Reservoir, whose entrance is on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford; and Reservoir No. 6, off Route 44; the Lake McDonough area in Barkhamsted and New Hartland; and the West Branch area in northwestern Connecticut. The agency is the second-largest landowner in the state.

MDC has considered its policies and risks in the past. It adopted an ordinance requiring mountain bikers, skateboarders and in-line skaters to wear helmets in 1998. The ordinance was a result of a 1996 Supreme Court decision that said the state's recreational land use statute did not extend to cities and towns.

Hundreds Turn Out To Fight To Keep MDC Property Open
12:09 AM EDT, July 21, 2010


Paul Kramer will turn 68 on Thursday, a birthday that might never have been without the Metropolitan District's Reservoir 6.

For the past 14 years, Kramer has left his Avon home in the early morning and power-walked its pristine trails, logging 20,000 miles and meeting new friends along the way. Some have diabetes, or cancer, or simply high cholesterol. Kramer, a retired college professor who survived a 1996 artery blockage, strengthens his heart.

"I'm still alive," Kramer said Tuesday evening in West Hartford Town Hall, teary-eyed after asking members of the Metropolitan District Commission not to close its vast land to the public. "I get emotional because of what I do at the reservoir. The thought of losing that is not an easy one for me to handle."

More than 350 people with their own stories squeezed into the town hall auditorium for the district's special meeting, and scores more were blocked at the entrance because of fire code concerns. Although the MDC has not recommended banning public use of its 10,000-plus acres around Greater Hartford — and no votes were taken Tuesday — the district's water bureau is reviewing its recreational policy after a jury sided with an injured mountain biker and slapped the MDC with a $2.9 million civil judgment in May.

On Tuesday, at least two dozen bikes were parked outside town hall, locked to trees, benches and lampposts. Inside, there were men and women in racing gear, politicians in suits, lanky teenagers in their high school track and field shirts, preservationists, environmentalists, and mothers and fathers and grandparents.

The district's properties include the 3,000-acre West Hartford Reservoir and Reservoir 6, near Farmington Avenue and Route 44; the 1,626-acre Lake McDonough area in Barkhamsted and New Hartland; and the 6,107-acre West Branch area in northwestern Connecticut. The water and sewer agency is the second -largest landowner in the state, and for decades, its miles of trails have been used by tens of thousands each year for hiking, running, walking and mountain biking, and cross-country skiing in the winter.

For Peter Phelps, a 53-year-old chef, the West Hartford Reservoir was a place near the family home where his two kids could practice riding their bicycles, and where he can still go with them for a quiet moment. State Rep. David Baram, D-Bloomfield, took his wife there for the couple's first date in high school.

"Of course she questioned my motives," Baram told the MDC Tuesday, "but it turned out to be a nice event."

Baram was one of several politicians who took turns at the microphone to pledge action in closing a loophole in state law that allows a municipal entity such as the MDC to be sued for recreational injuries. Among them were Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman, who pedaled to the meeting on her bike; West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka, warning commission members against a decision that would make "people lose faith in government"; and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who said his office would look into the loophole issue.

But State Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, reprimanded the MDC.

"I want to be clear: My town is not considering closing all of its public, recreational lands. Neither are any of the towns around," said Fleischmann, who hikes the trails. "So I think it's rather outrageous that we're talking tonight about closing down. … You, the MDC, exist because we the people gave you your lands and your waters."

Earlier in the meeting, the district's lawyer, R. Bartley Halloran, said the $2.9 million judgment "changes everything." It appeared to be the first time that the MDC was held liable for a recreational injury. The verdict, Halloran said, could drive up the cost of insurance when the district's policy is up for renewal, "if it is renewed."

This is not the first time the district has considered its risks, however. In 1998, the district adopted an ordinance requiring mountain bikers, skateboarders and in-line skaters to wear helmets after the 1996 state Supreme Court decision in Conway v. Wilton. The court held that the state's recreational land use statute, which offers protection to private landowners who allow free access to their properties, did not extend to municipalities.

In that case, Amy Jeanne Conway sued the town of Wilton after seriously hurting her knee and ankle during a 1986 state high school tennis championship at Wilton High School. Conway's lawyers argued that the town courts were defective.

In the recent jury award against the district, a Superior Court judge ruled that the quasi-public agency, as a municipal corporation, was also not immune to liability. The plaintiff, Maribeth Blonski of Rocky Hill, suffered serious injuries when she crashed her mountain bike into a yellow gate in West Hartford Reservoir while riding the wrong way on a trail in 2002.

JURY AWARD:  MDC Ordered To Pay $2.9 Million To Injured Bicyclist
May 10, 2010

A Superior Court jury in Hartford has awarded a former children's book illustrator $2.9 million for injuries suffered years ago in a bicycle accident on land owned by the Metropolitan District Commission.

The six-person jury awarded the money Friday to Maribeth Blonski of Rocky Hill after finding that the regional water and sewer authority improperly placed a steel gate across a path within the Talcott Mountain Recreation Area, said Blonski's lawyer, Michael A. Stratton.

On May 16, 2002, Blonski, now 43, was biking on a trail in the area, also known as the West Hartford Reservoir, when she struck the gate, breaking four vertebrae in her neck, Stratton said.

The MDC had installed the gate to block motor vehicle access to the water, he said.

R. Bartley Halloran, the MDC's chief in-house lawyer, said Sunday through a spokeswoman that the MDC was surprised by the verdict and intends to appeal.

When the accident happened, Blonski was host of a local-access television program about mountain biking, Stratton said. Blonski now works at the front desk of a health club, he said. She previously worked as an illustrator of children's books.

It took eight years to resolve the case because of a dispute about whether the MDC was immune from responsibility, Stratton said. After a four-day trial before Judge Edward Domnarski, the jury decided the authority was not immune in this instance, and also found that Blonski was partially responsible.

Stratton said Blonski had offered to settle the case for less than the amount awarded by the jury, but MDC refused.

Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant

DiBella agrees to pay $800,000 to settle charges
Published: 08:42 a.m., Friday, February 5, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Former Connecticut Senate Majority Leader William DiBella has agreed to drop his fight against the federal government and pay nearly $800,000 to settle allegations connected to the state treasurer's scandal a decade ago.

A federal judge imposed the fines in March 2008 after a jury found DiBella liable for securities law violations in a civil lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Court documents show he has agreed to pay the fine by March 12.

The violations were connected to a $374,500 "finder's fee" on a state pension fund investment deal DiBella received from then-state Treasurer Paul Silvester's office in 1998. DiBella was never charged criminally.

Silvester later served four years in prison for corruption related to pension fund investments.

Will be on appeal, we are sure!
DiBella Must Pay $791K; MDC Chief Fined, Ordered To Give Back Sham Fee

By EDMUND H. MAHONY And JON LENDER | Courant Staff Writers
March 14, 2008

Hartford's regional sewer czar William A. DiBella was ordered to pay nearly $800,000 on Thursday for taking a sham fee on a pension deal growing out of the 1990s investment scandal that sent his friend, former state Treasurer Paul Silvester, to prison.

The order, filed Thursday in New Haven by Senior U.S. District Judge Ellen B. Burns, contained little good news for DiBella. But the former state senator vowed to keep fighting his critics, who say the pension case should force his resignation as chairman of the Metropolitan District Commission, the capital region sewer and water authority now spending $2 billion on a massive upgrade project.

Burns ordered DiBella to give up the $374,500 "finder's fee" he collected from Silvester's 1998 investment of $75 million from the state employee pension fund in a private equity partnership run by Republican fundraiser Frederick R. Malek. In her order, Burns repeated a conclusion that has surfaced frequently in long-running litigation over the deal: DiBella collected an enormous fee even though he "played no role" in the investment.

The judge also ordered DiBella to pay $307,127.45 in interest and a $110,000 civil fine, bringing the total to more than $791,000.

"DiBella's violation clearly involved fraud, deceit, manipulation or deliberate or reckless disregard of a regulatory requirement," Burns said in her order.

The amount of the civil fine was one of the bright spots for DiBella. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which a year ago won a unanimous civil verdict against DiBella after suing over the pension deal, wanted him fined more than twice as much — an amount equivalent to his sham fee.

Burns also denied the SEC's request that DiBella be permanently barred from serving as an officer or director of a publicly held company, which she said is not "warranted in this case."

The SEC suit against DiBella is the last act in a series of indictments and lawsuits that showcased the culture of venality that infused the state Capitol during the late 1990s. The cases focused on politically connected figures on the fringes of convicted former Gov. John G. Rowland's administration who used their influence to collect millions of dollars by rigging fees tied to Silvester pension fund investments.

Luke T. Cadigan, one of the SEC lawyers who sued DiBella, said Thursday: "We are pleased with the court's decision and think that the punishment properly reflects the serious nature of the securities violations that Mr. DiBella committed."

The SEC has said it wants DiBella's payments to go to the state treasury, which the commission characterized as a victim of investment fraud.

But the case may not be over yet, notwithstanding Burns' order. DiBella said Thursday he will appeal.  He also said Burns' order was not as bad as it might have been. He said the SEC originally wanted an order forcing him to pay more than $1 million.  And he was pleased that he was not prohibited from serving on the boards of public companies.

"This is a civil matter that's been going on for 10 years," DiBella said. "The appeal is part of the process."

The repayment order in itself was enough to renew calls for DiBella's ouster as Metropolitan District chairman and chief steward of its unprecedented construction program. So far, he has avoided ouster by mobilizing allies on the 29-member district board.

"This is what we have been talking about for basically a year," said Newington Mayor Jeff Wright, a Republican, district board member and DiBella critic. "Now that the matter has come to a conclusion, I call for him to step down as chairman of the MDC."

Wright urged the eight district member towns to follow the lead of the Newington Town Council, which has adopted a resolution of no confidence in DiBella. The chief executives of member towns are scheduled to meet this morning.

"I think it's time for the elected officials to say 'enough is enough,' in the name of good government," Wright said.

DiBella has ignored calls for his resignation for 10 months and said Thursday that he would continue to do so.

"Nothing has changed," he said, after reading the court order. "I have no intention of resigning."

DiBella said findings by a federal jury and judge — that he was involved in fraud, deceit, manipulation and disregard of securities regulations — have "no impact on how I function in the MDC." He said that, over his political career as Hartford city councilman, state legislator and MDC chairman, he has never been found guilty of an ethics violation.

"I've never had a felony or misdemeanor charge against me in my entire life," he said.

He said, unlike him, Silvester and others were convicted and imprisoned for their roles in the treasury scandal.

"I was investigated in depth on the criminal issues, and there was never a charge against me," he said.

Silvester, a Republican, was state treasurer from 1997 until 1999. After being voted out of office, he began cooperating with FBI agents looking into how he invested money from the state pension fund. Silvester's admissions were included in FBI reports obtained by The Courant.

Silvester said he felt indebted to DiBella, a Democrat and an old friend, because DiBella had secretly supported Silvester's unsuccessful campaign in 1998. Silvester said he first tried to arrange a finder's fee for DiBella in connection with a pension fund investment he placed with Paine Webber. When Paine Webber balked at paying DiBella, Silvester said he agreed to have DiBella written in as a finder in the investment with Malek's company, Thayer Capital Partners of Washington, D.C.

A variety of sources said DiBella urged Silvester to increase the amount of the state investment with Malek from $50 million to $75 million, a move that would have increased the amount of his fee. Eventually, Silvester said he agreed to the $75 million figure, meaning DiBella would have received a $525,000 fee.

Malek's company, which stood to earn millions of dollars in money management fees, also stood to benefit from a larger investment. According to the FBI reports, Silvester told Malek that Thayer could have the investment but that DiBella needed a commission.

After Silvester lost the 1998 election, his successor, Denise Nappier, became suspicious of his investments. Among other things, Nappier reduced the state's investment with Thayer, cutting DiBella's fee to $374,500.

In Thursday's court order, Burns wrote that DiBella knew that his fee from the Thayer investment was a fraud and admitted as much when he testified during the SEC suit.

"He admitted that he was not the finder on the Thayer … deal, that it was his understanding that Silvester put him on the deal to make up for the Paine Webber deal, and that he had a general awareness that Silvester's conduct was improper," Burns wrote. She also wrote that DiBella pushed to increase the Thayer investment "with no understanding" of whether that would benefit the state employees' pension fund but understanding that it would increase his fee.

MDC Water Rates Rising; Some Say Higher Fees Are Unfair In City
By DANIEL E. GOREN | Courant Staff Writer
February 11, 2008

Metropolitan District Commission customers may want to be on the alert for leaky faucets and running toilets, because the cost of water is going up and will continue to rise for several years.

Beginning last month, most water bills sent to customers in the eight Metropolitan District Commission towns have carried a surcharge to pay for the bonds issued in a $2 billion planned upgrade of the region's sewers and sewage treatment facilities.  That surcharge — called a sewer service fee — amounts this year to 35 cents per every 100 cubic feet of water used. That's on top of the $2.21 per 100 cubic feet that customers are now paying for water.

According to the MDC, the average residential water bill in the member communities is about $275 per year. That will increase to about $318 during the first year of the sewer service fee.

The surcharge — which appears only on bills for customers who get both sewer and water service from the MDC — will increase each year for about a decade, capping off at about $4.50 per 100 cubic feet, a rate that will still be competitive or better than most other water companies, MDC officials said.  Commissioners on the district's 29-member board opted for the surcharge after the state legislature would not allow the agency to charge all its water users — including nonmember towns, such as Glastonbury, that only buy MDC water — to pay for the sewer upgrade. The MDC's charter says it cannot charge a sewer service fee to those who don't receive both the district's water and sewer services.

Rather than face the political consequences of simply increasing the rates assessed each town based on the property values — a system that benefited Hartford over its wealthier suburban neighbors, such as West Hartford — it was decided to spread the cost equally among customers with MDC sewer and water service.  The new formula, agreed upon unanimously by the commission, was urged by suburban commissioners, where higher property assessments would have meant paying a larger share of the massive sewer project. But passing the fee directly to water users has its own consequences: the poor and less-well-to-do will pay the same as more wealthy customers.

"Per household cost, there had been a subsidy that was happening primarily for the city of Hartford," said Jeff Wright, a commissioner from Newington and the town's mayor. "Now, people are going to pay primarily for their usage, and that subsidy is going to be gone, which I think is going to create some relief for the majority of the member towns."

Wright compares water service to any other utility. "Within the same utility company, why should one payer pay more than another based on what your income level is?" Wright said. "The phone companies, the cable companies, the electrical companies — it doesn't matter what your zip code is, you'll pay the same rate."

The MDC and its member towns — Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Newington, Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Windsor and Bloomfield — are under federal and state mandate to fix the ailing sewers, which dump untreated sewage into area rivers, streets and basements during dozens of heavy rains each year. The massive project will take place over the next 15-plus years.

Wright said that basing the charge on water usage has two other advantages. It encourages customers to conserve water by turning on sprinkler systems less often, using water-efficient appliances and installing water-saving shower heads and toilets. It also provides relief to governments of the member towns, which would have seen their budgets crushed by the weight of the $2 billion project and their bond ratings dragged down, Wright said. Without the sewer service fee, projections showed that the MDC portion of Newington's municipal budget eventually would have dwarfed the town's police budget, he said.

But some say that forcing Hartford residents — who generally are poorer — to pay the same amount places an unfair burden on those who can least afford it.

Dr. Larry Deutsch, city councilman in Hartford, said the sewer charge, even if assessed equally to all, sets up a system with a "regressive impact." As the cost of water rises, those who are more wealthy make choices about how often to wash their car or water their lawn, while a poor person decides "whether to give their baby a bath or not."

"This is a shifting toward a more regressive payment structure in general," Deutsch said. "It is the same as the cost of gasoline going up or the cost of oil heating in your house going up. You could say it is fair in a literal, small sense, but it is the poor that wind up going without heat in their homes. It is the poor that have to skimp on electricity and choose between gasoline for their car and medicine."

MDC Chairman William DiBella, a commissioner from Hartford, said Deutsch is "not wrong at all" in his assessment, but said the Hartford delegation on the MDC board had to make a tough compromise to ensure that the sewer project went forward. It came down to what DiBella described as the crux of good government — "the art of the deal," he called it.

That compromise, DiBella said, meant the $2 billion project would be based on sewer service fees, while the operating and maintenance budget of the MDC would continue to be based on property value, largely to Hartford's benefit.

"The suburban towns were really upset, because under the existing formula, Hartford had an advantage," he said. "In order to get this thing done, there had to be some kind of a compromise. I think everyone felt that something was being taken away from them. No one walked away unscathed. And that is true of every political compromise. No one walks away and says, 'Hey, I made out like a bandit.'

"We knew there was no way we could sell this to the suburban towns if we said, 'OK, here is the deal. You are going to see an increase of 17 percent each year and your property tax is going to go through the roof.' They would have gone to war. We couldn't have done it."

DiBella also said that Hartford had to take the long view of the upgrade project, the vast majority of which will be done in Hartford and benefit the city in the form of newly paved streets and new sewers.  And as members of the water-rich MDC, DiBella said the fiscal future of Hartford and other member towns should be secure.

"No one has the water we have," DiBella said. "It is liquid gold. As the years go out, more and more people are going to be buying that water. It is a certain revenue stream. It is better than oil."

MDC Backs DiBella; He Is Re-Elected Chairman, Despite Pension Scandal
By JEFFREY B. COHEN | Courant Staff Writer
January 8, 2008

Those who wanted William A. DiBella re-elected chairman of the Metropolitan District Commission Monday night described him as a man of "ideas and leadership." DiBella's detractors charged that the two-term chairman had no "moral or ethical authority."

By a 17-11 vote, his supporters prevailed. And DiBella — the Democratic former state Senate majority leader whose MDC candidacy was clouded by his role in a decade-old state pension scandal — savored the victory.

"Listen, I've been in politics for 40 years, and I've always had detractors," he said after the vote. "You don't do anything in this world without people that are against you. When everybody loves you, there's something wrong."

The MDC, the region's water and sewer agency, is about to embark on a 15-year, $2 billion upgrade that aims to stop the overflow of untreated sewage into Hartford-area rivers, streets and basements during heavy rains. The MDC is under federal and state mandate to fix the problem.

In May, a federal civil jury found that DiBella aided and abetted securities law violations in a tainted 1998 state pension investment by then-state Treasurer Paul Silvester — a deal from which DiBella reaped a $374,500 fee. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged, and the jury agreed, that DiBella did nothing to earn the fee. Rather, the SEC characterized the fee as a political payoff from Silvester to his longtime friend and sometime political ally DiBella.

The SEC wants DiBella to pay the fee back with interest and pay a fine, which could ultimately cost him more than $1 million. Federal regulators said DiBella's conduct involved "fraud, deceit, manipulation and deliberate disregard" for regulations. SEC officials have argued that he should be permanently enjoined from serving as an officer or director of a publicly held company.

After the verdict, DiBella said he would "more than likely" resign as commission chairman. Monday, he said that the matter was still unresolved and that it had no bearing on his role at the MDC, or his decision to seek another two-year term.

The meeting was tense at times, with DiBella's supporters and opponents bickering over parliamentary procedure. When it came time for nominations, no debate was allowed, but the nominations themselves brought DiBella's record at the MDC and with the SEC to the forefront.  Commissioner Albert Reichin nominated DiBella. In a speech seconding the nomination, Commissioner Anwar Al-Ghani of Hartford said DiBella "is by far the most capable and competent individual for the task at hand."

Commissioner Alvin E. Taylor also spoke in DiBella's favor. "Bill DiBella, bar none, probably has one of the best public policy minds that I have seen," Taylor said.

Vocal DiBella critic Jeff Wright, a Republican MDC board member and the mayor of Newington, said DiBella's candidacy should not even be considered. Wright nominated Hartford Commissioner Daniel E. Lilly instead. "Simply put, what Mr. DiBella has done is wrong and unethical," Wright said. "Leadership is about doing the right and ethical thing."

"If Mr. DiBella continues to … lead as chairman and as a commissioner of the MDC, he will be leading without any moral or ethical authority," Wright said, provoking a chuckle from DiBella.

When it came time for public comment — at the end of the meeting, not, as some commissioners wanted, at the beginning — Hartford resident Ines Pegeas asked the commissioners how they would explain their votes for DiBella to a 10th-grade civics class.

Susan Kniep, a former East Hartford mayor, asked DiBella to resign.

"Mr. DiBella has no moral compass," she said. "Your vote to approve the appointment of Mr. DiBella … is an indictment against each and every member of this commission."

MDC's Shameless Obstinacy
Hartford Courant
Rick Green
January 4, 2008

What would you think if federal lawyers had this to say about your mayor's behavior:

"Conduct in this case involved intentional fraud, deceit, manipulation and deliberate disregard of a regulatory requirement ... his conduct in this matter was not an isolated incident, but involved a series of discrete actions over the course of several months."

If your mayor got a $374,500 payoff, arranged by a corrupt state treasurer for performing "no meaningful services" related to a sham investment deal that ripped off Connecticut taxpayers, would that affect your vote?
If a jury agreed with federal lawyers, would that make a difference in your view?  If not, then congratulations. You may already be an elected or appointed official.

