Growth" ongoing now in 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.
BACKYARD: Westport/Weston Family "Y" siting issue that
involves different aspects of planning.
- Regionalization and
- READ WESTON SCHOOL EXPANSION STORY:
a cautionary tale about price of infrastructure;
above left, what
a sewered area can look like.
- What is the cost of sewers? Check this out - from the State of Washington;
- Speaking of the State of
Washington, here's a report from Whidbey Island on their annual
inspection of a "mounded
- Sewers as
- And stories about the
whole sewer-septic argument.
- Infrastructure includes the pipes
- engineer who
assisted Weston retires.
treatment plant planned for School Road
now in use.
- THE M.D.C.:
the latest on the Case of the MDC and its
leader; Portland here.
- From New York City
- an example
of the difference in modern standards of treatment and the primary
treatment method used over 40 years ago.
- From Alabama,
where sewer line
sinks finances of towns...and county.
- GLOBAL: Gates Foundation
Toilet of the Future;
Bill Gates' foundation puts money on
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
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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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,"
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
sewers could cost $15 million; Hook-up charges could cost property
owners from $6,400 to $284,400
South Whidbey Record
BY BRIAN KELLY AND SPENCER WEBSTER
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
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.
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
“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
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.
Rivers Alliance of
Connecticut to get involved
Executive Director, Margaret Minor; former
Senator DiBella, the "Silver Fox"
at an MDC meeting (c); Judge Burns' decision story
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
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
"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
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
"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
will just feed more urban sprawl…"
Plan To Tap MDC Water Supply Criticized
The Hartford Courant
By PETER MARTEKA, email@example.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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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,"
MDC Water Rates (per hundred cubic feet): 2010: $2.12 2011: $2.35
During Sewer Project, Businesses In
As worthwhile MDC work goes on,
merchants in Hartford's North End deserve some help
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
"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
"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
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
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.
QUE ES MAS MACHO: EL OSO O EL SCHNAUZER...
DOES THIS RELATE TO A)GUN CONTROL OR B)LIABILITY TO MDC OR C)OVERREACH
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.
WAS THE DOG A STANDARD SCHNAUZER?
Bear attacks dog; owner shoots at bear
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
Lawmakers approve recreational land liability bill
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
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
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
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.
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
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
considered the closure after a woman collected a $2.9 million judgment
for injuries sustained after riding her bicycle into a closed
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
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
"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
was to encourage private land owners to open their lands to the public.
Municipal land already is owned by the public. Baram said the
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, email@example.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
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 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.
To Fight To Keep MDC Property Open
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
12:09 AM EDT, July 21, 2010
WEST HARTFORD —
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
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
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 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
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
"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
"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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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."
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
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
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
"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."
January 4, 2008
What would you think if federal lawyers had this to say about your
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
Glastonbury, East Granby, the Unionville section of Farmington,
Portland, and parts of South Windsor and Farmington.
Mr. DiBella's Change
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...
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
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
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
JON LENDER, Courant Staff Writer
May 24, 2007
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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,"
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
"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
Portland, which buys water from the MDC, has already solved its
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sewer Vote Defies Convention
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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,
The problem is worst in Hartford,
Wethersfield, Rocky