Unbelievably, it's apparently a foregone conclusion that a majority of the 29 members of the Metropolitan District Commission — a regional, politically partisan government agency that keeps your water clean with 550 employees and a budget bigger than most municipalities' — will vote Monday to re-elect William DiBella as chairman for another term.

As chairman of the appointed, Democrat-controlled panel governing the MDC and its $111 million annual budget, DiBella, a former majority leader in the state Senate, functions like an influential, unpaid mayor presiding over a town council. In coming years, DiBella — if re-elected — will play a key role in a $1.6 billion sewer expansion that the MDC is planning with your money.

Last May, a federal jury found that DiBella violated federal securities laws. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged that DiBella earned the $374,500 in bogus fees arising from a "fraudulent investment scheme" masterminded by former state Treasurer Paul J. Silvester, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges and went to jail.  DiBella's critics say that this alone makes him unsuitable for leadership of a government agency that handles hundreds of millions of dollars in public money. SEC lawyers are more blunt: DiBella, who earns a living as a lobbyist and consultant, "will continue to have opportunities to use his political influence to commit securities fraud."

All of this makes no difference to the MDC's Democratic majority. Only 11 MDC panel members will vote against DiBella, according to Jeffrey Wright, a commissioner and mayor of Newington who leads the opposition.

Viewed from the outside, there is no rational argument why DiBella should keep this job. His supporters on the inside — vested, respected and experienced members of the political establishment — told me that I don't know William "Billy" DiBella.

"He's doing a good job," said Pasquale J. Salemi, an 18-year MDC commissioner and chairman of the Democratic town committee in East Hartford. "As far as the other stuff is concerned, it's still a civil suit. Anybody can get sued. He's said a number of times he didn't believe he did anything that violated any rules."

DiBella's actions were "never anything substantive," said Adam Cloud, another commissioner and real estate developer in Hartford. "We need steady leadership."

Former West Hartford Town Council member and current MDC Commissioner J. Lawrence Price told me that the allegations about DiBella were "now 10 years old."

"If I knew that Bill DiBella was doing something unethical or inappropriate in his conduct on the MDC, there is no way I would support him. It's not something I take lightly," said Price, a lawyer. "I'm really happy with what is going on over there."

These people, who know far more about Connecticut politics than I, say not to believe the evidence, the federal investigators — who are seeking more penalties against DiBella — and the jury verdict.

If you don't understand, you don't know Connecticut. And you certainly don't know Billy DiBella.

MDC Needs A New Chairman
Hartford Courant editorial
December 27, 2007

William A. DiBella has done good work in the past for the Metropolitan District Commission. He wants to stay on as MDC chairman. For the sake of the agency, he should not.

Mr. DiBella had once said that he would probably quit if a federal judge didn't overturn a jury verdict that he violated federal securities laws. The judge rejected Mr. DiBella's request to overturn the verdict, and it still stands.

All that remains to be decided is Mr. DiBella's penalty. But he says his personal legal troubles in civil court have no bearing on his performance as MDC chairman. He wants to be re-elected by the board on Jan. 7. He should not be.

Unfortunately for Mr. DiBella, the verdict casts a very dark shadow of impropriety on him and his agency as it goes forward with a massive $2 billion sewer upgrade throughout Greater Hartford.

Mr. DiBella believes he did nothing wrong in 1998 when he accepted a $374,000 fee for what the Securities and Exchange Commission described as no significant work in a fraudulent state pension investment scheme. The SEC said former state Treasurer Paul J. Silvester had arranged an even larger fee to "repay political favors" and "curry favor." Mr. Silvester eventually wound up in prison because of the scheme.

Mr. DiBella's supporters downplay the verdict and praise the work he did as a Hartford city councilman and state Senate majority leader. He notes with pride that under his leadership, voters in the MDC member towns approved the first $800 million installment to the sewer project by a 4-to-1 margin. And, he points out, the MDC has maintained its AA-plus credit rating. His powers of persuasion are not in question; his integrity is.

The SEC has asked that Mr. DiBella's penalty include a fine on top of paying back the illegal fee with interest. It has also asked that he be permanently barred from serving as an officer or director of a publicly traded company. The MDC is not publicly traded; it is a quasi-public agency. All the more reason Mr. DiBella should not be in charge. If the SEC thinks he can't be trusted with a private company, the public would have to keep a close and constant eye on this custodian of public services if he's re-elected chairman.

DiBella Won't Quit MDC
By DANIEL E. GOREN | Courant Staff Writer
December 21, 2007

Despite previously saying he would "more than likely" resign as chairman of the Metropolitan District Commission because of his ongoing legal troubles, William A. DiBella now says he will continue to serve if nominated next month for another term.

In fact, DiBella, the former state Senate majority leader, is actively seeking re-election. He has told some of his colleagues that he has already locked up the votes he needs, even as some commissioners say his role in a decade-old state pension scandal could damage the credibility of the regional water and sewer agency during its coming 15-year, $2 billion upgrade.

The 29-member commission will choose its next chairman on Jan. 7 at its first regular meeting of the new year. DiBella — who has been chairman for the past four years and on the commission for nearly three decades — is widely expected to retain the position, sources said. It is not clear whether there are any other candidates.

"If the board feels they should nominate me and elect me, I will continue my leadership," DiBella said this week. "If the majority of that board doesn't want me to be chairman, then they will decide that."

DiBella's critics on the commission would like to hold him to his original, admittedly lukewarm commitment to step aside.

"His staying casts a shadow of doubt over the operations of the MDC as we go forward," said Jeff Wright, a Republican MDC board member and the mayor of Newington. Wright was among a group that pushed for DiBella to step down in May after a civil jury found him liable in a fraudulent investment scheme. "We think the mission of the MDC is too important to get tainted by his reputation."

Wright said he and many of his fellow Republicans on the commission want to sit down with the Democrats and find a mutually acceptable candidate.

In May, a federal jury found that DiBella aided and abetted securities law violations in a tainted 1998 state pension investment by then-state Treasurer Paul Silvester — a deal from which DiBella reaped a $374,500 fee. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged, and the jury agreed, that DiBella did nothing to earn the fee. Rather, the SEC characterized the fee as a political payoff from Silvester to his longtime friend and sometime political ally DiBella.

The SEC wants DiBella to pay the fee back with interest and pay a fine, which could ultimately cost him more than $1 million. Federal regulators said DiBella's conduct involved "fraud, deceit, manipulation and deliberate disregard" for regulations. SEC officials have also argued that he should be permanently enjoined from serving as an officer or director of a publicly held company.

After the verdict, DiBella said he would "more than likely" resign as chairman of the commission if a judge rejected his plea to overturn the jury's verdict.

"The last thing I want to do is hurt the MDC," DiBella said at the time.

But when Senior U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns rejected his plea in October, he said he had "no intention" of stepping down. DiBella said he is still deciding whether to appeal the judge's decision.

DiBella said this week that the case against him is a 10-year-old "civil issue and has absolutely nothing to do with the MDC." DiBella touts his record as a leader, saying it was under his stewardship that voters in the MDC member towns, by a wide margin, approved the referendum for the first $800 million installment of the $2 billion sewer project.

"It was the biggest referendum that the board has ever faced on an issue that many said we would never win," DiBella said. "And we won it by 4-to-1."

DiBella has ardent supporters on the MDC board. They say he is a good leader, still has far-reaching connections at almost all levels of state government and was instrumental in leading the district through some of its most difficult challenges, including the referendum vote. And during DiBella's tenure, the MDC hired what many board members believe is the district's most able administrative staff in decades.

An example of DiBella's importance that fellow commissioners cite is his ability to negotiate with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority. The MDC manages and operates the authority's mid-Connecticut trash-to-energy plant in Hartford — more than 100 employees work at the plant — and negotiations are ongoing to continue the district's contract beyond its 2012 expiration.

"The truth is that Bill puts a lot of time into his work with the MDC," said Bud Salemi, a Democratic commissioner from East Hartford. "I wouldn't be supportive of just anybody if I didn't think they were heading in the right direction with the MDC."

Raymond Sweezy, a Republican commissioner from Rocky Hill who backs DiBella, said the civil matter facing DiBella is a personal matter and not unlike a high-priced "ticket for speeding." It hasn't affected the chairman's ability to direct the MDC, Sweezy said.

"I'll support him," Sweezy said. "I think he has done a great job with the district since he has become chairman."

"It is not a Republican or Democrat question to me," Sweezy added. "It is about the district."

The MDC provides water and sewer service to its member towns — Bloomfield, East Hartford, Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor.  It also supplies treated water to Glastonbury, East Granby, the Unionville section of Farmington, Portland, and parts of South Windsor and Farmington.

Mr. DiBella's Change Of Mind
Hartford Courant editorial
October 11, 2007

William A. DiBella said last May that he would "more than likely" quit as chairman of the Metropolitan District Commission if Senior U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Bree Burns refused to overturn a civil ruling that he collected a large investment finder's fee in violation of federal securities laws.

The judge rejected his request last week. Mr. DiBella has now taken a page out of Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's playbook and made an about-face, declaring that he has no intention of resigning and, in fact, is considering an appeal.

For the sake of the agency, he should yield to his original inclination and step down.

In May, a federal jury found Mr. DiBella liable on all counts in a lawsuit, filed against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission, seeking to recover the money he received in 1998 as part of a rigged state pension investment scheme.

The jury found that former state Treasurer Paul Silvester, who went to prison for his involvement in the conspiracy, invested $75 million in state employee pension funds with a Washington, D.C.-based company and arranged for the firm to pay Mr. DiBella a $374,000 fee for which, the SEC said, he did no significant work.

Mr. DiBella's continued refusal to give up his position on the commission could tarnish any public project the MDC engages in, especially the massive $1.6 billion sewer upgrade that is just getting underway. Several board members have pushed for him to step down.

Supporters fondly cite the good work that Mr. DiBella has done for the state and the city of Hartford as a former city councilman, state Senate majority leader and MDC chairman.

His legacy, however, will be diminished by his stubbornly clinging to his chairmanship. He should do the right thing and resign.

In the Greater Hartford area...
MDC Sewer Talks Collapse In Finger-Pointing
By JEFFREY B. COHEN And DANIEL E. GOREN | Courant Staff Writers
August 6, 2007

The presence of a Hartford businessman during crucial negotiations over a massive $1.6 billion regional sewer project was a major point of contention - and might have been a key factor in the talks' collapse.

The talks - between officials from the Metropolitan District Commission, the region's sewer authority, and Hartford legislators - revolved around how much of the work would go to minority contractors.

The MDC was looking to the legislature to approve a new formula to help finance the sewer upgrade, but Hartford lawmakers Sen. Eric Coleman and state Rep. Art Feltman wanted to make sure that the project included work for minority contractors.

The two sides were unable to reach agreement and the effort fell apart in the final hours of the legislative session - meaning, at least for this year, that the cost of the sewer upgrade would fall to local property taxpayers in Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Newington, Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Windsor and Bloomfield.

The MDC says the talks fell apart because Hartford legislators insisted businessman Rufus Wells be in the room during negotiations - an allegation the lawmakers dispute.

Wells - who told the commission that he recently made well over half a million dollars doing minority contract compliance work with the Hartford Housing Authority and the city's school building project - wants to do work on the sewer project. His presence during the talks posed a conflict of interest, the commission said.

"I wasn't having it," said MDC Commissioner Adam Cloud. "I said to Sen. Coleman, `It's irresponsible for us to have this kind of discussion with Rufus in the room.' ... I told Eric Coleman that I'm not going to be party to a meeting in which [Wells] is going to be present."

But Coleman and Feltman, a Hartford mayoral candidate, say that the blowup over Wells' presence was an excuse that the commission used to railroad the process and paper over the reality that minority contractors often don't get the work they are promised.

Feltman said that the Wells issue was a "red herring," Wells said the commission was putting up a "smoke screen" and Coleman said that the commission was just using Wells as a "convenient excuse."

"The MDC was frustrated because they couldn't as easily snow Rep. Feltman and myself because of Rufus being there," Coleman said. "I think at some point, the MDC interpreted Rufus' involvement as an impediment to what they were trying to accomplish, which was to remove completely any language about minority involvement from the bill."

"Their position was, `Trust us, and we'll get it done,'" Coleman said. "Unfortunately, it has reached a point where trust them is not an option for me, because we end up getting screwed."

Feltman and Coleman insisted on having Wells in the room because he provided valuable experience and expertise that they needed to understand the process, they said.

"What the MDC was doing was trying to deprive us of knowledge so they could be the only ones who could assert their expertise," Feltman said.

The MDC is preparing to undertake a massive project designed to fix problems with the region's antiquated and overextended sewers that send sewage into rivers and basements when it rains hard.

A bill before the legislature last session would have authorized a surcharge to help finance the 15-year upgrade project by spreading the cost among the district's water users. Without it, the price tag would land hard on the municipal budgets of the MDC's eight member towns.

But in April, Feltman and Coleman amended the legislation to include standards for minority contracting. Those standards would have required that 18.75 percent of the small business contracts needed for the project be set aside for minority-owned firms.

It also required that 25 percent of those employed in the entire project be members of minorities, and that 5 percent be ex-offenders who have completed their probation or parole. Finally, the legislators wanted to assess some kind of financial penalty upon the commission should it not comply with the contracting standards.

But MDC officials, although saying that they favored helping minorities, thought that the targets were not supported by tested data, that the penalties for noncompliance jeopardized the project and that the requirements were possibly illegal.

In fact, the commission's negotiator - attorney and lobbyist Brendan Fox - advised it in early April that the bill "must be amended to take out the [minority] set-aside requirements and the penalties."

"The proponents of these set-aside requirements suggest that the MDC has failed to adequately address the issue of minority participation in the Clean Water Project," Fox said, according to meeting minutes. "This is not the case. We have a common interest; however, we may differ on the means to get there."

In an April 24 meeting, Fox expressed concerns to Feltman and Coleman, hoping that the legislators would revise the bill.

But when a May 1 meeting came, the bill's language had not changed, MDC officials said. And when Fox and Cloud arrived to talk with Feltman and Coleman, the lawmakers weren't alone. They brought Wells.

MDC officials said they would meet with Wells only if he waived his right to make money off the project. Wells refused, with the legislators' backing, saying that the waiver he was presented with would essentially bar him from MDC or related work for two decades.

Bart Halloran, the MDC's top lawyer, summed up his concern with Wells' involvement in a May 25 letter to Fox, saying that Wells shouldn't be involved in drafting requirements for a project he hoped to bid on.

"I am deeply concerned that this participation could be viewed as favoritism, or the appearance of favoritism," Halloran wrote.

Halloran then barred Fox from meeting with the legislators if Wells was present, all but ending the talks from the MDC's perspective.

But Wells says he is a scapegoat.

"They're trying to lay it at my doorstep," he said. "But they didn't want me in the negotiations because they know that Art and Eric didn't understand how to get minority work and how to implement minority programs."

Asked why Wells couldn't have been an adviser and not be in the room during negotiations, Coleman said that's a meaningless distinction of "form over substance." Feltman said it was impractical "for us to run to the phone, call Rufus, get some feedback and then run back to the room."

Besides, as legislators, they should be free to meet with whomever they choose, Feltman said.

"The MDC doesn't get to have a perspective on who we consult," Feltman said. "If we decide to go into a séance and consult with somebody who's dead, they have nothing to say about it."

"This is an excuse for them not to come to the table and to try to sabotage [our] efforts," Feltman said. "If it weren't this excuse, there'd be another."

The MDC says it is moving forward with the sewer project, and plans to conduct a study of its own to determine how many qualified minority contractors and workers are available in the region, and what can be done to increase that number, Halloran said.

MDC's DiBella Survives No-Confidence Vote
By JON LENDER, Courant Staff Writer 

May 24, 2007

Republicans on the Metropolitan District Commission's governing board failed Wednesday night to win passage of a no-confidence vote against Chairman William A. DiBella, a Democrat whom a jury last week found liable in what federal securities regulators called a fraudulent investment scheme.

But during an interview after the meeting, DiBella said that if a federal judge denies his motion to overturn the jury verdict, "it's more than likely" he would quit as chairman of the regional water and sewer agency.

The GOP move against DiBella failed after several MDC board members - most, but not all of them Democrats - said it was "premature" to take the vote because the judge in DiBella's civil case won't rule for at least a month on his motion to overturn the jury verdict.

During Wednesday's debate DiBella refused to commit to resigning if Senior U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns rules against him this summer. "I will reserve my judgment," he said.

Thirty minutes after the meeting, however, DiBella for the first time said he would consider quitting if Burns lets the jury verdict stand.

"I think that I should at least have the process followed" through to Burns' ruling, DiBella said in a phone interview. But, he added, "if in fact the ruling goes against me, that's an issue that I have to take into consideration" and "quite frankly at that time, it's more than likely I would resign as chairman."

If Burns rules against him, DiBella said, he probably would appeal to a higher court. But such an appeal, which probably would take a long time, wouldn't necessarily figure into his decision on whether to resign from the powerful but unpaid MDC post. "The last thing I want to do is hurt the MDC," DiBella said.

"Again, it's a process that has to play out," he said. "If she rules in my favor, it's another issue."

Earlier, the board debated more than an hour before defeating the resolution "that this board has no confidence in the leadership of Mr. DiBella as chairman of this board." The vote was 16-11 against the resolution. DiBella and 12 fellow Democrats were joined by three Republicans in voting it down. All 11 votes favoring the resolution came from Republicans.

Soon afterward, the board voted 17-10 against a separate motion asking DiBella to resign outright from the 29-member board. Two members were absent.

Last Friday, the jury in New Haven found DiBella aided and abetted violations of securities laws in a 1998 deal arranged by convicted former state treasurer Paul Silvester. Government lawyers argued that DiBella did no meaningful work for a $374,500 fee from a firm with which Silvester placed a $75 million state pension investment.

But DiBella and allies argued that Friday's civil court verdict was not the final word in the Securities and Exchange Commission's lawsuit. "Until a final adjudication in this matter is made," Democratic member Adam Cloud said, the vote on DiBella is "premature."

Even a Republican - Allen Hoffman, one of the 11 who voted for the "no confidence" resolution - said "we're very premature" in taking the vote, even though the facts present an issue of right and wrong. Hoffman's dilemma showed in his subsequent vote against the resolution calling for DiBella to resign.

Republicans who led the push for the resolutions - which MDC lawyers said would not have been binding, anyway - said Friday's verdict was enough for them. A jury of eight unanimously found DiBella aided in improprieties, said Republican member Jeff Wright.

Wright and other Republicans said it is unfair to taxpayers to leave DiBella in charge of the MDC at a time when it is asking to spend $2 billion in public money for a massive sewer reconstruction project. They said it is time for the board to send a public message in support of ethics.

The MDC "is commencing the largest public construction project in its history and will be issuing hundreds of millions of dollars of notes and bonds, which are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission," Wright said.

In its verdict, the jury found DiBella liable on all counts in the regulators' suit. The SEC said DiBella's $374,500 fee was sham, arranged by Silvester in connection with a politically motivated investment of state pension funds with Thayer Capital Partners of Washington. Silvester got Thayer to pay the fee to DiBella as a reward for past and anticipated favors, both in politics and business, the SEC said.

DiBella Wednesday said the easy and less expensive thing for him would have been to settle the suit without admitting wrongdoing, but he didn't because he believes he acted properly. His defenders on the MDC board praised his long MDC service and said he has shown leadership and skill in addressing the long-standing sewer-pollution problem that the major construction project is designed to correct.

One Hartford citizen, Republican Town Committee member Kevin Brookman, contended DiBella shouldn't have been named to the MDC board in the first place. DiBella represents Hartford on the board but doesn't really live there, Brookman contends.

DiBella maintains an apartment on Gold Street and is registered to vote in Hartford. But court papers and other documents list DiBella's address as Old Saybrook, where he and his wife have a lavish house.

After the meeting, DiBella insisted he meets the Hartford residency requirement. He pulled out his driver's license, which lists the Gold Street address in Hartford.

Asked where he spends more time, in Hartford or Old Saybrook, he said: "That's my business."

Move To Oust DiBella At MDC;  After Jury's Verdict In Fraud Lawsuit Republicans Say He Should Leave Board
By JON LENDER, Courant Staff Writer
May 22, 2007

Republicans on the Metropolitan District Commission's governing board moved Monday to try to oust Democrat William A. DiBella as chairman after a jury last week found him liable in what government lawyers called a fraudulent investment scheme.  The GOP members forced a special meeting of the MDC board Wednesday for a no-confidence vote on DiBella's leadership of the regional water and sewer agency.
But DiBella refused Monday to quit, and legal questions made it unclear whether the board has the power to force him out. Still, the Republicans were intent on mobilizing public opinion to pressure him to relinquish his leadership.  Jeff Wright, a Republican on the MDC's 29-member board, called DiBella Monday and asked him to resign based on the jury's verdict Friday in a suit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The jury found that DiBella, a former state Senate majority leader, aided and abetted securities laws violations in a tainted 1998 state pension investment by then-state Treasurer Paul Silvester - a deal from which DiBella reaped a $374,500 fee.

"I personally asked him to resign from the board," Wright said. "My thoughts were that, going forward, his being on the board can only damage the reputation of him and of the board."

In refusing to resign, DiBella said the civil court case would not conclude until the judge rules on a motion by his lawyer to overturn the verdict.

"I have no intentions of resigning relative to this issue," DiBella said. "First of all, it hasn't been resolved; it's still pending." A ruling on his appeal is likely this summer, he said.

Wright and other Republican board members were unwilling to wait that long, and on Monday they forced the scheduling of a special meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m. at MDC headquarters in Hartford. Their agenda: to vote on resolutions "expressing no confidence" in DiBella's leadership and asking that he resign.  Wright said 11 of the board's 15 GOP members favor ousting DiBella from both the chairman's post and the board. However, doubts arose about whether any vote would be binding on DiBella, even if Wright and his allies could line up a majority.

Interim MDC counsel R. Bartley Halloran said his initial research of the agency's charter and ordinances indicates that once a chairman has been elected by the board to a specific term - as DiBella was - he cannot be removed. Halloran said he is willing to listen to counter-arguments from Republicans and plans to reach a final position in time for Wednesday's meeting.

It also was unclear whether DiBella could be removed from the board.  If he could, Halloran said, it would be up to the appointing authority - in DiBella's case Hartford's city council - not the MDC board.  Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez plans to bring up the subject with council leaders in a day or two, said Matt Hennessy, the mayor's chief of staff.

Friday's jury verdict "raised some issues that are troubling, and [Perez] is going to bring those issues up with the city council leadership, who are the ones who actually appointed Mr. DiBella," Hennessy said.

Friday's verdict - by a civil jury in federal court in New Haven - found DiBella liable on all counts in a federal securities suit. The suit said DiBella took a sham $374,500 fee that Silvester arranged in 1998 through a politically motivated investment of state pension funds.  SEC lawyers contended that DiBella did no meaningful work for the fee he received from Thayer Capital Partners of Washington, D.C.

Silvester placed an investment of $75 million in state pension funds with Thayer, and arranged that Thayer pay the fee to DiBella as a reward for past and anticipated favors, both in politics and business, the SEC said.

DiBella denied wrongdoing. His lawyer next month will submit a brief on a motion asking the judge to overrule the jury. SEC lawyers will oppose it. A decision is expected in July or August.

Duel Brews Over MDC Plan:   Water Rates Would More Than Double In Next Decade To Fund Sewer Upgrade
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
April 7, 2007

Opponents are unlatching their holsters for a political shootout over legislation that could empower the Metropolitan District Commission to, over the next decade, more than double the cost of the water it sells.

In a fight that will take place in the General Assembly's back alleys, some legislators already have discharged a few early political rounds to protect their constituents.

The proposal would authorize the MDC to pay for a $1.6 billion sewer upgrade project by adding a surcharge to the bills of its water users. During about 50 heavy rains a year, untreated sewage overflows into the Hartford region's rivers, the city's streets and people's basements from pipes that are too old and too small to handle the extra volume.

But communities that use MDC water - not its sewers - say an extra charge on their water bills to fix something they don't use is grossly unjust.

The MDC has eight member towns that get both sewer and water services - Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Newington, Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Windsor and Bloomfield. But it also sells only water service to nonmember towns - Farmington, South Windsor, Glastonbury, East Granby and Portland.

State Rep. Tom Kehoe, D-Glastonbury, said he plans to fight the legislation and anticipates those who represent other towns that buy water from the MDC will join him.

"This bill strikes me as very unfair," Kehoe said.

Over the next 10 years, the increases would boost the typical residential customer's annual bill from $196 to $471, officials said, not including inflation.

Of the MDC's approximately 101,000 water accounts, Glastonbury has the highest number among nonmember towns, with 5,953; South Windsor is next, with 2,783; then East Granby, 490. Portland and Farmington are considered single accounts by the MDC because the towns buy water under a bulk contract and redistribute it to property owners.

William DiBella, the chairman of the MDC's 29-member board, said he understands nonmember towns' objections to the surcharge. But pollution caused by waste entering the Connecticut River is everyone's problem, he said.

And, DiBella said, towns that buy the MDC's water benefit from a massive investment by the district's member towns over the past 75 years to cultivate its source of clean, very inexpensive water. Now they want a return on that investment.

"We invested an enormous amount of money to create our water system, and now we are asking to take some of that equity out and put it toward our sewer system," he said. "Why should the MDC's members be denied the ability to mark that water up?"

"I don't think we are being unfair on how we are parceling this out," he said. "We are not gouging anyone. Everyone is paying the same price, including the district's member towns."

MDC water customers, including those in member towns, pay $1.96 per 100 cubic feet of water, officials said. The new water charges would cause that figure to more than double within the next 10 years. The fee would be added in increments of 30 cents per 100 cubic feet, per year, for the first five years. Then increments of 25 cents per 100 cubic feet every year for the next five years.

In the next 10 years, that means a $2.75 increase.

The overflow from sewers pollutes the Connecticut River, tributaries and Wethersfield Cove. The state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have ordered the MDC to fix the problem.

Voters approved a referendum proposal for $800 million, the first installment of the $1.6 billion project. Additional referendums are anticipated to raise the rest.

But to help pay for the massive cost, the MDC wants to change its charter to allow what it calls a "clean water surcharge."

The General Assembly's planning and economic development committee approved the legislation last week and sent it for further review by the finance committee. State Rep. Art Feltman, co-chairman of the planning and economic development committee, said the entire region is responsible for solving this environmental and public health crisis.

"An ecosystem knows no jurisdiction," he said.

But state Rep. Bill Aman, R-South Windsor, voted in the minority against the proposed legislation before it wassent along. He said he is still trying to work out a solution with those who favor the bill, to tweak the language and limit the surcharge to those customers who get both sewer and water.

Both Aman and Kehoe said their towns are already paying millions to clean the environment by upgrading their own sewer treatment plants - about $14 million in South Windsor and $28 million in Glastonbury. Neither lawmaker sees why his constituents should be hit twice for the same purpose.

"I think it is very unfair to these particular residents," Aman said. "By this logic, why doesn't Greenwich come to South Windsor and ask us to pay for their sewer upgrades too? After all, waste ends up in Long Island Sound."

Portland, which buys water from the MDC, has already solved its dilemma.

In 1998, Portland signed a 30-year contract with the MDC, locking in rates throughout the life of the contract to buy water in bulk for nearly 5,000 homes. The town has its own sewers and treatment plant.

When word came out about a possible surcharge on people's MDC water bills, state Sen. Eileen M. Daily, who represents Portland, called DiBella and asked that he review the contract. DiBella said he assured her that Portland was protected.

"We don't believe we would have the right, or that the legislature would, to override that contract," he said.

MDC Lifts Chiefs' Salary Ceiling
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer

December 24, 2006

As the Metropolitan District Commission prepares to embark on a massive, $1.6 billion overhaul of the region's sewer system, one of the first steps the agency is taking is more about cash flow than overflow: increasing the salary limit for its highest-paid officials by 41 percent.

The executives - chief operating officer Scott Jellison, chief administrative officer Robert Moore and chief program management officer Robert Weimer - had been earning a base salary of $159,000 a year, the maximum allowed for the executives under the agency's rules.
But the MDC's board of commissioners recently approved creating a minimum of $189,000, 19 percent more than the executives earn now, and a maximum of $225,000, an increase of 41 percent.  All three men report to Chuck Sheehan, the agency's chief executive officer, who was given a pay raise of 8 percent, bringing his salary from $185,400 to $200,000.

Sheehan said he is working to determine what salary each of his subordinates should make within the new range and plans to make a final recommendation to the board in January.  The increases are critical, officials said, to make sure the MDC has top-notch people on board as the 15-year project to fix the area's sewers goes forward.

But critics say it's the wrong time to be raising salaries.

"I think approving these raises sends a terrible message," said Jeff Wright, an MDC commissioner from Newington who voted against the pay raises. "Here we are, having just voted all this big money and people are going to see big increases in the cost of their bill, and here we are giving gigantic pay raises to these executives?" he said. "Go figure."

Voters in November approved the first $800 million installment of a $1.6 billion project designed to address longstanding issues. About 50 times a year, rain causes untreated sewage to overflow into the region's rivers and Hartford's streets from pipes unable to handle the volume. The overflow pollutes the Connecticut River, its tributaries and Wethersfield Cove.

MDC proponents of the salary increases say they don't want to lose the officers the district has, and they are still searching for a new chief financial officer to oversee the MDC's books. The position also paid a top salary of $159,000, but MDC officials said that was too low to lure qualified candidates away from the private sector.

"We have to do this project right, and that means getting and retaining the right people to do it," said Al Taylor, a commissioner on the MDC board who spearheaded the push for the raises. "We just refuse to have a `Big Dig' as far as this project is concerned, which means getting the best people in to do the job right.

"If that means taking flak on it," he said, "then that is what we have to do."

The MDC's board approved the increases last week by a 13-2 vote, with three abstentions. Sheehan's raise was approved unanimously.  Joe Kronen, a commissioner from East Hartford who voted against the raises, said he could not in good conscience explain the raises to voters.

"How do you go back to the voter and tell them this?" he said. "I can at least hold my head high in East Hartford and say I voted against it. ... People at the MDC do very well, money-wise and in terms of retirement benefits."

Wright said he did not have enough information to approve the new salaries, such as the full cost of health care, pension and other benefits. He said he disagreed with paying salaries that approached the private sector, while also offering the security of the public sector.  But Taylor, Sheehan and William DiBella, the board's chairman, all said the pay increases were necessary.

The MDC's $113 million annual budget will soon double, Sheehan said, as the $1.6 billion sewer project starts. To keep the MDC operating correctly, the agency must hire a qualified chief financial officer and keep continuity in the staff it already has, the proponents said.

"While some might criticize the timing of the salary increases, the other side of the argument is that the public has entrusted - through an endorsement with a huge plurality at the polls - the MDC with a huge investment," Sheehan said. "They endorsed the project because it was developed by a very qualified team."

The MDC has performed two searches for a qualified CFO, but each failed, Sheehan said. The first got no responses, he said. The second got responses from five qualified candidates, but as the MDC started doing interviews, four of those applicants left the process to take private-sector jobs that paid more, Sheehan said.

The fifth offered to take the job for the $159,000 salary, but only on a part-time basis, he said.

"Moving the MDC and this project forward, and the careful and effective management of this project, requires a qualified, credentialed team," Sheehan said. "And it requires continuity, and I believe the salaries that have been recommended will allow me to assemble and keep that kind of team."

Sewer Vote Defies Convention
Hartford Courant editorial
November 13, 2006

Voters in the eight municipalities serviced by the Metropolitan District Commission deserve a lot of credit for approving the first half of a estimated $1.6 billion upgrade to the regional sewer system.  Conventional wisdom would argue against supporting a project whose cost to individual customers has yet to be determined, and whose presence will not be visibly apparent after 17 years of bothersome construction.

Yet, by a 2-to-1 margin, voters recognized that there is no alternative. The work is necessary to eliminate the overflow of billions of gallons of excess sewage that dump regularly into the Connecticut River, neighboring waterways and hundreds of homes in Hartford, West Hartford, Newington and Rocky Hill each year during heavy rainfall.

The backups and overflows occur because much of Greater Hartford's mid-19th-century sewer system carries sanitary sewage and stormwater in the same pipes. Development has introduced so much more sewage and stormwater into the system that it can no longer absorb the volume.  Most of the money will go to build separate conduits for sanitary sewage and rainwater.

MDC officials also intend to expand and improve the agency's sewage treatment plant in Hartford's South Meadows.

Although estimates vary as to how much of the cost might be added to the property-tax bills of homeowners over the life of the project, rest assured that it will be several times what they are paying now.  But residents of the MDC towns understood it was a case of doing it now under local control or having it done by the federal government, possibly at higher cost, later. 

Wide Approval Expected For MDC Sewer Upgrade;   Two-Thirds Of Voters Agreeing To Project
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
November 8, 2006
Voters in the Metropolitan District Commission towns appeared to have approved the first installment of a $1.6 billion sewer upgrade project Tuesday to eliminate what regulators describe as an environmental and public health crisis.

The referendum question asked voters in Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Newington, Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Windsor and Bloomfield to underwrite the project's initial phase to the tune of $800 million.

There was no final tally early today, but with three towns reported and local officials citing unofficial results in two other towns, the measure was winning approval by a ratio of more than 2-to-1.

"It seemed that the message hit home that this project is dealing with a very serious public health issue and a very serious environmental problem, one that has really plagued the region for the past 30 years and remained unaddressed," said Chuck Sheehan, the MDC's chief executive officer.

About 50 times a year, rain causes untreated sewage to overflow into the region's rivers and the city's streets from pipes unable to handle the volume, MDC officials said.

The overflow pollutes the Connecticut River, its tributaries and Wethersfield Cove. At times, more than 300 basements in MDC member towns have flooded with raw sewage, officials said.

Both the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have ordered the MDC to fix the problem. Had the referendum question not passed, MDC officials predicted the federal government would take over control of the 15-year project.

Joe Kronen, an MDC commissioner from East Hartford, said the MDC "clearly did a good job in promoting" the need for repairs.

"The voters spoke," Kronen said. "But there is still a lot more to do, a lot more to address."

One factor still being debated is exactly how the cost will be spread among homeowners and businesses.

The MDC is still discussing the fairest way to charge its members - linking the charge to local property taxes, adding an across-the-board charge directly to MDC water customers or basing the charge on sewer use. Regardless of the method used, the project is going to lead to much higher annual costs for consumers and will vary depending on location.

Under the property tax method, for example, an average household in Hartford would pay $319 a year by 2016, compared with $99 today. A West Hartford family would pay $771, up from $238 today, MDC estimates show.

But the burden would shift if MDC water customers ended up subsidizing the project. In that case, a Hartford family in 2016 would pay $468, and a West Hartford household would pay $697. Under that method, which would require approval from the state legislature, the MDC would tack on extra charges to water-user bills in its eight member towns, as well as the five other towns that get MDC water: Farmington, South Windsor, Glastonbury, East Granby and Portland.

The sewer-use method, which has few supporters, would end up hitting residential customers the hardest, with an average annual payout of $860 by 2016.

All numbers in the estimates, including the total cost, are in 2006 dollars and will rise with inflation.


MDC requests $800 million to save failing system
By: Ben Rubin, Journal Inquirer

At the Metropolitan District Commission's office in Hartford, a colorful map illustrates raw sewage overflows in all eight MDC communities.  Blue boxes, showing where flooding and basement backups occur, cover most of Hartford and form a thick line across Newington, large portions of West Hartford, and Wethersfield. Green dots, displaying single-pipe sewage overflows, speckle nearly every corner of Hartford.
The problem is so pervasive that one billion gallons of untreated sewage are dumped into the Connecticut River and local waterways every year.

To begin fixing the long-standing, major health and environmental risk, residents in Bloomfield, East Hartford, Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor will vote on a referendum question Nov. 7 to fund the first phase of MDC's $1.6 billion improvement plan, called the Clean Water Project.

But suffice to say that a vote against the $800 million referendum question won't be a vote against the project because the state and federal government ordered the repairs be made no matter what - with or without the MDC's control.

A majority of total votes from all the communities pooled together is required to pass the referendum question.
"I see it as something that has to be done and I'd rather have some say in the cost," said Kathy Lombardo, an East Hartford resident and Clean Water Project citizen representative. "When I first heard $1.6 billion, my mouth dropped."

Officials at the MDC don't hide the fact that there is something wrong with their sewers.

The 150-year-old, overtaxed piping system in Hartford persistently overflows all around the city, as sewage and garbage flushed down toilets bubble up into streets, basements, and yards and flow into the Connecticut River, Wethersfield Cove, and Park River during heavy rains.

Hartford's overflows are caused mostly because the city has only one pipe system for sewage and storm water instead of two separate ones, and the narrow pipes were built for a population of 13,000, not 300,000, MDC officials say.  The newer pipes in the MDC member towns have their own problems, with cracks and breaks in pipes bringing in excessive rainwater, which overburden the sewers and also cause overflows.

"We put out more E. coli on a rainy day then all the spinach in the United States. Why? Because we can't treat it," said Robert Weimar, MDC's chief of program management for the Clean Water Project.

Because of these problems, the MDC was fined $850,000 in March and has two consent decrees over its head from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection, ordering it to undergo significant construction to stop the spillage.

In response, the MDC has put together the Clean Water Project, a $1.6 billion venture that will take 15 years to complete, to fix the problem.

If the Nov. 7 referendum question is rejected, there are consequences. The state and federal governments could take over the project, the project could be temporarily funded through MDC's operating budget, or a new referendum could be called, MDC officials say.  But while locals may suffer from sticker shock looking at the $800 million figure, the cost to residents may be mitigated through state and federal grants, as well as gradually spreading the project cost over nearly two decades.

Even so, sewage fees to MDC are expected to rise over the next seven years by three to four times, from $14 a month to $30-$53.  This means the average annual fee of $170 for sewage will jump to $550 by 2016, MDC officials say.

"Obviously, the fiscal impact is an area of concern, but I think folks should recognize that this is a project that will take 15 years to complete and many of the improvements will last well beyond a 50-year cycle," said Windsor Town Manager Peter P. Souza.  As of now, the payment structure for the project has not yet been decided, with three alternatives on the table:

* The MDC could fund the project using its current plan, which bills users based on their property taxes.

* A surcharge based on water consumption could be added to the sewage bill to pay for the project, while regular MDC operations would still be paid through the current structure.

* All sewage fees, both for the project and regular operating costs, could be based on usage and not property taxes.

Each one of these possibilities holds its own strength and weakness in finding a true egalitarian way for all eight communities to fund the project.

"It's important for the project to get done, and the hard part is finding an equitable way to finance it," Souza said.  The scope of the project will include separating Hartford's sewer system to two, with MDC needing to do extensive work digging up roadways and re-piping hundreds of homes around the city. This portion of the project is estimated to cost about $865 million, Weimar said.

To bolster the ancient system, Hartford's treatment plant will be largely expanded, and larger pipes and more pipes will be built. Eventually, a huge 30-foot diameter, 2- to 5-mile storage tunnel will be built under the center of the city to increase the system's capacity during storms.  Efforts to stop rainwater leaks into sewers around West Hartford and Newington will also be done at a cost of about $500 million.

Lastly, work to remove excess nitrogen found in untreated sewage, which harms plants and marine life, will cost about $250 million.  East Hartford and Windsor will see less work because the MDC already has spent significant amounts of money on their systems.

Two other referendums are planned for future construction, with one for $630 million in 2012 and another for $300 million in 2017. Those figures do not include inflation. 
The ballooning cost of the construction should put significant pressure on some town budgets already stretched to the limit.

"It's going to have an impact, people can only afford so much," said East Hartford Mayor Melody A. Currey.  "If we don't pass" the referendum "the federal government will take over," she said, "and I haven't seen much that the federal government has done to save us money."

Voters Asked To Buy $1.6 Billion Pig In A Poke;  MDC Sewer Upgrade Sketch Lacks Bottom-Line Details
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
October 21, 2006

Voters living in the regional sewer authority's eight member towns are being asked to decide the fate of a $1.6 billion sewer upgrade project to fix what agency officials describe as a "massive" environmental and public health crisis.

But voters in Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Newington, Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Windsor and Bloomfield are going to have to decide whether to say "yes" or "no" without knowing exactly how much of the total bill is going to come out of their pockets.

With state and federal mandates forcing a referendum this November to pay for the first installment of the project - $800 million - the Metropolitan District Commission has renewed a debate over the fairest way to charge its members.

The discussion revolves around three methods: Linking the charge to local property taxes, adding an annual assessment to all MDC water customers or basing the cost on sewer use. The project, under any circumstances, is expected to lead to sharply higher annual payouts - but the hit could vary widely from one town to another, depending on which system is ultimately chosen.

Under the property tax method, for example, an average household in Hartford would pay $319 by 2016, while a West Hartford family would pay $771, MDC estimates show. But the burden would shift if MDC water customers ended up subsidizing the project. In that case, a Hartford family in 2016 would pay $468, while a West Hartford household would pay $697.

The sewer use system, which has few fans, would end up hitting residential customers the hardest, with an average annual payout of $860 by 2016.

"The unfortunate thing about this is that the voter is going to be asked to vote on something and all the details haven't been worked out," said Jeff Wright a commissioner from Newington who sits on the MDC's 29-member board. "It's like we are saying, `Buy this house now and we are going to work out the details later.'"

MDC officials said they came up with the new options in response to requests from member towns who wanted an alternative way to pay for the project. Officials said they would have liked to resolve the matter before the referendum, but federal and state mandates have forced the vote's timing.

The underlying problem is that during about 50 heavy rains a year, untreated sewage overflows into the region's rivers and the city's streets from pipes too old, too small and too few to handle the volume, agency officials said. At times, more than 300 basements in MDC member towns have flooded with raw sewage, officials said.

The problem is worst in Hartford, Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Newington and West Hartford. The overflow also pollutes the Connecticut River and tributaries and Wethersfield Cove.

Both the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have ordered the MDC to fix the problem. The 15-year project, which has seen its scope and cost expand since the original 2004 estimate of $670 million, would repair and upgrade the overburdened system.

On Nov. 7, voters in the eight MDC towns will be asked to approve $800 million in borrowing to underwrite the cost of the project. Two more referendums are expected to follow - one for $500 million in about 2012; another for $300 million in about 2018, officials said. MDC officials say they will also seek federal and state grants to help defray the cost.

The work is to include expanding the Hartford sewage treatment plant and digging up 80 miles of roadway in Hartford - and possibly 40 more miles in neighboring towns - to separate pipes for water runoff and sewage. The MDC also will fix cracks in sewage pipes that let rain water in, enlarge pipes in certain areas and build underground storage tunnels to hold excess sewage and rain water until the treatment plant is ready to process it.

The project's scope has expanded to increase the treatment plant's ability to remove nitrogen from the effluent that is dumped into the Connecticut River. Too much nitrogen in the river can affect plant and animal life dramatically, officials said.

But while few argue about the necessity of the repairs, the high cost has led to discussion among member towns over how to split the price tag. Those discussions have led to the development of three possible scenarios.

In the first method, the MDC would continue using a system the agency has used for years to cover its operating and maintenance costs, which bases payments on a member town's property taxes.

In this system, homeowners in towns such as West Hartford - with higher residential property values, higher spending on services such as schools and a relatively small commercial tax base - end up paying more for sewer use. In Hartford - with lower residential property values and a larger commercial tax base - homeowners end up paying less.

This disparity - as well as the effect the project's high cost would have on each town's budget - has prompted a vigorous debate about whether the property tax-based system is the most equitable way to spread out the $1.6 billion.

"It has been a problem for us for a long time," said James Francis, town manager in West Hartford. "And when you add $1.6 billion on top of that, the problem multiplies in our mind. What it does is it makes the tax burden unbearable for us. At the end of this project, the MDC payment would be at least half of what the whole town side of our budget is."

On the other side of that debate are officials in Hartford. Lee Erdmann, the city's chief operating officer, said that Mayor Eddie A. Perez is still waiting for more data from the MDC, but is concerned about the prospect of Hartford getting hit hard. "He is very concerned that this is likely to shift cost to Hartford residents, and we have the poorest residents in the region," Erdmann said.
Dr. Mark Mitchell, president of the Hartford-based Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, said Hartford should see larger benefits, not smaller. The city hosts the treatment plant, with its smells and risks, and allows other town's liquid waste to be piped under its streets.

"If there is an odor from the treatment plant, you can't smell it in Bloomfield," he said. "I think the amount of benefit to Hartford should be increased. Not just in lower taxes, but in getting its fair share for bearing the actual and potential risk that the surrounding suburbs don't bear."

An alternative to the property tax method gaining support in the suburbs would split the MDC's costs into two parts. Normal operating expenses would be paid for as always, using property taxes as the base.

The $1.6 billion capital project would then be covered by a "Clean Water Surcharge" the MDC would tack on to water-user bills in its eight member towns, as well as the five other towns that get MDC water: Farmington, South Windsor, Glastonbury, East Granby and Portland. This system would require approval from the state legislature.

MDC water customers currently pay $1.84 per 100 cubic feet of water they use. The new water charge would cause that figure to more than double within the next 10 years. The fee would be added in increments of 50 cents per 100 cubic feet every two years, reaching a $2 increase over the next 10 years, officials said.

Using this system, the disparity between what households pay in the MDC's suburban towns and what residents pay in the city of Hartford is lessened, and other towns would help shoulder the cost.

But Susan Bransfield, Portland's first selectwoman, said the idea of charging her town when it does not use the MDC's ailing sewer system is "grossly unfair." Portland buys water from the MDC for nearly 5,000 homes, but the town has its own sewers and treatment plant.

"We can't tolerate that," Bransfield said. "For us to pay for the sewage treatment plant and repairs they need to build seems to me highly inappropriate and it is definitely something I would have to protest and fight...You can't balance that bill on the backs of Portland residents."

MDC officials say that it's fair to ask other towns to help with the costs because everyone in the region benefits from cleaner rivers. But Bransfield argues that Portland already pays for its own sewer system to ensure the water it dirties is returned clean to the river, she said. And because Portland residents would not be allowed to vote on the $800 million referendum, charging them for the project would be "taxation without representation."

The third system being considered is a fee based on how much a household uses the sewers by flushing toilets, taking showers or doing laundry.

This method would increase a homeowners bill immediately by 30 percent, according to MDC officials, because it would eliminate any tax subsidy received from a town or city's commercial entities. Because this system would lead to even more drastic increases for homeowners, it is getting little traction.

What the MDC will do if the referendum fails is unclear, but agency officials said there are several possibilities.

The federal government could simply take over the process, forcing the project to move forward without local oversight, or it could take the MDC to court to enforce the mandate and begin fining the local agency each time the sewer system overflows.

The MDC also could push for legislative approval from the state to change the agency's charter, which now restricts the MDC from starting projects in excess of $5 million without a referendum.

MDC Commissioners claim CEO withheld studies
By: Ben Rubin, Journal Inquirer

A group of five commissioners from the Metropolitan District Commission sent in a Freedom of Information Act request Tuesday to MDC's chief executive officer to retrieve three past studies saying that certain construction costs for a multibillion MDC project would be significantly above average figures.

The FOI request comes just before a Nov. 7 referendum question, asking residents in eight communities surrounding Hartford to bond $800 million as the first payment for a massive federally sanctioned $1.6 billion sewage system overhaul, called the Clean Water Project.

The FOI mentions that CEO Charles P. Sheehan declined to provide the studies after multiple e-mail requests. But Sheehan said Wednesday he would give the commissioners any information they want.

In Hartford, there is only one pipe for both sewage and street catchbasins, instead of the two that most cities have. In the first portion of the project, $420 million will go to separating the pipes into two - a process called "sewer separation" - which should relieve much of Hartford's persistent overflow problems.

Commissioner Jeffrey A. Wright, a Newington representative who took part in the FOI request, said the studies show that current estimates for sewer separation construction would be at $1,100 per foot, well above the $758 per foot estimate for other neighboring cities like Boston and Springfield.  Estimates for suburban communities was roughly $450 per foot, Wright, who is a certified financial planner, said.

"This is where a number of us have a lot of concern," Wright said.

"It's almost like taking $100 bills, folding them in half and setting them side by side by side for 60 miles in the city of Hartford," he added.  Wright said getting the $1,100 figure in writing has been very difficult, and required the FOI request.  Still, because the information is outdated and is now being revised, Sheehan said in an e-mail to Wright, presenting those three studies would create unfair comparisons for how much the project will cost and could present confusing data to town officials and the public.
Sheehan said the $1,100 figure is a worst-case scenario, "a very conservative estimate," and the MDC is working to reduce it, with "substantial room to lower the cost of the project."

"I'm trying to avoid giving him information that's been superceded. He can have any information he wants," Sheehan said, adding both he and Wright are now "on the same page" with the issue.

The first phase will pay for 40 to 45 miles of sewer separation, while the project will do a total of 80 miles, said Bob Weimar, the chief program manager for the project. These figures would mean that it would cost about $9 million a mile.

The MDC handles sewage and water needs for Hartford, East Hartford, Windsor, Bloomfield, West Hartford, Newington, Wethersfield, and Rocky Hill. The MDC has 29 representatives from its member towns.

Upgrade Cost Doubles

By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
August 8, 2006

The price of a proposed billion-dollar upgrade to the sewer system in Hartford and its surrounding towns has nearly doubled, with the average household expected to see its sewer costs almost quadruple over the next 10 years, according to estimates by the Metropolitan District Commission.

The repair project, which would fix the outdated and overburdened sewer pipes in Hartford and seven other MDC member towns, was originally estimated in 2004 to cost at least $670 million and as much as $1 billion.

But MDC officials have now revamped their estimates, saying the 15-year project will cost $1.6 billion. The increase takes into account higher fuel costs, the skyrocketing price of construction and, most significantly, a leakage problem that has proven larger than expected, officials said.

"We may even be looking at more, depending on who you talk to," said Matt Nozzolio, the MDC spokesman.

The average household now pays about $14 a month, Nozzolio said. Taking into account state and federal grants that the district is expecting to put toward the cost of the project, households can expect an average cost of $50 a month in a decade, he said.

The MDC member towns are Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Newington, Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Windsor and Bloomfield.

Hartford's 19th-century sewer pipes annually leak about 1 billion gallons of untreated sewage into local waterways such as the Connecticut River and Wethersfield Cove. The problem occurs during about 50 heavy rainfalls a year, when too much water enters the aging system, Nozzolio said. As a result, the state and federal governments have mandated that the MDC reduce the leakage.

The commission's board took a step toward fixing the problem Monday when its members approved an initial phase of the work for $800 million. The resolution, which passed 25-4, would place a referendum question on the ballot for the Nov. 7 election for the district's approval.

But Jeffrey A. Wright, a commissioner from Newington, voted against the project, saying the way the MDC decides how much its member towns must pay is not fair.

"We have seen the cost of this project mushroom on us, balloon on us," he said. "And while I think we ought to go forward with this project, because it is in the best interest of the people of the district, my concern is that we have not really talked about the cost on the individual households and the serious impact it is going to have on town budgets."

Currently, the MDC decides how much each town will pay in sewer costs by using a taxation method called "ad valorem," which in Latin means "according to value." This means each town's sewer costs are based on the assessed value of property in the town.

But Wright said that method has unfairly burdened towns such as West Hartford - which has more highly valued property - with more to pay. According to Wright, who said he worked on these numbers with the MDC, the average West Hartford household now pays $239 a year for sewer service. But in 2016, the average West Hartford house will pay an estimated $932 a year.

In contrast, Wright said, the average Hartford home now pays $81 a year but in a decade will pay $316 annually.

"In every town in the district, in the last five or six years we have seen significant property tax increases," Wright said. "The MDC now represents 3 to 3.5 percent in the typical [town] budget. But in 2016 it is going to go up four times. The MDC is going to be a much larger budget item in most of the towns than their police budget."

The bulk of the repair work will be done in Hartford, but the tab will be spread among the MDC's member towns.

The work includes creating separate pipes for water runoff and sewage, fixing cracks that let rainwater in, widening pipes in certain areas, expanding the capacity of the Hartford sewage treatment plant and building underground storage tunnels to hold excess sewage and rainwater until the plant is ready to handle it.

News of engineer who's firm aided the Committee...
Making His Mark;  From self-employed surveyor to leading civil engineer, Angus McDonald has spent 40 years charting the course of development
By Eileen McNamara
Published on 10/8/2006
A week after Angus Mcdonald was feted at his retirement party, the 72-year-old civil engineer could be found back at his company's offices, trying to answer two different telephones and assisting a client who made an early-morning surprise visit.

And in between, he found time to apologize several times to a scheduled visitor for the interruptions.

There's something both kind and civil about McDonald, a tall man with broad shoulders and still-sharp blue eyes.

Perhaps it's because he's the first to admit that he will not go quietly into retirement.

After spending 40 years building a successful civil engineering firm and a solid reputation in the community as a consummate professional, McDonald figures he'll never really completely retire.

“I'm just phasing myself out a little at a time,” he says with a laugh.

Or maybe it's the way he apologizes because he still gets choked up, more than 20 years later, when he talks about his first wife's death of cancer.

“It happens every time,” he says, dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief.

And then there are the series of pictures above a filing cabinet of some of the 20 or so employees of his Old Saybrook firm and their families on the annual company outing to Block Island or Newport. It's a tradition McDonald started years ago when the company was still small, as a way to get all the employees' families together.

“It's nice for everyone to see each other and visit at least once a year,” he says.

In fact, he's alone this particular morning in the office because it's the day of the annual outing and the offices are closed. He'll join the rest of the gang later in Newport, he says.

That kind of devotion to those close to him is partly what has made him so successful, friends and colleagues say. He coached local Little League, went to all his children's ball games and served on local land-use boards in the 1970s.

“He's just done so much for his community,” says attorney David M. Royston, one of McDonald's longtime friends and colleagues.

McDonald's decision in 1966 to start his own surveying company was borne largely out of necessity. Married and with two young children to feed, McDonald lost his job as a surveyor and needed another one fast.

He and his family were living in Ledyard at the time so he started doing work out of his home.

Within a few months, however, he had so many jobs he needed to move into bigger offices. That brought him to Old Saybrook, he recalls, adding it's a “nice little town.”

Today, the company that McDonald built, called Angus L. McDonald Jr. & Gary Sharpe & Associates, employs 20 people, including McDonald's son, in a building at 233 Boston Post Road, just south of Interstate 95.

The firm of surveyors and civil engineers has played a role in a good deal of the land development that has occurred in the region over the past four decades.

McDonald's love of his field, his broad knowledge of land-use laws and his reputation for professionalism and integrity are well known in the business community.

“I don't think I've ever met anyone, either on a professional or a personal level, that has more knowledge or more professionalism in their field than Angus,” says Royston.

Part of that professionalism stems from McDonald's love of what he does.

Evidence of it abounds in his company's offices, from the case of old glass bottles he has discovered in fields or woods he's tramped through over the years, to the large reproduction of an early surveyor's map of Connecticut.

Surveying is one of this country's oldest professions and was practiced even before the noted map makers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, McDonald says. George Washington dabbled in surveying, so did Thomas Jefferson, he adds.

McDonald got hooked on the field after high school when, too poor to go to college, he worked for a road construction company. He watched the firm's surveyors plot the course of highways and was hooked. He joined the U.S. Army in 1952 and went to work for its surveying and engineering division.

When he mustered out of the service he got married and while starting a family, he went to college on the GI bill.

He earned a master's degree and went to work for a Ledyard surveying company before starting his own company.

He worked closely with developers and builders on projects and loved the political end of his work, convincing local land-use officials of the worthiness of a project.

And he enjoyed the physical aspects of his career, which included finding and marking the bounds of the land.

That aspect of the job hasn't changed much in 40 years, but others have, he says.

Besides the way technology has streamlined creating maps, land-use regulations and the people who oversee them have gotten so complex, he says.

Bringing a project to fruition nowadays is more about politics and personalities than wise land stewardship, said McDonald.

In retirement, McDonald figures he'll become something of an elder statesmen.

He hopes to act as an advisor to younger employees and to keep in touch with clients.

He likes to quote baseball legend Lou Gehrig when summing up his professional life.

“I feel like the luckiest man in the world,” he says. “I did exactly what I wanted to do, exactly how I wanted to do it. In the meantime, I made a little bit of money – and a lot of friends.” 

SELECT COMMITTEE...(meeting notes)

#19 Monday, FEB. 25, 2002 at 7pm - Town Hall Meeting Room...
Present: Terzian, Gary, Hahn, Bochinski, Failla, Bowden; Stu Fairbank (McDonald-Sharp)
1.  Update on D.E.P. and other matters-- Stu Fairbank/Weston to go ahead with application--DEP had not wanted to hear from us until there was sufficient rainfall to test out Revson...treatment plant to be located behind DPW garage, out of sight of everyone and everything - in a line with WMS;  planning for lots of pipes, pumps, connecting to buildings yet to come...tied in with School Construction (McDonald-Sharp retained by Fletcher-Thompson as well).
2.  Update on water conservation - good news (except that the automatic/computer operated measurement technique supplied for schools can't be made to function by school staff...Select Committee Chair. doing it the old fashioned way HIMSELF (implication strong that it might not be done otherwise).
3.  Discussion on treatment facilities - visit to Greenwich--system in Brunswick School near Westchester Airport, Sacred Heart.  Committee members were quite enthused about the system.  It was stated that CT will not allow reuse of water (one of 3 states--all in New England).  More to come...
4.  Any other business - discussion of where the finances of septic/treatment program stand...so far, so good (within budgets as bids come in)...

NEWS: Chair. of Select Committee appointed (12-20-01 by Board of Selectmen) as additional member of School Building Committee(now a member of the Board of Education, elected November 6, 2001)...consultant to Select Committee (on avoiding sewers) is retained by architects for school construction (to coordinate progress with State of Connecticut approvals and D.E.P.)...
#18 Update meeting...vital to keeping public informed (had been scheduled for day after World Trade Center attack) as H2O conservation/recycling efforts at High School must begin in a timely fashion or NO part of school project can proceed.  With more than a quorum present, the Chair. summarized progress to date, at the September 18, 2001 meeting in the Commission Room of Town Hall (changed from the 12th for obvious reasons).  Consultant reports on water recycling (to begin on a limited basis at Weston High School in a few weeks) and plans for late October visits to locations in CT with tertiary treatment plants were put forward.  Questions from the public were entertained.  The meeting lasted from 7pm to just before 9pm.

Chair. of Select Committee addresses Special Town Meeting on June 21;  "YES" vote on June 28 makes progress for septic system improvement project possible...work progressing on repair to Hurlbutt septic systems (as of the beginning of August, according to reliable sources)...

#17 Review of progress as Select Committee met on May 29, 2001 at 7:30pm in the Commission Room.  Present was a quorum consisting of Chair. Don Gary, Lucy Bowden, Alan Dorsey, Claudia Hahne, Richard Wolf;  present in the audience were:  Selectman Woody Bliss, a member of one of the sub-committees (scientific), members of the public.

The agenda covered a number of topics including testing results on Revson (so far no water table in sight) of significance.  Plan will be to run long galleries to the east/north, parallel to School Road on Revson to hopefully take all but the elementary school flow.  That will be handled by rebuilt septics and pump chamber.  Cost estimated preliminarily as $300,000 for this.  June 7 Board of Selectmen will will begin the School Construction project by satisfying DEP on "consent" agreement--Kindergarten Village.

Included in the request for the funds--perhaps total of $750,000--(through Town Meeting process) to meet the "order" from DEP will be water conservation items necessary to have in place to ascertain for sure that future treatment can be handled at the main School Road site (i.e. reduce usage of water for toilet and hand washing activities--but be able to show actual numbers starting in September 2001).  Funds to continue McDonald-Sharp through the remainder of the design process (until September) will be requested at the next Board of Selectmen's Meeting June 7 (League Observer thinks this is what was said).  Sub-Committees were discontinued as their work has been done...

The meeting was adjourned at @9pm.

#16 Update from consultant on testing progress April 9 in the middle of a really big thunder storm;  things looking good for Hurlbutt.  More testing needed to prepare septic system redesign at Revson and Bisceglie, the "fall back" septic site for possible new school building effluent.  Click HERE for report on Bisceglie (from last summer).  Present were seven members of the Select Committee, First Selectman Hal Shupack, Selectman Woody Bliss, Superintendent of Schools Janet Shaner and several members of the public.  The meeting lasted from 7:40pm to 9:50pm.  This meeting had been posted with less than 24 hours notice regarding the specific agenda items, but had been on the Town Clerk's calendar for two weeks in advance.  Discussion has been on-going among architect Fletcher-Thompson and engineers MacDonald-Sharp as "scenarios" are developed for April 21 community meeting.  Serious question about schedule for bond issue--can we make it before school is out for the summer?  Changing fixtures should be done ASAP;  recycling of grey water should be built into the design of any new building (s).

Notes by technologically challenged LWV Observer...
The Scientific Sub-Committee met at 7:30pm to present materials to Chair. for better communications with the main Committee, new other Teams and the Board of Selectmen.  After review of water recycling/conservation report (see below), it was found that the consultant had made a typographical error on the top page, and had presented accurately a sense of the scale of conservation results that might be expected (in the tables)...just a note on detail:  "dumb" flush system (as in the Ladies' Room on the Merritt Parkway heading "north" toward Hartford) would prevent double-flush on toilets designed for conservation. This is accomplished by electronic-program design of chip used for flushing mechanism.

#15 UPDATE ON PROGRESS TUESDAY, March 20 at 7:30pm, Commission Room at Town Hall...Final word from DEP not yet agreed upon...but watch for Friday, March 23 dig at School Road--high water tests by State of Connecticut.
School Road high water testing took place...results may be described at Special Board of Selectmen's meeting 3-26-01 (last item on long agenda).

There are fall-back plans in case things do not go well, but the Committee is hopeful of an immediate OK on this first phase of septic upgrades.  Discussion of draft report on water recycling--meeting in 2 weeks, if possible, to give updates and finality, perhaps, to the two issues just discussed. Also, it will be attempted to get the Select Team's architect to come to the Select Committee's next meeting to coordinate efforts.  This meeting ended a bit after 9pm.

Good news at Special Board of Selectmen's Meeting Saturday, Feb. 24--League Observer notes that discussion in response to a question regarding location of septic fields brought out that the CTDEP "order" that is about to come down concerns forcing the Town of Weston to upgrade all existing Hurlbutt such facilities...and when "high water" tests prove out feasibility of this prospect, Weston will be allowed to proceed with finding the rest of the solution to growing septic disposal need--without sewers (if this is physically possible).

#14Select Committee January 9, 2001, 7:30pm, Commission Room, Town Hall:Present were Chair. Don Gary, Lucy Bowden, Claudia Hahne, Alan Dorsey, Tom Failla, Jim Costello, Joe Fitzpatrick (Building Committee).  This meeting lasted approximately one hour.
Glenn Tucker, of Bethel,the water conservation specialist suggested by MacDonald-Sharpe, reported regarding water conservation program design (he will not do any detailed construction plans) within structures on School Road (three schools)--to be completed in three weeks (approx.).
MacDonald-Sharpe written report distributed recounting DEP visits re: immediate 12 room installation on School Road for KINDERGARTEN complex of temporary construction.  These buildings will use Elementary School septic fields (piped downgrade on School Road) and passed inspection and design review by DEP.  No guarantees for other schools or other approvals.  Awaiting "high water" testing in April re: rest of plan.  If water conservation and recyling can be made to work, it may be possible to reduce need for new fields (decrease maximum capacity required)--and thus perhaps not even need to use Bisceglie option.  NEXT MEETING:  in approximately three weeks...Select Committee to report to community "Speak Up" on February 10, 2001 at 10:30am at Norfield Church Parish Hall (NOTE: this was done.)

#13Select Committee Dec. 5, 2000 at 6pm, Town Hall Meeting Room
PRESENT: Stuart Fairbank of MacDonald-Sharpe;  Don Gary, Dick Bochinski, Claudia Hahn, Richard Wolf, Paul Heifetz (for P&Z);  in the audience--Chair. of Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools and three other members;  Conservation Commission observer;  two members of the Board of Selectmen;  sub-Committee members; Town Administrator;  League Co-President;  school community;  Norwalk HOUR, Weston FORUM; the meeting was taped.

Summary (meeting over @7:30pm)

#12 Select Committee NOV. 14, 2000 Commission Room, Town Hall
BESIDE THE COMMITTEE--PRESENT WERE:  All members of the Board of Selectmen, Superintendent of Schools and the Chair. of the Board of Education, the HOUR and the FORUM, parents, sub-Committee members, the general public.
McDonald-Sharpe's Stuart Fairbank reported (a copy distributed to Committee members--Chair stated that copies would be available at the Town Clerk's Office in the morning);  a review of the School Road sites was made, with preliminary findings that new fields may be located there and old fields (yet to be evaluated) together might, but might not, provide adequate space for all the sewage disposal needs of the schools.  It was recommended that Heady Property and Bisceglie Park be tested before the next meeting (November 28).  It was noted that nitrate removal via a tertiary treatment plant will be needed.  Recycling of water calculations are to be made next, as well.  We are to all hope for precipitation totals by the Spring that match typical data for our area, when "high water" levels will needed to round out testing.  (Pray for rain.)

#11Select Committee...Tuesday, October 17 in Town Hall...
The Select Committee met and reviewed information unearthed recently regarding prior engineering reports about septic disposal options for the schools.  These reports (4) were conducted between 1970 and 1982--and all came to similar end--not implemented fully if at all.  In any event, the upshot of finding this material now is that McDonald-Sharpe will know where to dig to find the best soils.  Perhaps, with this historical information and location guide to the campus, their work will be able to be completed more rapidly (?).

The natives are restless...
It was reported that there is rising unrest in the school community.  The Board of Education needs some assurances that the WWHD will permit more portables for next school year.  It was reported that our State Legislators may be asked to intervene in our behalf--an idea that was not welcomed by those on the Select Committee--who feel that only the professionals from McDonald-Sharpe will be able to make Weston's case (which is not a political problem but rather an engineering one). Also reported to those present was the fact that the leader of the DEP unit that reviews sewage disposal will attend to the Weston project personally.  (Jennifer is on maternity leave.)

Board of Selectmen (Oct. 5) and Board of Finance (Oct. 12), it is reported, approve contract for McDonald, Sharpe;  at the Board of Selectmen, Select Committee Sub-Committee asks for understanding that improvements to present water usage practice as well as hardware for corrective action be able to be approved outside the confines of the sewer alternative study.  It was "understood" that this suggestion was a good idea--as well as the understanding that testing would be done at the Heady Property for not only septic system for a potential new Pre K-2 school but also for necessary evaluation of the rest of the property for TOWN RECREATION FIELDS.
Select Committee...reappointed at Sept. 21 Board of Selectmen's meeting;  terms until December 31, 2000 (to be extended as needed);  new member from the Board of Education (Jim Costello)...to replace Chair. of that Board--during discussion subject of traffic study arose--Board of Education thinks that the O,R&L Plan took care of this.  Did it?  For an unofficial and non-League review of O,R&L, click HERE.
Present:  Don Gary*, Alan Dorsey, Tom Failla**, Marguerite Terzian, Claudia Hahne, Richard Wolf***, Dick Bochinski, Lucy Bowden;  absent:  Mike Foster;  members of subcommittees, members of the Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools;  members of the Board of Selectmen (part of the time).

SELECT COMMITTEE voted to select McDonald-Sharpe as its engineering firm, after discussion with input from "Scientific Sub-Committee" members.  QUESTION: When will we know if a septic solution can be found?  ANSWER: Soon--but not too soon.
* = voted for Dymar
** = at the Board of Finance when vote was taken
*** = abstained, voted "for neither"

Present: Select Committee members present were:  Don Gary, Lucy Bowden, Marguerite Terzian, Tom Failla, Richard Wolf, Dick Bochinski and Alan Dorsey;  Sub-Committee members (many);  Board of Selectmen (all);  Weston FORUM;  LWV Co-President; general public

SELECT COMMITTEE met on Tuesday, September 5, 2000 at 7:30pm in the Town Hall Meeting Room.
The intention was to listen to one particular member of the Sub-Committee on Scientific Solutions (who had been away on business) and then approve or modify the contract with DYMAR.  After a vote to not move forward with the decision already made at a previous meeting, a new process was approved to open up the study job possibly to another firm in a second round of responses to this same invitation to work with Weston.  Chair. will be present at Board of Selectmen Special Meeting Wednesday, September 6th to report that progress.
...NEW SCHEDULE: [NOT OFFICIAL] as it was heard at the 9/5 meeting, September 12 at 4:30pm DYMAR and MacDonald-Sharp will have sent "last, best description" of what they can do, with the Select Committee meeting again on Thursday, September 14 to decide.
NOTE:  The Select Committee...was charged to come up with something in 90 days in re: the school septic problem.  This time is "up" on September 15.

PRESENT:  Richard Wolf, Tom Failla, Don Gary, Dick Bochinski, Claudia Hahn, Alan Dorsey, Lucy Bowden and Marguerite Terzian. SELECT COMMITTEE did not vote on contract--completion of contract by Town delayed and no time for review allowed...review to come this week, then vote at a Special Meeting T.B.A.;  "conservation" review function--maintaining water usage testing--taken over by "Scientific Solutions Sub-Committee" by a unanimous vote.
#7SELECT COMMITTEE...August 22;  Voted 5-1-2 (2 abstained because of procedural reasons) to recommend...DYMAR.  DYMAR chosen by vote after returning from executive session of Select Committee...August 22, 2000 discussed and debated  prior to Executive Session the virtues of this most qualified group of consultants and chose one--but as a courtesy to the Committee, League had not mentioned by name the winning firm on the Internet until now.  Next meeting of Committee next week.

SUB-COMMITTEE MEETING:  August 16, 2000 in Town Hall (7pm):
The "scientific" exploration of what exists--both in terms of understanding the actual conditions of water use, etc. as well as finding original drawings for septic systems--is well under way, in fact, the work to date looked complete.  Awaiting selection of consulting firm by full Select Committee, beginning of work on feasibility study for proposing septic system/nitrogen removal option and finding new locations for these.  Chair. of Select Committee present to elicit questions from sub-committee for reference checks of finalists.  Memo distributed regarding procedures used in research.

After all, members of the Select Committee decided to conduct interviews of consultants in public on August 15--August 16 meeting scheduled for 7pm for regular business.  Report on interviews on-line.

Note:At August 3, 2000 Board of Selectmen's meeting, Chair. of "Select Committee..." appears and reports on progress.  First Selectman asks that the Select Committee soon-to-be-hired consultant also do research and testing for possible future Town Hall/Library/Fire House expansions; another Selectman reminds all that first priority is finding alternative to sewers for School needs in time to move ahead with new school construction.
#6Select Committee...notes from August 1, 2000

Present:  Don Gary, Chair.,  Richard Wolf, Marguerite Terzian, Claudia Hahn, Dick Bochinski;  Les Wolf(sitting in for Mike Foster), Morris Gross, Laura Smits (for Lucy Bowden);  Woody Bliss.

This was a brief meeting (1/2 hour) to finalize the RFP--consultant to be interviewed at the next meeting (which will begin 30 minutes earlier to allow for three interviews and discussions after each).  The need to develop a water conservation plan at the schools was discussed (perhaps as part of the consultant's effort).  Also, a report from the "scientific" subcommittee indicated that Weston's water usage at the high school is much, much higher than at Staples or Fairfield...indicating a leak.
Reminder:  next week at 7pm...there will be meetings on Tuesdays in August (all at 7:30pm except for August 8th)!

#5Select Committee...notes from July 25, 2000
Present:  Don Gary, Chair.; Richard Wolf, Marguerite Terzian, Alan Dorsey, Claudia Hahn, Dick Bochinski;  Morris Gross (sitting in for Mike Foster) and Laura Smits (for Lucy Bowden); this meeting was taped;  Norwalk HOUR.

Lasting two hours, this was a meeting devoid of "outside" speakers.

The meeting reviewed the work to date of the subcommittees.  It is hoped to interview consultants by August 8th (one week later than had been promised).  In particular, some interesting reports came from the "scientific" group and the "conservation" team.  As a result of their findings to date, it is ever more necessary to retain professional advice.

Much volunteer time has gone into searching Town records (to no avail as far as the 90 day term of this Committee is concerned).  However, it has become clear that the septic solution might be workable if the  better soils at the Hurlbutt fields were used to underly engineered septics; also, the Bisceglie picnic spot and "par cours" (southern section), delimited separately from the rest of the Park, could offer opportunity for a smaller septic fields area--especially if the Heady Property were developed for a K-2 school.

It was reported that the School's staff in charge of maintenance has not been able to undertake wide-ranging tests or even draw up plans for a regimen that focusses on metering, reuse or recycling of water.  This is for 2 reasons:  the staff is not trained for this nor is there money in the budget to retain the skilled advice needed to set up an overall plan for water management.  This might be one of the tasks set aside for the Select Committee's consultant (?)--when the "RFP" is finished, all members of the Committee should  have contributed to designing the questions to be explored by a consultant.  Also, each consultant interviewed will have been asked the same questions.

The Building Committee representative took specific note of the pace at which the Select Committee was working--and observed that they would probably over-run the 90 day deadline...and then delay the construction of whatever is planned to be built to meet the reported enrollment crunch.

NEXT MEETING:  August 1, 2000

#4SELECT COMMITTEE...Notes for July 18, 2000
Town Hall Meeting Room, 7:30pm to 9:30PM approx.

Present:  Chair. Don Gary,  Mike Foster,  Lucy Bowden,  Claudia Hahn,  Alan Dorsey,  Dick Bochinski,  Richard Wolf,  Tom Failla,  Marguerite Terzian;  Superintendent of School Dr. Janet Shaner,; Joe Wolf, Business Manager of the Weston School System.  The Weston FORUM was present.

School Population:
The Committee has the need of accurate numbers for future (expected ) school population;  what the peak population is expected  to be and when it will occur is information the Select Committee requires.  Superintendent Shaner and Joe Wolf offered a document from the State Department of Education (October 28, 1999) which indicated that around YR2008  would be the peak--3098 (just shy of 3100).  The High School is expected to be hitting its peak population at the very end of the ten year cycle (ten years from now).  Other schools will have maxed out a couple of years ahead of Weston High.

 A discussion ensued  about the projection methodology--modified cohort survival. As a small community, Weston is particularly vulnerable to changes caused by companies moving out of the area, as well as the vagaries of the real estate market.  Mr. Wolf noted that his modifications of State estimates and projections allow for just this type of localized effect.  Questions about why the Board of Education was now willing to discuss an off-site Pre-K,K-2 elementary school were asked.

It was explained that the work of the "Steering Committee" during 1999 had proceeded under the orders to not consider the septic issue--that it would be solved.  Had the Board of Education chosen the alternative of "3-4-5 On Revson"  the sewer issue would have clearly come to a head much earlier.  But instead, the Building Committee and the Board of Education voted in favor of option "4A prime" which placed the new school near wetlands on School Road, and left the functioning school septic fields intact on Revson...

Questions were asked by the Committee regarding the amount of effluent produced now as that number relates to figures for a new school, the choice of going to another site off central campus for a building and the status of the O,R&L plan. Answers given were that we expect that DEP will require treatment facilities for 20 gallons per student (15 gallons, if we are lucky);  the Board of Education would go along with almost any site now--the children are here.  Lastly, the O,R&L plan can be modified for Hurlbutt as a 3-4-5.  As far as the rest of O,R&L's plan, we are "in-line" for $70 million plus inflation in Hartford.

The technology sub-committee hopes have engineers to be interviewed by the Select Committee in two weeks.  Metering must be continued and the data scrutinized by, perhaps, the engineers, prior to the interview process--along with distributing Fuss&O'Neill's data to the firms (so there can be a meaningfull interview process.)  Considering the short length of time the Select Committee has in which to find a solution,  the selection of  an independent, experienced firm is vital.  A case must be built for alternatives to be chosen.

The minutes were questioned re:  what the Town Engineer had said regarding the condition of the Middle School septic fields.  The Chair. and the Building Committee's member (who had been represented by the Vice-Chair. at the previous meeting) and the Town Engineer will get together before next meeting to determine which statements are accurate about the condition of the WMS septic situation.

NEXT MEETING:  Tuesday, July 25, 2000 at 7:30pm in the Town Hall Meeting Room.

#3SELECT COMMITTEE ...NOTES (JULY 6, 2000, 7:30pm)
Town Hall Meeting Room
7:30pm to 9:45pm (approx.)
Click here for photographic essay (not done by League):

Present:  Don Gary, Marguerite Terzian, Corey Attra (for Tom Failla), Mike Foster, Michael Greenberg (for Richard Wolf), Alan Dorsey, Dick Bochinski, Lucy Bowden; Town Engineer John Conte

The meeting began with a review by Engineer Conte of some of the data not available at the last meeting on school septic systems.  It was noted that per capita water usage at Weston High School is higher than might be expected.

Review of septic systems on School Road revealed that the Elementary School site is actually not "failing" as seriously as the other sites up School Road.  This is because the soils are better there.  There is possibly even more room for septic system on the Elementary School site.  Repairs to the system to bring it up to present code has to be undertaken at some point.

Questions were asked as to why, in other engineering reports, had only  "sole site" approach for treatment been considered (instead of designing different, new systems [each smaller] for the different sections of the school campus).  Discussion was circular, returning to the "failure" of existing designs and the supposed intractability of DEP to consider options.  The purpose of the exercise was challenged by Building Committee and citizen members;  it was requested that members interested be allowed to explore an exercise in showing how a developer would approach the Town of Weston for zone changes, etc. if a sewer were to be installed to service JUST the Schools (and Town Hall Complex).

Question:  Can you put any kind of septic systems on School Road?  Ans.  No
Question: Is the water metering at the schools accurate and/or sufficient to get numbers from which to base hard and fast plans?  Ans.  No
Question: What did the Taurus Report actually say?  Ans.  Only commented about testing for the Elementary School--did make unproven, un-scientific statements about the rest of the school septics.
Question:  Is this not a less glum picture than we had been led to believe?  Ans.  Yes…but systems still are "failing" by present standards.

The Chair. then described the five sub-committees (with attendant "task forces") to be named (members names for volunteering to the efforts below):
1. Communications - ? (The minutes are being taken and available to all)
2. Search for Scientific Solutions Yet Unexplored (Lucy Bowden and Claudia Hahn)
3. Consequences of the Recommended Actions  (Marguerite Terzian and Dick Bochinski)
4. DEP Coordination and Exposition  (Don Gary and Tom Failla)
5. Conservation at Existing Facilities  (Mike Foster--with aid of staff and
Joe Padula, School's Engineer, who submitted a one page letter describing what water metering there was at the school complex)

At the same time as sub-committees are working, there will be a continuing building of information about and description of the process on-going--a "BOOK OF FACTS."  Townspeople are urged to volunteer for "task forces" (no mention whether the task force members will be indemnified as are members of the Committee)

Michael Greenberg of the Building Committee reiterated his feeling that the zoning "risk" be described and perhaps debunked.  He will come in with his concept of what "would happen" if the Town of Weston were to construct a sewer to the schools from Norwalk by way of either Wilton or Westport.  It was suggested that this activity was beyond the scope of this Committee.

At the next meeting (July 18, 2000 at 7:30pm in Town Hall) names of soil scientists and engineers who have the skills to assist in the broad charge to this Committee be reviewed and a name (s) suggested to the Board of Selectmen ($25,000 already approved by Selectmen--needs approval of the Board of Finance).  Exploration of Bisceglie Park, the Heady property and School Road for future septic disposal part of the consulting  is required from an independent consultant of high repute

Some citizens offered help, requested that no condemnation be pledged;  offer of consulting sub-contract volunteer review.

#2SELECT COMMITTEE...NOTES, JUNE 28, 2000 (7:30pm):
Present were all but representative from the Planning and Zoning Commission;  meeting lasted for 2 and 1/2 hours.  All the information collected for members of the Select Committee are also available to the community--in either Town Hall or the Library.

The Weston Town Engineer went over each septic system (total of 9) and each planned project in detail.  Many areas where "unknowns" exist (i.e. no data on usage in summertime).  The elementary school campus and fields are built on the best soils and may offer room for new septics;  the high school has the worst septic fields, although they are controlled release from both sides of School Road and may be shut off if there is a problem with one or the other until repair is made.  Middle School/Revson Field and other fields not a problem yet--but all systems "fail" if forced to be measured to current code--retroactively. (NOTE:  wherever there is green grass on Schools Campus, you can bet it is a septic system location!)

All septics do not meet current standards, and it was suggested that any improvements to School Road buildings would or might require septic system upgrades to current standards...is this true?

The Administration Building, the Department of Public Works and Town Hall/Library/Firehouse systems are not presently under orders or threat of orders by the DEP.  Before the next meeting, the Select Committee will walk Bisceglie Park (one of the places that might provide space for new septic fields).  The Committee will divide up into sub-comittees soon (to explore, most expeditiously, the OPTIONS available).  Scenarios for the possible options will be developed.

DISCHARGE is the problem.
In order to discharge into a Class 'A' stream (i.e. either branch of the Saugatuck River) there has to be adequate "travel time"--21 days until "break out" into a Class A stream, for example.  Because the Board of Education is "under the gun" to provide classrooms, etc., that Board's representative said they were willing to abandon the exclusive "Central Campus System" in favor of a K-2 or 3-4-5 school on the Heady property.

Thursday, July 6; July18, 25, August 1,8--TUESDAYS--at 7:30pm; July 6 at 6:30pm the Select Committee will convene in Bisceglie Park for a one-hour walk of potential septic site prior to convening at 7:30pm in Town Hall.

Superintendent of Schools speaks to Kiwanis Club;  not in favor of year-round schooling (impractical in as small a district as Weston).  Twenty percent of school budget for Special Education...questions about this subject will increase after June 19 Board of Education meeting where copies of the full consulting report is made available.  Superintendent remarks that the efficiency of shared staffing least critical "at either end" of district (i.e.  elementary or high school) spectrum;  a new school 5 miles away from main campus not efficient, but Board of Education is flexible (not exactly what she said).


LWV of Weston Co-President named as one of five public members;   4 Chairs.--of Board of Education, Planning and Zoning Commission, Conservation Commission and Building Committee named--total of nine members.  First meeting listed in Town Clerk's Office for Monday, June 19, 2000 at 7:30om in Town Hall Meeting Room.
Members of this special committee are:
Marguerite Terzian, Planning and Zoning
Tom Failla, Conservation - now Charles Finkelstein?
Richard Wolf, Building Committee
Mike Foster, Board of Education - no longer on Board of Education - who is their representative?
Lucy Bowden
Dick Bochinski
Don Gary - Appointed Chair. of this AD HOC Committee
Alan Dorsey
Claudia Hahn

Summarized from Selectman Woody Bliss' presentation:

In the interest of (1) solving long standing school septic problems, (2) moving ahead with school planning process, and (3) responding to the public hearing of May 25th, the Board of Selectmen generally approved the charge, mission and members as reported below.

The people of Weston support quality education.  They want the waste water disposal problem solved.  However, many do not want sewers, or  condemnation of private property.  They agreed to slow down the process.

Weston is at a crossroads and the decisions that will be made in the next few months may have a profound affect on the Town's future character.  The Ad Hoc Committee may select a professional paid consulting team including a soil scientist, a geologist, an engineer and an administrator to make their work more time-efficient.  Among other ideas, analysis of 4-5 town owned sites would be prime.  How much effluent can each site safely handle, field life with treated effluent, regeneration prospects for existing septic fields, etc. would be some consdierations.   Engineering and research must be done to investigate and recommend technologies that can solve the problem.

Ad Hoc Committee called the Select Committee on the Impact of Sewage Treatment on the Character of Weston will has the following mission:

The Committee is charged with investigating the septic problems at the Weston schools and municipal facilities, and making recommendations for solutions to the Board of Selectmen.  These will include, but are not limited to, developing a clear problem statement, exploring all options for solution and evaluating associated risks, including consideration of what other communities have experienced solving similar problems, their success rates and costs.

Scope of inquiry
The scope of the Committee’s efforts are broad;  these should include recommendations for conservation measures in the schools to reduce the volume of water consumed and hence the volume of sewage produced.  The Committee should be mindful of the input from the public hearing held on May 25th (i.e. the unpopular idea of sewers and taking of land).  The Board of Selectmen designated the Chair of the Committee and its membership at the June 15, 2000 Board of Selectmen’s meeting.

The Committee will work through the summer and will be given 90 days to report their findings and recommendations, including cost, to the Board of Selectman.

Resources Available to the Committee
The Committee will have access to professional and technical services through the Committee Chair, in addition to town employees and residents who are experts.  The Committee is encouraged to develop a budget at its first meeting.

Water Conservation is a must.
Study of water conservation in the broadest sense, including reduced usage, recycling, replumbing, etc. is vital.  How much gpd reduction can be achieved and at what cost is a question to be addressed by this Committee.  The impact on the environment of any and all solutions is of highest importance.

New sewers' cost doubles
By Doug Dalena, Staff Writer
Published December 3 2006

STAMFORD - Dozens of irate homeowners assailed the Water Pollution Control Authority board last week after learning they will pay more than double for new sewers than they were told three years ago.

"Somebody pulled a fast one on us," said Regina Elliott-Conway, whose house on Hemlock Road is among those that got new sewer connections last year.

The project, which connected about 125 homes around Stillwater and Pond roads to the city sewer system, was completed within its $5.4 million budget. But a sweeping change in the authority's structure changed the formula for funding sewer construction projects.  The change came two years after city and WPCA officials told homeowners they would pay $7,000 to $12,000 for their share of the sewer project, depending on how many bathrooms they had.  Instead, owners learned in letters last month that the average cost will be $17,000.  A seven-bathroom home on Wyndover Lane is being assessed $44,000.

That doesn't include individual homeowners' costs to install pipes from their homes to the sewer lines, which can cost $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the length of pipe needed and the difficulty of digging trenches.

The 2003 estimate was based on the old formula, which charged homeowners 40 percent of the sewer-related costs, including excavation, sewer pipes, easements allowing the pipes to cross certain properties, and 20 percent of the paving costs, WPCA Executive Director Jeannette Brown said. Under the new and old formulas, homeowners also contract and pay for installation of the connection pipes, called laterals. The remaining costs are folded into the WPCA budget, which is funded by all sewer users in the city.

Taxpayers who do not receive sewer service do not pay because the WPCA budget is separate from the city's. About 95 percent of homes south of the Merritt Parkway have sewers, as well as a few neighborhoods in North Stamford.

The 2005 ordinance changed the assessment formula from 40 percent of sewer-related costs to 40 percent of the total project cost, Brown said.

The difference is substantial. Sewer-related costs on the Stillwater Road project were about $3 million, Brown said, compared with the $5.4 million total cost, so the 126 new users will have to collectively pay $2.15 million, instead of about $1 million.

"I think we had had complaints from other ratepayers saying, 'Why should we be subsidizing the new sewers for other people when it doesn't benefit us?' " Brown said, explaining the change.  But the city changed the rules too late, many residents said. The project was nearly complete when the Board of Representatives passed the new ordinance.

"And they never told us about this until we got this letter on Nov. 17," Elliott-Conway said.

WPCA officials said they had little choice. City attorney Thomas Cassone said the city ordinance and state law mandated that the rules in effect when the project was finished - when residents started getting the benefit of the new sewers - must apply.  The charges can be paid in a lump sum or in 15 annual payments, with 4.5 percent interest.  In addition to the $5,000 he had to pay to install a sewer connection, Tom Doolittle faces an assessment of $22,000 for his 31Ú2-bathroom house.

"Even on a 15-year basis at 4.5 percent interest, that's a hell of an addition," he said.

Doolittle, 77, has lived on Stillwater Avenue for half a century and never wanted sewers. "For 28 years we had a fantastic septic system," he said. "We had no reason to replace that. I could have gone the rest of my life with it."

Other homeowners, including Elliott-Conway, supported sewer construction.  The sewer charge isn't a tax, another effect of the same ordinance, which severed the connection between the WPCA budget and general tax revenue.  Doolittle told the WPCA board it should consider reducing the charge for senior citizens, or calculating the assessments based on actual water usage.

All sewer users also pay a semiannual usage fee based on that method.  The WPCA board is expected to discuss the assessments for the project when it meets at 5 p.m. Dec. 12 at the sewer treatment plant's offices on Harbor View Avenue.  The board will weigh the complaints, Brown said, and may consider whether to change to the assessments.

"I think our board is going to talk about that and look at it," she said, adding that the board will seek another legal opinion on the charges.

Town awaits Madison Landing sewage system ruling 
By Amanda Pinto, New Haven Register Staff
Wednesday, December 26, 2007 

MADISON — It was August when residents first thought there would be a ruling on whether an advanced sewage treatment system would be approved for Madison Landing.

A hearing about the Zenon system had already been conducted in the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Adjudication, and the final decision was all that remained.  After August came and went, conventional wisdom was that the DEP would render a ruling about the system, which would discharge highly treated waste into an underground leaching system, after the November election.

Now, with the new year fast approaching, the same questions persist: When will the DEP rule, and what will the ruling be?

The delay bred a third question: If the hearings have concluded and the evidence has been heard, what is the DEP waiting for?

The proposed Madison Landing development, a 127-unit adult community planned for 42 acres on the former Griswold Airport site, has seen both staunch opposition and strong support.  Selectman Tom Scarpati, the three-term first selectman whose tenure ended in November, advocated for the development, officials said.

Members of Stop Griswold Overdevelopment protested both development and the sewage system on the “ecologically fragile” site.  Current First Selectmen Al Goldberg campaigned on a promise to bring decisions about the town’s future back before the townspeople.

“The townspeople have never in 20 years had a chance to vote about the Griswold property,” he said.

Although the period for submitting testimony about the Zenon system has elapsed, DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said parties to the proceedings can request oral arguments to the commission.  Goldberg said he hopes to get on Commissioner Gina McCarthy’s calendar.  He said he has a vision for town debate and dialogue, and that development support during the previous administration did not adequately reflect the views of the public.

While Leyland/Alliance owns the property, the town could buy it back.  Long before Scarpati took office, the owners approached the town about buying the property and the town declined.

“The process is past the town as far as I can see and in the hands of the DEP, in terms of their final analysis, and I don’t know what that’s going to be,” Scarpati said at a recent meeting.  Scarpati said rumors that the project was dead with his unseating are “dangerous.”

Madison would be open to legal action by the developer if the new administration boots out the project, he said.

“We’re not part of the process nor have we been. ... We have no role in this,” Scarpati said.

Both are statements with which Keith Ainsworth, counsel for Stop Griswold Overdevelopment, said he must disagree.

“To say the selectmen haven’t had a hand in it is far from the truth,” Ainsworth said. “(Scarpati) went and testified against the moratorium bill and sat with the developer.”

Ainsworth also said he doesn’t think a public hearing or forum, as proposed by Goldberg, would leave Madison susceptible to litigation, since proponents aren’t suggesting eminent domain, but rather buying back the land.

“I don’t think anyone is suggesting that there would be a hostile maneuver to (get the site), an involuntary maneuver to do that,” Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth and Goldberg said they consider the Zenon decision to be one of the final steps in the permitting process, a significant juncture that will determine whether Madison Landing will progress.  Ainsworth said he’d like to see more information, including an assessment a hydrogeologist conducted after the hearings, made available before the project goes forward.

“If (the Planning and Zoning Commission) were to hear the new information, I don’t know how they’d react to it,” he said.

A decision from the Office of Adjudication is expected soon, and that the hearing commission is in the final stages of weighing all of the evidence and testimony and making a recommendation to the commissioner, Schain said.

McCarthy makes a final decision on whether or not to issue a permit for the Zenon system. After that decision, there is a 45-day period during which an appeal can be filed.

Sewage Treatment Results Eyed;   Local Activists Say DEP Data Do Not Support Manufacturer's Assertions
By DAVID FUNKHOUSER, Courant Staff Writer
November 15, 2006

An advanced waste treatment technology that has been touted as a solution to septic pollution problems along the shoreline is failing to meet state standards nearly half the time, say activists who are trying to stop two proposed developments that want to use the same system.

Environmental groups are citing the state's own data in an effort to discredit plans for the Guilford Commons retail center on Route 1 and the 127-unit Madison Landing housing complex.

The data come from 10 sites already using Zenon wastewater treatment systems, including the Clinton Crossing shopping mall, the Yale-New Haven Shoreline Medical Center in Guilford, the Hearth senior living facility in Madison and the Water's Edge resort in Westbrook.

A state Department of Environmental Protection engineer said Tuesday that the data had been compiled by a summer intern at the DEP and "had some errors." Warren Herzig said the DEP is reviewing the numbers "to make sure that the data was accurate and that it paints an accurate picture of the performance of these facilities."

Herzig added: "We have had experience with the Zenon system in the past. There are many of them that function, and there are some that don't." He said the review should be complete within the next 10 days, and the DEP would then consider whether it needs to take enforcement action.

Connecticut has been working with New York for two decades to curb the amount of nitrogen and other pollutants flowing into Long Island Sound from sewage treatment plants and surface runoff. Excess nitrogen contributes to a decline in oxygen levels in the Sound, a condition that threatens sea life.

Although the problem is most severe in the Sound's western end, shoreline communities such as Old Saybrook, Westbrook and Clinton have been under the gun to address problems with their septic systems. Officials in those towns are banking on technology similar to the Zenon system to resolve those issues and avoid building expensive sewage treatment systems.

"The industry considers this system to be the Rolls-Royce of compact treatment systems," said Charles Magby of Guilford, who is leading the charge against a proposed 150,000-square-foot retail complex in that town. "So if there's a problem with the one that's supposed to be the kingpin, it's a very big mistake. It's just an excuse for developers to develop land that otherwise should not be touched."

Ellen Mellody, a spokeswoman for Zenon, said the company has one of the best environmental performance records around.

"Engineers have turned to [Zenon] as the equipment of choice for regions facing sensitive environmental issues and [the systems] have proved time and again that they are capable of meeting the most stringent requirements," she said.

The problem, said Magby, comes with how the systems are operated and maintained. "The technology works under ideal circumstances and certain applications," he said. "But the way it's being permitted and operated really is so far removed from the pie-in-the-sky technology side of it, it's ridiculous.

"You've got to look at this over a 20- or 30- or 40-year period," Magby said. "As long as there's a facility on site functioning, somebody has to pay the cost of operating and maintaining it, and it's bloody expensive to do that correctly."

The DEP already has said it intends to approve the system for Guilford Commons. Magby has requested a public hearing on the matter, and will meet Monday with the DEP to set that up.

In Madison, the DEP is still reviewing the request from developer LeylandAlliance for a wastewater discharge permit for Madison Landing. That project would place 127 single-family houses, townhouses and condominiums for adults 55 and over on 42 acres now occupied by Griswold Airport, next to Hammonasset Beach State Park.

The project has the backing of the Madison administration, but a group of local environmentalists, Stop Griswold Over-Development, is vigorously opposing it.

Herb Gram, a retired engineer with the group, studied the DEP's monthly performance data on the Zenon systems and concluded that they failed to meet state standards for discharge of nitrogen, phosphorous or fecal coliform bacteria 48 percent of the time.

In one case - the Yale medical center - the system failed to meet one or more state standards for all 22 months examined.

Clinton Crossing failed to meet state limits 28 percent of the time, Water's Edge 25 percent of the time, and the Hearth 12 percent of the time, according to Gram's analysis.

"As far as we're concerned, it's not a proven technology," Gram said.

DEEP:  Can't take it back once it is out;  no longer on hold, as in hold your nose to full regional solution, perhaps!  See March 2015 article here

Story in full:  http://www.theday.com/local/20150114/old-lyme-beach-sewer-issue-on-hold

Official: Point O' Woods Needs Expensive Sewer Project

By Eileen McNamara
Published on 11/3/2006

Old Lyme — The Point O' Woods beach neighborhood must go forward with a costly public sewer project to address pollution resulting from the shoreline area's aging and undersized septic systems, state and local officials told Point O' Woods residents at a meeting Thursday night.

The meeting was held to clear up what one state official called “confusion” among some residents of Point O' Woods over information the Department of Environmental Protection gave the town last month at a meeting at which it discussed sewer issues in shoreline towns.

During the earlier meeting, the DEP said new technologies are allowing some towns, such as Old Saybrook, to avoid installing costly and politically unpopular public sewer systems. One of those technologies allows homeowners on or near the water to upgrade or keep their older septic systems by installing small sewage treatment boxes on their systems.

After that meeting, some residents in Point O' Woods got the mistaken impression that such “on-site” technology could be used in Point O' Woods, said Rob Prybylo, a consultant working for the beach association on its sewer problems.

“I'm here to tell you those systems won't work in Point O' Woods,” Prybylo told about 50 residents at Thursday night's meeting. “Your lots are just too small. It's as plain as that.”

Officials have estimated it will cost about $7 million to install sewer lines to the more than 400 seasonal properties in Point O' Woods. The beach association has signed a consent order with the Department of Environmental Protection to address pollution of Long Island Sound resulting from what the DEP has said are substandard sewer systems installed in the densely populated beach community.

Construction of the sewer lines, which will take the neighborhood's wastewater to New London's sewage treatment plant, is set to begin in 2008.

However, many residents in Point O' Woods, an older summer community, oppose sewers because they believe it will result in the conversion of many of the small summer houses into large year-round waterfront residences, bringing more congestion to the area.

Several residents challenged the DEP's assertions that the septic systems in Point O' Woods are polluting Long Island Sound.

Michael Kiernan, who has a cottage on Ridgewood Road, questioned the DEP's testing standards. Kiernan said that because Point O' Woods is a summer community, its annual output of nitrogen, one of the main kinds of pollution that results from wastewater, is probably below DEP's pollution limits.

Prybylo said that is likely true, but also moot. The DEP, he said, does not quantify pollution simply on an annual basis. It also must address pollution as it occurs.

Other residents said that published statistics, some provided by the DEP itself, indicate that two-thirds of all pollution in Long Island Sound results from sewage-treatment plants.

Betsey Wingfield, chief of the DEP's bureau of water protection, said that while treatment plants are a source of pollution, their output can be quantified and controlled. Pollution from thousands of individual septic systems in shoreline neighborhoods, she said, is much more difficult to identify and manage.

There are also new technologies always being developed, she added, to reduce pollution from treatment plants.

Not all Point O' Woods residents oppose the installation of new sewer lines.

William Lacourciere, chairman of the beach association, said he is concerned the neighborhood is impacting the environment of its own waterfront as well as Long Island Sound.

“Those of us who have lived here all of our lives know we're polluting the Sound,” he said. “I personally feel responsible to my kids and grandkids to get it out of there.”

"Weston not alone department" of by now ancient history...

News from around the State of Connecticut...
Small Towns Faced With Big Waste Choices
July 8, 2002 - By SUDHIN S. THANAWALA, Courant Staff Writer

A small cottage on the shore might accommodate a family of five for a few days, but a 250-gallon septic tank will not.

Brushing their teeth, flushing the toilet and doing the dishes, mom, dad and the kids will send close to 375 gallons of wastewater gurgling through the pipes of their home into the undersized tank each day.

Eventually, the system will fail and waste will come bubbling to the surface.

Such septic woes have come to plague towns along the Connecticut shoreline, where small cottages often host big crowds in the summer.  Even when septic tanks are adequately sized, small plots and high water tables make it hard for the systems to function properly. The result: pollution of groundwater and possibly Long Island Sound.

But a typical alternative, a sewage treatment plant, isn't right for all towns, local officials say. They argue that sewers and a large treatment plant would promote uncontrolled development.  High-rise apartment buildings and chain restaurants - familiar sights in other communities with sewers - would destroy the towns' character, they say. Put them in the ground, they warn, and the developers will come.

In 1989, Old Saybrook residents balked at a state Department of Environmental Protection order requiring the town to construct a sewage treatment plant that would also serve Westbrook and Clinton. Since then, the festering problem has gone largely unaddressed, as the towns and DEP continue to haggle over the best solution.

"I don't want to rush anything, but I do think we need to address [this problem]," said State Rep. Brian O'Connor, D-Clinton. "We don't want people dragging their feet."

O'Connor said a large, regional sewer plant is not the solution, but as developers and home-builders increasingly look beyond the crowded Gold Coast of Fairfield County for suitable shoreline lots, the sewer issue remains a concern for the three towns.

The plan Old Saybrook officials developed as an alternative for handling local wastewater, which includes a mix of on-site septic technology, stricter regulations and a mini-treatment plant, would be environmentally better than sewers and a single, large treatment plant, local officials say. They point to Rhode Island, which has researched enhanced on-site systems and has many in the ground, as a model for the future of wastewater treatment.

Now, town officials say, it's a matter of convincing the DEP to embrace these alternative technologies. O'Connor said he would like to see a pilot study of the on-site systems that would demonstrate their effectiveness.

A solution could be reached within the next year, officials say. In the meantime, each of the three towns is proceeding with its own plan.  Westbrook is investigating sites that could be used to discharge effluent into the ground. Old Saybrook is evaluating individual septic systems in homes it does not plan to hook up to sewers.  And Clinton's consultants have presented the town with a plan for a daunting, $56-million, centralized sewer and treatment plant or several mini-plants, an even more expensive option. Neither option is sitting well with town officials, and nothing is decided.

But Old Saybrook's fight has implications for other communities in Connecticut that will eventually have to address wastewater problems. Whether their future holds sewers or a mix of technologies could hinge on the outcome of this shoreline town's battle with the state.

Magnets For Development?

"Any time you put an urban solution in place, you're going to get urban development," said Steve Luckett, Old Saybrook's water pollution control authority coordinator.

Luckett, a vocal critic of sewers and large treatment plants for communities such as Old Saybrook, was hired two years ago to implement the town's wastewater plan.  With approval from the DEP still unclear, Luckett has taken to spreading the word - often on his own time - about the town's plan.  He has no doubt sewers and a large treatment plant will contribute to development.

Even if the town tried to restrict building, Luckett said, it would be overwhelmed by high-powered attorneys that developers would use to grab land on the lucrative shoreline.  "They would argue [that] if there is capacity and a wastewater pipe, and I want to build something next to it, then how is it you can restrict me from doing that," he said.

With the high cost of sewers, there is also concern that the towns would want to extend them to as many properties as possible, spreading out the expense.  The DEP's record over the last decade proves otherwise, said Dennis Greci, a supervising sanitary engineer with the agency's water management bureau.  Towns that have gone to sewers have successfully kept unwanted development out through local regulations that restrict where sewers can be used, he said.

Even within an area where sewer-use is allowed, the town can restrict the flow of wastewater from each property, limiting the type of development that can be built, Greci said.  Attorney Michael A. Zizka, who has helped craft sewer regulations for North Stonington, Burlington and Coventry among other Connecticut towns, said he has not seen a developer successfully challenge a town's sewer regulations in court.

"If a commission develops regulations, reasonable regulations, that specifically say this is who can connect and spells out the circumstances and nobody else, as long as those regulations pass constitutional muster, courts will respect them," he said.  Towns with no regulations, Zizka said, are the ones that have to worry.

"Holding your hands up and saying no sewer means no development isn't true, isn't even close to true anymore," said Greci.  But concern over development is only a small part of the conflict between Old Saybrook and the DEP. From the agency's plans for the town to the benefits of on-site technology, the parties agree on nothing.

"It doesn't seem the bureaucracy of the DEP wants to move towards new technology," said Old Saybrook First Selectman Michael Pace, former chairman of the local water pollution control commission. "They are comfortable to stay with old technology and old solutions which have, by their own nature, their own design, proven not to be the most environmentally correct things to do - like the bigger sewer plants."

Old Saybrook officials think the DEP is still committed to a regional sewage treatment plant.  Greci calls that "sheer nonsense," saying the DEP has not ruled the technology out. One of the concerns is simply who will maintain the enhanced on-site septic systems, which require more care than conventional septic systems, he said.

"If a town wants this, we're going to look to have the town take the ultimate responsibility for keeping them running because it is an alternative to putting pipes in the ground," Greci said.

Luckett said he is eager to manage such a system. The town has come to the end of its 5-year, subsidized pump-out program that encouraged residents to pump their septic tanks. With backing from the state, Luckett said, the town could enforce these and other regulations that would ensure septic systems run properly and remain up-to-date.

Advanced Technology

David Dow filled a plastic cup with wastewater and held it to his nose.  The effluent from a home in South Kingstown, R.I., had passed through a sand filter - one of the filters that can be used in an advanced septic system.  "It's a lot like tap water," Dow said, noting that the effluent had no smell and was almost clear.

The system is one of more than 35 that Dow and his team at the University of Rhode Island's Onsite Wastewater Training Center have installed over the last six years using federal and state grants. Dow, an on-site systems specialist, said the filte technology has proven effective for properties on which   conventional systems would not work because there is not enough space, the water table is too high, or the soils are not good - the same limitations many properties along the Connecticut coast face.  The URI center is demonstrating the technology to get towns on board.

"The technologies in the last 20 or 30 years have been refined to the point where they're easy to maintain, relatively simple to install, and are very reliable," he said.  The advanced treatment units consist of either filters or blowers, which add air to encourage the growth of aerobic bacteria that thrive on the effluent.  They can be fitted with an ultraviolet light source that knocks down the pathogen and bacteria count. They also often employ pumps to move effluent to the filter and dose it into the leaching field at certain intervals, so the entire field is used and not overwhelmed.

The technology in Rhode Island is coupled with regulations that the state's department of environmental management has given the towns authority to implement. Some towns in the state now require septic systems be inspected and maintained and the towns enforce their regulations with fines.  Dow and others say Connecticut has simply lagged behind other states when it comes to the advanced technology, which has not been approved for use in an individual home in the state.  Back in Old Saybrook, Luckett hopes he will be among the first to get that chance.

"If the state would let us go and do this, we'd see a tremendous product," he said. "And I have faith that they will." 

Photo from WestportNow
Westport Y to break ground for new home Feb. 5
Paul Schott, Westport NEWS
Published 7:58 am, Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Westport Weston Family Y, culminating years of planning, will break ground Feb. 5 on a new center at its Mahackeno campus in northwest Westport, Y officials announced Monday.

Y officials last month were issued a zoning permit for the project from town officials.

"Our campaign to fund and construct a modern, sustainable new home for the Family Y has been years long and at times imperiled," Rob Reeves, the Y's chief executive officer, said in the statement announcing the grounbreaking date. "But thanks to the steadfast support of our members, the tireless efforts of the volunteer leaders who guide us and the selfless contributions from hundreds of donors from throughout our community and beyond, we are ready to truly `Build What Matters.' "

The new Mahackeno center will include an aquatic center with a 10-lane, 25-yard lap pool, an adjacent family-teaching-therapeutic pool and an aquatic climbing wall. The Mahackeno complex will also feature a health and wellness center, a multi-purpose gymnasium, three group-fitness studios; a child watch-kids adventure gym area and five locker rooms.

Y officials are targeting a November 2014 opening date for the Mahackeno center. In the meantime, the Y's operations will stay at its current home downtown at 59 Post Road East.

The Y introduced plans for a Mahackeno center more than a decade ago. The project has since endured an arduous and acrimonious public review process. The Planning and Zoning Commission approved building a Mahackeno Y in 2008, but the Y and town then faced four lawsuits filed against the project. The last of the appeals against the Mahackeno center was rejected in January 2011 by a Superior Court judge in Stamford.

Much of the opposition to the Mahackeno project has diminished since the 2011 Superior Court decision, with many neighbors now appearing to accept that a new Y center will be built.

"I wish the Y good luck as they embark upon the project," Melissa Kane, a Representative Town Meeting member who represents the district encompassing the Mahackeno property, said in an email Monday. "I hope and expect that they will stick to their promises and will be good neighbors both during and after construction."

The Y will host an question-and-awnser session about the Mahackeno project at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 in the Y's current downtown headquarters, with a "special invitation" extended to almost 100 property owners near the Mahackeno property, according to Y officials.

Y wins approval for Mahackeno septic reserve fund
Westport News
Paul Schott
Published 8:34 a.m., Monday, October 22, 2012

The Westport Weston Family Y is moving ahead with preparations to install a septic system for its new complex planned at the Mahackeno Outdoor Center after the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday approved establishment of an emergency reserve fund for the wastewater facility.

The fund will consist of cash and/or cash equivalents totaling about $300,000 -- an amount financed by the Y. That reserve is intended to cover 100 percent of the "anticipated replacement costs" of all the septic facility's equipment and materials, as mandated by a wastewater treatment ordinance passed in 2006 by the Representative Town Meeting.

Y officials will also have to secure the Board of Selectmen's approval to create an operational and maintenance fund for the Mahackeno septic facility. Both of those accounts must be set up before the Y builds the septic system.

"In this case here, you're typically going to have a couple of components that are going to go, get hit by lightning, have an explosion, have motors, have pumps, things like that that would go," said Public Works Director Steve Edwards. "Those are all items that would be easily covered with $300,000."

During his 25 years running the town's wastewater treatment plant, Edwards said he did not recall any "catastrophic event" that had cost $300,000. He also expressed confidence the town could cope with the prospective failure of the Mahackeno septic system.

"This is a recreational facility, and if we have to shut it down, we shut it down," Edwards added. "Worst case scenario: They could truck 30,000 gallons (of wastewater) down to my treatment plant on a daily basis for probably six months for $300,000."

The selectmen's approval of the emergency reserve fund is the latest step in a lengthy approval process for the construction of an on-site wastewater treatment facility to service the Y's planned 54,000-square-foot center at its Mahackeno campus in northwest Westport. That septic apparatus -- also known as a fixed activated sludge treatment system -- has also been approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Conservation Commission, the Flood and Erosion Control Board and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Y officials earlier this year submitted an application to the town to connect the Mahackeno campus to Westport's public sewer system. That proposal would have required changes to the municipal sewer network's boundaries and attracted vehement resistance from a number of town residents. The Y subsequently withdrew the application.

Despite the furor provoked by the Y's sewer proposal, Westport Weston Family Y Chief Executive Officer Rob Reeves has not ruled out the possibility of eventually connecting the Mahackeno complex to the town's sewer system.

"We would prefer to be added to the town's sanitary sewer system and would entertain any request from the town to consider that, but are moving forward with our plans for a septic system," he said in an email Thursday.

The FAST system will probably be installed at the Mahackeno campus in the early spring of 2013, Reeves added. Y officials have not yet finalized the cost of the FAST system's installation. The Y plans to break ground in December on the new Mahackeno center.

Discussion of the emergency reserve fund was brief at the selectmen meeting.

Don Bergmann, an RTM meeting from District 1, expressed concern that the contingency account did not meet the standards of the RTM's 2006 ordinance.

"The RTM wrote an ordinance and we have words to adhere to," he said. "I don't think this WPCA (Water Pollution Control Authority) has written regulations that would modify the ordinance. And it seems to me that this approach reflects modifications."

John Fallon, the lawyer representing the Y, disputed Bergmann's assessment.

"We established an approach to a definition of the emergency reserve fund that is absolutely totally consistent with the explicit intent and language of the ordinance, as it relates to the emergency reserve fund," he said.

After Fallon spoke, the selectmen, acting in their capacity as the town's Water Pollution Control Authority, quickly moved to unanimously approve the emergency reserve fund for the Mahackeno septic system.

Y drops Mahackeno sewer plan
Paul Schott, Westport News
Updated 06:17 p.m., Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In the latest twist of its protracted struggle to build a new complex at its Mahackeno Outdoor Center, the Westport Weston Family Y on Monday withdrew its application to build a sewer line to the site.  The turnabout came just three days before the proposal faced its first public hearing and surprised some officials and residents. But as opposition mounted, Y officials conceded they faced an "uphill battle."

Just eight weeks ago, the Y announced it wanted to tie the proposed 55,000-square-foot complex into the municipal sewer system rather than build a septic system on its 32-acre property. The plan would have required expansion of the town's sewer system, and opponents had become more vocal as the first hearings neared.

"It had become clear to us that the process would become too long and too expensive, and that, in the end, we may not be successful," said Bonnie Strittmatter, president of the Y's Board of Directors. "We have a clear path to go forward. We're not going to spend time on an uphill battle."

But putting the septic-system costs back into the Y's plans will tax a Mahackeno fundraising drive that is about $5 million short of its goal with only a month left to raise it.  If that money is not raised, Y officials have said, the institution's future in Westport would be in jeopardy and ultimately could make waste treatment moot.

The "uphill battle" Strittmatter cited for the sewer line would have included winning approvals from five separate local and state bodies and likely would have been lengthy.

Approvals were needed from the Board of Selectmen in its capacity as the town's Water Pollution Control Authority, the Conservation Commission, the Flood and Erosion Control Board, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  The plan called for a 4-inch line to run from the existing sewer system west under Lee's Pond -- part of the Saugatuck River -- to the adjacent Mahackeno property.

The selectmen have canceled the first scheduled review of that plan on Thursday.


Because Mahackeno lies outside the so-called "blue line" that defines the sewer district's boundaries, the selectmen's approval would have had to include amending those borders.  Such a change may also have obligated them to amend the town's sewer avoidance policy -- which stipulates the conditions under which a sewer connection can be granted to properties outside the blue line.

Y leaders had said the sewer line would have been more environmentally friendly and cost less than installing a septic system at Mahackeno.

But the prospect of changing the blue line and the sewer avoidance policy -- which has not been modified since its adoption in 2005 -- attracted increasingly vocal opposition in recent weeks from several quarters, including Save Westport Now, a citizens group and political party that focuses on land-use issues.

"I'm relieved that they've come to their senses," Valerie Seiling Jacobs, a Save Westport Now vice chairman, said Monday.

Other sewer-line opponents also welcomed the Y's decision to abandon it.

"I think the Y is doing the right thing," said Indy Goldberg, the co-director of Y Downtown, a citizens group that wants a Y complex in the town center. "I think it's great that they are listening to what people have to say."

Matthew Mandell, chairman of the Representative Town Meeting's Planning and Zoning Committee, had a similar reaction.  He said he thought the Y should move ahead with plans that already have been approved, including the septic system.

"The idea of changing the blue line ... for their proposal was inappropriate," he said. "I'm glad they recognized it."


The Y said it will proceed with its initial plan to install a new septic facility at Mahackeno. That system includes an "alternative treatment" unit known as the Fixed Activated Sludge Treatment system, which is produced by a Kansas company, Smith & Loveless.

The FAST system includes wastewater treatment processes such as aerobic treatment and nitrogen removal, which supplement the traditional tanks, distribution piping and leaching fields. About five FAST systems currently operate in Connecticut, according to DEEP officials.

The FAST system was approved for Mahackeno by the Flood and Erosion Control Board, the Conservation Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission and DEEP during a two-year approval process between 2006 and 2008.

Still, several town officials and local environmentalists contend the system is unreliable and would pollute local waterways.  In 2007, the RTM rejected by a narrow margin two petitions challenging the Flood and Erosion Control Board's and Conservation Commission's approvals of the septic system.  Debate about the FAST system's performance figured significantly in the RTM's review of those appeals. Y officials this week reiterated their confidence in the system.

"We don't have concerns about the septic system," said Rob Reeves, the Y's chief executive officer. "We'll go forward with what we know will work."

The Y still must submit plans and specifications for the system to DEEP and receive a state permit to operate the apparatus.

DEEP officials have maintained that a FAST system at Mahackeno would be reliable and meet the state standard of discharging no more than 10 milligrams of nitrogen per liter of wastewater, provided that it is properly maintained and supervised.

"Their track record is similar to all the other alternative systems that are in place," said Michael Hart, a supervising engineer in DEEP's Water Permitting and Enforcement Division. "All the ones that are properly staffed, funded and maintained usually operate pretty well."

None of the on-site wastewater treatment facilities with FAST systems in Connecticut have experienced problems related to their FAST units, Hart said. One of those FAST systems -- at a Stop & Shop supermarket in Madison -- had a hydraulic problem related to its leaching field. That setback was "minor" and did not cause any water pollution, Hart added.

But the Y's decision to drop its sewer plan will likely further encumber an already arduous fundraising process for its Mahackeno center. To meet financial and construction deadlines to move forward with an October groundbreaking, the Y will need to have raised "significantly close" to $12.5 million by mid-May, Reeves said.

The Y has so far raised about $7.2 million -- roughly $5 million short of what it needs, even after a recent $500,000 pledge from Allen Raymond, Westport's town historian and a former Y president.  The septic system would cost around $1.2 million, according to Peter Romano, a partner at Westport-based Land-Tech Consultants. Building a sewer line to Mahackeno would have cost about the same, Reeves said.

But on top of installation costs, the Y will have to fund an emergency reserve that would pay for the replacement of its septic system if it were to fail, a fiscal obligation mandated by an ordinance approved in 2006 by the RTM.

Facing an outlay of more than $2 million for installing and operating its septic system, the Y will seek to offset its wastewater treatment expenditures by reducing some of its building costs for the $36 million Mahackeno complex, Reeves said.

"We're not going to cut out a gymnasium or cut out a pool... because then the operations will not generate the revenue we need to cover the borrowing we have planned," he said. "There are ways to use [less expensive] products that are less aesthetically pleasing but just as functional."

The Y already has scaled back its plans. It originally proposed a 102,000-square-foot complex. But facing a $17 million funding shortfall in February, the Y scaled back to about half that size.


If the Y does not raise about another $5 million in the next month, the Mahackeno project likely would collapse.  Y officials appear to have ruled out the possibility of suspending the fundraising campaign and resuming it later -- perhaps when the economy improves. Pursuing an extended fundraising schedule, they argue, would only create "escalation costs" that would make building the Mahackeno complex even more expensive.

"If we wait another couple of years, the escalation costs would overpower anything that we would continue to raise," Reeves said.

Remaining at its downtown complex at 59 Post Road East also appears unworkable. The Y agreed in 2006 to sell its downtown building to Bedford Square Associates, a consortium whose principals include Westport-based developer David Waldman.

In 2009, bruised by an already protracted review process, the Y renegotiated its contract with Bedford Square, which agreed to let the Y stay in its downtown complex until the end of 2014 -- three years later than its original deadline to vacate. The Y will not seek another extension, Reeves said.

"They've been very good with us," he said of Bedford Square Associates. "We've got an agreement that we're going to hold to."

Meanwhile, other funding sources, such as the Y's national organization, or even the town, are not considered viable options, officials said.

"The national organization provides guidance and advocacy," Reeves said. "But they don't have that kind of budget to donate money to Ys."

If the Mahackeno project foundered, the Y could find itself with no facilities beyond its Mahackeno property after 2014. Contributions to the Mahackeno capital campaign would be returned to donors, not re-allocated to finance another building, officials said.

"We won't be looking for another site," Strittmatter said. "We'd be trying to figure out what to do with the charitable mission and the assets that we have left."

In Raymond's view, such an outcome would affect the entire town.

"Westport doesn't know how important the Y is until it's gone," he said. "Westport has always been an up-and-forward town doing exciting things. To have it suddenly lose its crown jewel would be terrible."

Plan for Mahackeno Y sewer connection outlined for public
Paul Schott, Greenwich TIME
Updated 10:25 a.m., Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ahead of a review by town officials, Westport Weston Family Y leaders on Wednesday sought to rally support for a plan to connect the Y's new home at the Mahackeno Outdoor Center in northwest Westport to the town's sewer system.

"We think this will be good for the community," Family Y Chief Executive Officer Rob Reeves told a public forum on the proposal. "This is our preference, and we think it's the right thing to do."

The Y is seeking permission to build a 2,500-lineal-foot line, which would run north from the intersection of Oak Street and Clinton Avenue, then west along Calumet Road and Calumet Lane, under the Saugatuck River, to its new center planned at the Mahackeno property. Construction of the new 55,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to begin in October.

While most of the line would be pressurized, it would be gravity-operated under Clinton Avenue. The sewer extension would also include a pumping station on the north bank of Poplar Plains Brook, near the Saugatuck River, Reeves said.

Linking to the town's sewer system would offer a more environmentally conscious option compared to installing a septic system at the 32-acre Mahackeno site, Y leaders said. A sewer connection would save more than 100 trees, which would have to be cut down to install an on-site wastewater-treatment facility at Mahackeno, according to a Feb. 16 statement from the Y. Building a sewer line to Mahackeno would also protect the Saugatuck River, as wastewater from the new facility would be transported to the town's sewage-treatment plant on Elaine Road, Y officials said.

That treatment facility's current capacity would not be strained by the Mahackeno sewer extension, said Land-Tech Consultants partner Peter Romano.

Y leaders also argued that the project would benefit some neighboring residents, who could connect to the new line without incurring assessment fees for installing the sewer extension. Instead, residents connecting with the town sewer system along the new route would only pay for sewer use, Romano said.

The Y has already secured town and state approval to install a septic system at the Mahackeno Outdoor Center. Y leaders said Wednesday they decided, in part, not to apply for a sewer connection when their initial application was before town and state boards several years ago because that request would entail amending the town's "blue line," which delineates the extent of the town's sewer system. Seeking such a change would have prolonged the approval process for the new complex, Y leaders added.

Certain conditions of the town's approval of a septic system at Mahackeno have also made a sewer connection a more advantageous wastewater-treatment option, Y leaders said. One of those prerequisites, for instance, mandates that the Y deposit a cash bond in a town account equivalent to the cost of installing a septic system at Mahackeno, an estimated $1.2 million, Romano said.

Installing a sewer line to Mahackeno would not affect the construction schedule of the new Y center, Reeves added.

About 20 residents attended Wednesday's forum at the Y's current center in downtown Westport. Several attendees expressed support for the Y's proposed sewer connection.

"From an environmental and economic point of view, this is really desirable," said Marty Yellin. "It's much safer than what we had approved.

The Y's Mahackeno sewer connection application will first be reviewed by the Board of Selectmen acting in its capacity as the town's Water Pollution Control Authority during a public hearing scheduled for the first week of April.

In addition to the selectmen, the Y will also seek approval for a Mahackeno sewer connection from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Conservation Commission and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

If the project wins approval from all those bodies, construction of the new sewer line would likely begin in early 2013, Y leaders added.

"...The infrastructure network (e.g., transportation, sewer, water, gas, electric, etc.) is the lifeblood of any community. The phrase “development follows the pipe” describes that where infrastructure is available, development will typically follow. This is the reason why the areas of the township that have water, sewer, and an extensive transportation network are the most dense while the areas with few streets and no sewer service remain rural with low-density development.  The impact of the infrastructure network on the daily lives of citizens and business owners is often felt when the network does not keep up with the needs of the users as is often the case with transportation when, for example, there is an excessive problem with traffic congestion signaling a problem with the existing transportation system and road capacity..."

WESTPORT BLUE LINE...OR BROWN LINE:  DEVELOPMENT FOLLOWS THE PIPE?  Development decisions by government and the courts.
Water Pollution Control Authority, Board of Selectmen in Westport to decide on the route (up Wilton Road or under the river).
Zenon, maker of Weston's tertiary system for its schools, bought by GE. 


Blue Line Brouhaha Brewing

Westport NEWS
By Michael C. Juliano
Article Launched: 05/11/2007 10:09:42 AM EDT

Several members of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) held a "protest vote" on Monday night against a proposed appropriation of almost $3.8 million to the town's sewer fund for the expansion of the town's sewer system.  The vote was cast by eight members, bringing the final tally for the appropriation to 23-8, in response to First Selectman Joseloff's comments in Friday's Westport News.

Joseloff said he would consider allowing the Westport Weston Family Y's proposed facility at Camp Mahackeno to connect to the town's sewer by making changes to the "blue line," if the Family Y's plan made it through the town's approval process. Joseloff said he would consider doing that when he was asked whether he preferred connecting the Family Y's proposed 102,000-square-foot building to the town's sewer system or to an independent FAST (fixed-film activated sludge treatment) system designed to handle 34,000 gallons of effluent a day.

At Monday's RTM meeting, Matthew Mandell, an RTM member from District 1, said he was supportive of the sewer fund, but said the "blue line" must remain intact to prevent expansion of the system into a prohibited area and, as a consequence, cause urban sprawl.

"It worries me when I read in the paper that the 'blue line' is certainly a flexible thing instead of a firm thing in terms of our development," he said.  After the meeting, Mandell said the "protest vote" was held to "send a message" to Joseloff not to "arbitrarily threaten" the town with overdevelopment and urban sprawl.

"The 'blue line' is a clear delineation of where sewers should and should not to be," he said. "Westport should not contemplate extending a sewer because the YMCA has proposed an environmentally unfriendly facility. They have to work within our needs and goals, not the other way around."

The Conservation Commission approved the Family Y's application on April 26, by a vote of 6-1 with 57 conditions. The Flood and Erosion Control Board approved the application in September by a vote of 4-1 and the DEP granted a preliminary approval in February.

The plan needs to be approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, but it may go before the RTM through a petition. (See story on page A22.)

After the Conservation Commission approved the Family Y's plan with the FAST system, Martin Yellin, a member of the commission, told the Westport News that the entire commission would prefer the Family Y's proposed facility connect to the town sewer, but it is not allowed due to the "blue line."

The "blue line" is a boundary line drafted in 2005 as part of the town's wastewater facilities plan as required by the state Plan of Conservation and Development. The "blue line," which is delineated in the Water Pollution Control Authority's (WPCA) Sewer Avoidance Policy, determines areas that are prohibited from using the town's sewer system.

The WPCA is under the supervision of the Board of Selectmen.

Michael Rea, an RTM member from District 8 who participated in the "protest vote," said he was "appalled and shocked" when he read Joseloff's comments concerning the "blue line."

"We haven't even built this plant [the FAST system] and we're already talking about moving the 'blue line?' " he said. "I can't believe we approved that applicant [the Family Y] with 57 conditions ... but now that it's been approved, we're asking if there's a better way? If there's a better way, then why the hell was it approved? Negotiating the 'blue line' is not something we should be doing."

John Steinberg, an RTM member from District 8, said he is not sure if he could count on the town's authorities to be acting in the taxpayers' interest if the sewer fund did get approved.

"As it has been stated, some leaders of this town have made it clear they are perfectly comfortable with sewering outside of the 'blue line,' which effectively amounts to a 'bait and switch' for a proposal that was brought forward with the assumption of a septic system," he said. "I think that if our town officials can be so cavalier to quickly jettison the 'blue line' and the state DEP's Plan of Conservation and Development upon which it's based, then what's the point of us going through the effort of creating a sewage treatment system? What is the point of us planning a town plan right now for the next 10 years if nobody is going to adhere to the plans of why the 'blue line' was created in the first place?"

Joseloff said he would prefer the Family Y use the town's sewer system rather than FAST system.

"I think the neighbors would support the sewer over a questionable system," he said. "If push comes to shove and you're going to have a septic system with a lot of conditions and the Y gets its approval, then maybe the right thing to do is put them on the sewer."


Jury: DiBella Liable On All Counts
By JON LENDER and EDMUND H. MAHONY, The Hartford Courant 
3:20 PM EDT, May 18, 2007

NEW HAVEN -- A jury found former Senate Majority Leader William A. DiBella liable on all counts today in a federal securities suit that accused him of taking a sham, $374,500 fee that convicted former state Treasurer Paul Silvester arranged through a politically motivated investment of state pension money.

As a result of the jury's speedy verdict, DiBella will likely be ordered by the court to forfeit the fee with interest accrued since he received the money in early 1999, and pay an equivalent civil fine. DiBella also could be barred from serving as officer or director in a publicly traded company, and could be held in contempt of court if he violates federal securities laws again.

The normally loquacious DiBella had no comment immediately after the 8 member jury announced its verdict.

Deliberations lasted only hours. Jurors retired late Thursday afternoon after receiving instructions from Senior U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns and hearing summary arguments from U.S. Securities and Exchange lawyer Luke T. Cadigan and James Wade, DiBella's defense lawyer.

The jury resumed deliberations at 10 a.m. today and announced that they had found DiBella liable under every count against him in the suit at about 1:50 p.m.

Wade said he will begin immediately to institute legal maneuvers to set aside or reverse the verdict.

First he said, he will ask Burns to set aside the verdict because – Wade claims – the judge failed to provide the jury with a standard by which to measure the claim in the SEC suit that DiBella did "no material work" to earn his $374,500 fee.

In their arguments to the jury, the SEC lawyers contended that all DiBella did to earn $374,5000 was ask Silvester, in a 60-second telephone conversation, to raise the amount of state pension plan money he planed to invest in a private equity fund run by Thayer Capital Partners in Washington.

Silvester had planned to invest something in the $25 to $50 million range. After the conversation with DiBella, Silvester raised the state investment to $75 million. Under the terms of Silvester's deal, DiBella's fee was calculated as .7 percent of the total investment. As the amount of the investment rose, so did DiBella's fee.

"She (the judge) gave no standard, no measure to the jury," Wade said. "They didn't have anything to measure it against." Judge Burns is expected to decide on DiBella's civil penalty and related matters after she makes a decision on Wade's request that she set aside the verdict. That will porbably happen by mid-summer.

Wade said that if he cannot persuade Burns, he will appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. SEC lawyer Cadigan said, "We are obviously pleased with the verdict." 



Sewage Frequently Fouls Hudson River, Report Says
August 9, 2011

Sewage routinely contaminates the Hudson River, according to a report released on Tuesday after four years of water testing in which one-fifth of the water samples indicated that the river was unsuitable for swimming and other recreation.

The study, issued by the environmental group Riverkeeper, underscores how a big sewage discharge in July, caused by a fire at a treatment plant in Manhattan, was part of a persistent and far more widespread sewage problem along the 155-mile river.

Despite improvements in water quality since the passage of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s, the group said, 21 percent of its water samples had unacceptable levels of bacteria because of problems like discharges from aging or failing sewage treatment plants, overflows caused by rain and poor maintenance of septic systems.

“More and more people are fishing, swimming and boating in the Hudson,” Riverkeeper’s president, Paul Gallay, said in an interview. “If we fail to take care of the river, we lose the gains we’ve made and the economic benefits that go with them.”

The study, based on more than 2,000 water samples collected from May through October at 75 sites between Albany and New York City from 2006 to 2010, offers some surprises. Some of the worst contamination, it turns out, comes from tributaries like streams and creeks that flow into the Hudson.

The report says further research is needed to pinpoint the cause of the pollution in the tributaries, but it suggests some possibilities like leaking septic systems that contaminate groundwater, illegal sewage hookups and agricultural runoff.

With more than eight million residents, New York City nonetheless has better water quality in its part of the Hudson than the Albany region, home to barely one million people, the study also concludes. One reason is that sewage in Albany enters a narrower and shallower stretch of the river, without the dilution benefits of New York City’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

Another reason, the report says, is that Albany’s treatment plants do not disinfect sewage — although there is a plan to start doing so by 2013 — leaving that section of the Hudson “chronically sewage-laden.”

The bright picture in New York City dims during rainstorms, however, when treatment plants cannot handle the volume, and a mix of sewage and storm water flows into the river. Over all, unacceptable samples increase more than threefold — to 32 percent from 9 percent — in wet weather versus dry weather, the report said.

Riverkeeper’s testing program, a collaboration with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and Queens College at the City University of New York, measures levels of the bacterium enterococcus, which lives in the intestines of humans and some animals. The group said that only New York City and 4 of 10 counties along the river currently perform water quality tests and that none report the findings in a timely fashion.

Riverkeeper officials are recommending weekly water quality testing and public notification on results, more spending on wastewater infrastructure, better enforcement of clean-water laws and new rules like one requiring the inspection and maintenance of private septic systems.

Carter Strickland, a deputy commissioner with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, said on Tuesday that the city had spent nearly $2 billion since the 1990s addressing the problem of combined sewer overflows, which involve systems that collect both storm water runoff and sanitary sewage in the same pipe. He said the solutions included separating the sewage and storm water runoff in some areas and building storage tanks in others so that overflows can be retained and treated.

The Bloomberg administration is also encouraging investment in environmentally friendly infrastructure, like roofs with plantings and porous pavement for parking lots, to capture and retain storm water before it reaches the sewer system and overloads it, Mr. Strickland said.

In the meantime, he said, his department is working toward releasing the results of its water quality tests to the public as soon as they become available.

Sewage Discharge Sidelines Businesses Along Hudson
July 28, 2011

The frontiersmen of the Hudson River, as some like to call themselves, arrived over two decades ago determined to transform the filthy industrial waterway slicked with oily rainbows into an aquatic playground fit for a 21st-century city.

But after a sewage plant fire in Harlem discharged hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater into the river last week, New Yorkers may have found a new reason to doubt their long-derided rivers — at the expense of the businesses built on their revival.

“I came to New York in 1985, and I remember what people used to say,” said Randall Henriksen, the owner of New York Kayak Company, at Pier 40. “To have raw sewage in the water now, that can put people off for some time to come. Who knows what the long-term consequences will be?”

Since last week, the city has prohibited or strongly discouraged recreational activity on the Hudson, the Harlem River and parts of the East River and the Kill Van Kull. But for those who make their living on the water, the sewage discharge has been devastating, landing squarely on one of the hottest weeks of the summer, in the middle of peak business season.

Mr. Henriksen was forced to refund several thousand dollars after event and lesson cancellations, he said, and calls for reservations have dropped 80 percent to 90 percent this week.

Eric Stiller, founder of Manhattan Kayak Company, lost as much as $10,000 on what might otherwise have been the busiest week of the year. “That may not be a lot to Goldman Sachs,” he said. “But it could not have been a more direct shot into the heart of our season.”

Even nonprofit groups lost income. At the Village Community Boathouse, which hosts free rows three times a week but relies on contributions, a donation barrel stood empty.

Customers also fled from businesses that barely dip a toe into the water. The Classic Harbor Line, which charters vintage boats for up to $1,200 an hour, fielded cancellations from clients including patients recovering from heart surgery, who worried about exposure, and groups that thought the Hudson no longer seemed classy.

“If you’re going out for a sunset sail and do something all elegant and sexy,” said Sarah Greer, the general manager, “you don’t want to hear ‘Watch out for the poop.’ ”

For businesses that helped shape the Hudson’s sunnier image, one question looms larger than lost dollars: Will the latest mishap resuscitate old feelings?

Over 30 years ago, the Hudson was less a river than a landing spot where companies pumped sludge and the city discarded its sewage. Manna Jo Greene, of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, said onlookers knew what colors General Motors was painting its cars from the solvents swirling in the water in the upper Hudson. Dick DeBartolo, 66, said boaters back then could not see the bottom of their motors through the dark plumes. And as recently as 1997, an episode of “Seinfeld” lampooned the absurdity of a dip in a city river. (Kramer decided to dive in the East River when his local pool became too crowded.)

“Frankly the water was challenged back then; it was compromised,” said Morty Berger, founder of NYC Swim, which plans to host a swim below the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday. “Those experiences have to be overcome.”

Spurred by long-term initiatives, like Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s $1 billion Pure Waters Bond Act of 1965 and the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, the river’s reputation has improved in recent years. Kayak and canoe businesses have sprouted along Manhattan’s West Side. Renderings of future developments, like Brooklyn Bridge Park, often show boat slips and kayakers just off shore. Children’s camps include river adventures in many of their summer itineraries. More than 200 species of fish thrive in the Hudson. Turtles sun on rocks near the piers. Even seals have been spotted, some paddlers insist.

For residents old enough to remember the era of sludge, businesses fear that much of this progress may be discounted.

“It just reinforces those decades-old biases,” said Brent Beck, president of New York Outrigger, on 26th Street. “People are probably saying, ‘Is this really unusual?’ ”

Mr. Stiller, who founded Manhattan Kayak Company in 1995, said his greatest challenge, even before the fire, was persuading a skeptical public that the Hudson was fit for recreation.

“Any event like this sets us back conceptually,” Mr. Stiller added. “I don’t remember a time when it was this much of a freak-out.”

In decades past, Mr. Berger of NYC Swim said, braving the murky waters “made you cooler.” Today, rigid quality standards have ensured that no children will frolic among the brown plumes.

Some paddlers mourn the old days.

“This is overkill,” said Frank Cervi, facilities manager at Village Community Boathouse. “You could just wash your hands, and you’re good to go.”

At Pier 40, an educational program’s day-to-day operations were perfectly normal. Almost.

Chris Anderson, the director of education at the program, the River Project, tried to stick to a “hands-on approach” to teach campers about life on the Hudson, with the added challenge of not allowing anyone to touch the water. Children patted horseshoe crabs, poked seahorses and carried water samples — all through the skin of rubber kitchen gloves.

A counselor walked up to Mr. Anderson with a box of gloves. “Do you know if these gloves are latex?” she asked. He wondered why it was important.

“There’s a kid that’s allergic.”

After Blaze, Sewage Floods City Rivers
July 21, 2011

The rivers that run into New York Harbor will be unfit for recreational activities at least through Sunday because of a catastrophic fire that shut down one of the city’s largest sewage treatment plants, the city’s health department said Thursday.

The declaration, rare in scope, was made as millions of gallons of untreated sewage were being discharged from Manhattan into the Hudson and Harlem Rivers.

As New Yorkers reeled from hot weather, the authorities also advised against swimming at four city beaches on Staten Island and in Brooklyn. The remaining public beaches were still safe to use, but officials worried that a tide of sewage might force more restrictions or closings unless at least part of the crippled treatment plant could be brought back on line before Friday night.

The prospects for a quick recovery from the fire this week, which started in the main engine room of the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Harlem, were uncertain.

“It did significant damage, and we don’t know yet when we will get it back,” said Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which operates the plant.

The fire was so severe that a contractor was called in to buttress floors before officials could inspect the damage in the room, which houses five engines. Two of the engines came through the fire in relatively good condition, but they share wiring and fuel lines with the other three.

On Tuesday, just a day before the fire, tests on city waters found them to be in “excellent” condition and fit for swimming, said John Lipscomb, the manager of water quality sampling programs for Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy group.

By Thursday, public boat launches on the Hudson had been shut down. People fishing from piers were told the water was unsafe. Swimmers young and old were being turned away from Riverbank State Park, which sits atop the treatment plant, has three swimming pools and other amenities, and was closed because it had no electricity.

The city has nearly 600 miles of coastline. The health warning covers the waters from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the Hudson, Harlem and East Rivers. People should avoid activities that could involve contact with those waters.

A beach pollution advisory was issued Thursday evening for South, Midland and Cedar Grove Beaches on Staten Island and Sea Gate in Brooklyn. Updates were to be posted on the department Web site, www.nyc.gov/health.

New York’s waterways have been transformed over the last four decades, in large part as a result of the city’s 14 sewage treatment plants, which were built or modernized with Clean Water Act money.

Instead of pouring into rivers and bays, raw sewage is now treated in plants like North River, which is on the Hudson between 137th and 145th Streets and handles waste from the West Side of Manhattan above Bank Street in Greenwich Village. About 120 million gallons a day is treated there, but it can handle up to 340 million gallons when it rains.

The sewage reaches the North River plant by gravity flow — running downhill to the plant from the higher elevations of Washington Heights and Inwood, and down an artificial slope from Lower Manhattan. A sewer line about six inches below the street at Bank Street gradually drops to a depth of 50 feet by the time it reaches the Upper West Side.

At the plant, which is at sea level, engines pump the sewage about five stories up. As it descends through the plant, the sewage goes through aeration and settling tanks, as well as a biological process that digests much of the waste.

It was one of the five pump engines that caught fire on Wednesday, officials said. No official cause was declared, but the fire was not considered suspicious. Workers at the plant theorized that a turbocharger on the engine overheated and broke, rupturing a fuel line.

There is no fire suppression system in the engine room, and workers immediately called 911. Four large feeders from Consolidated Edison were shut down.

Firefighters traveled about 400 feet from the entrance to the plant before reaching the machine room, which was belching heavy smoke, said Frank Dwyer, a spokesman for the Fire Department. “The fire was fed by fuel, so they had to put foam on it,” he said. “There was intense heat in there.”

Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries, he said. It took about four hours to bring the fire under control, and by then, no sewage was being treated.

Instead of running to the plant, the sewage was being diverted to among some of 56 “outfalls” — basically, pipes leading directly to the water. They are typically used as a relief system after heavy rain because storm water pours into the sewer lines and can overwhelm the treatment plant. Most of the pipes lead to the Hudson, but a few discharge into the Harlem River.

“This is not a matter of one pipe dumping sewage into the river,” said Philip Musegaas, director of Hudson River programs for Riverkeeper. “This is multiple pipes in a large area.”

Kathleen Macartney was on the water Wednesday evening, training for a race in an outrigger canoe for two people. Only after she got out did she learn about the sewage problem. “If I would have known this before, I would not have paddled through the most disgusting water on the planet,” she said.

On Thursday evening, two boys were swimming in the river a short distance from one of the outfalls, and Mr. Lipscomb, who was on the river for more sampling, steered his boat toward shore to warn them. He had no doubt that test results would show that the contamination levels in the river were high.

“This is giving us a picture of what it was like four decades ago,” he said. “It’s going to show us how important the money we spent on North River has been to quality of life on the river for humans and other critters.”

Debt Crisis? Bankruptcy Fears? See full story of Jefferson County, Ala.
July 29, 2011

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A few hundred miles north of here, politicians are fighting over debt. It is a spirited debate, full of discussions about what kind of country will be left for future generations and pledges not to kick the can down the road.

But one does not have to go far to see that possible future. Welcome to Jefferson County. This is the end of the road, where the can cannot be kicked any farther.

There are lessons for everyone here, and they are all painful: lessons for those who are not concerned about the prospect of mounting debt, for those who insist that steep cuts can be relatively painless, for those who think the bill for big spending can safely be put off into the future, for those who have blind faith in the market and for those who think the government can always be relied upon to protect the interests of the people.

All of these beliefs have led to a place where the government can no longer borrow and the little cash on hand is being demanded by creditors, where the Sheriff’s Department cannot afford to respond to traffic accidents and hundreds of county workers are sitting at home, temporarily or possibly permanently out of work. They have also led to a widely held conclusion among residents that no one is on their side.

“I get tired of them dumping on the little people,” said Deb Passmore, 58, who had to shut down her Laundromat several years ago when the sewer and water bills reached $500 a month.

The prospect of county bankruptcy, which would be the largest of its kind in United States history, has gone from being an unwelcome mark of distinction to something that many residents insist should have happened a long time ago.

It still stings to think about how things got this way, how county residents are stuck with the tab from a reckless binge by Wall Street bankers, middlemen and crooked politicians, a greed-fueled spree that none of the voters actually wanted or even knew was happening. But residents know that complaints about fairness have not made that debt, all $3.2 billion of it, go away.

“What are you going to do?” said Steve Mordecai, 50, who was eating lunch at Ted’s, a meat-and-three place here that is somewhat less crowded than usual on Fridays, given that so many county employees are no longer working. “The county created the mess,” Mr. Mordecai said. “Now we have to pay it back.”

The story that ends in overspending excess began in neglect: in 1996, the federal government accused Jefferson County of sending raw sewage into area rivers and demanded that it rebuild its dilapidated sewer system. Such a project would be costly, but officials hoped to avoid unpopular rate increases first by pushing that cost into the future, and then by adding a maze of derivatives that were supposed to shield the county from interest-rate increases.

But the bond deals were fraught with pay-to-play scandals. Four county commissioners were convicted of taking bond-related bribes. Two bankers are fighting federal accusations that they made secret payments, and in 2009 J.P. Morgan forfeited $752 million to settle a complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The complicated bond-and-derivative structures failed during the financial turmoil of 2008, leaving the county with a $3.2 billion debt to pay, faster than planned. Sewer revenues that were pledged to pay the debt cannot keep up. The problems keep compounding: federal prosecutors have taken a derivatives consultant to court on bid-rigging charges. And the Internal Revenue Service is investigating whether the sewer bonds really should have been marketed as tax exempt.

But the fiscal crisis went from a simmer to a full boil in April, when the Alabama Supreme Court declared a major county tax unconstitutional. Shortly afterward, with the county reeling from the severe shortfall in general funds, a court-appointed receiver recommended a steep increase in county sewer rates, and also laid claim to the county’s only cash reserves, saying they were needed to bolster the sewer system’s finances.

At the end of June, Gov. Robert Bentley declared a shaky truce while negotiations took place. On Thursday, the County Commission announced that it was entering a seven-day standstill period to consider a settlement offer from the creditors, an announcement that was met with grumbles across most of the county.

“They should have filed for bankruptcy 10 years ago,” said Howard Faulk, an owner of Sophie’s Deli across the street from the county courthouse, where the lines for county business are hours long but the parking is free because the county cannot afford parking attendants. “If you’re standing in water this deep,” Mr. Faulk asked, his hand at his neck, how much deeper can it get?

But any residents who think a bankruptcy will simply wipe the debt clean are probably in for a bleak surprise. Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code, the one local governments use, does not work like Chapter 11, where corporations restructure and bondholders routinely suffer losses.

In fact, Chapter 9 was amended in 1988 with the specific goal of making clear that certain types of municipal bonds would keep on paying even in bankruptcy, said James E. Spiotto, a bankruptcy specialist with the firm of Chapman Cutler. The bonds issued to finance Jefferson County’s giant sewer project are this type.

“The whole purpose is to assure the market that in times of distress, the bonds will be paid,” Mr. Spiotto said in an interview.

Many citizens of the county speak bitterly of a perception that other parts of Alabama think of the county as unworthy of help. Even one of the county’s own state senators blocked a plan to allow Jefferson to raise revenue to replace some of what was taken away by the April court decision, thus forcing layoffs.

“In Alabama, Jefferson County is Chinatown,” said David Mowery, a Montgomery political consultant, using the metaphor for hopeless inscrutability from the Roman Polanski film of the same name. “Forget it,” he said, summing up the general attitude toward the county. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”

But as Alabama’s own governor learned over the spring and summer, you cannot just forget Jefferson County, where Birmingham is the county seat. If it goes down, it takes the state — and the state’s credit — with it. This realization prompted the governor to intervene when the county was near declaring bankruptcy at the end of June.

Still, little of this reassures the people slogging through here, who realize that life will get harder before it gets better. The only consolation is gallows humor and signs they might not be alone.

“I used to think what awful leadership we have in Jefferson County,” said Phillip Winette, 58, who runs a printing company. “But now I’m watching the debate on a national level. It’s an epidemic.”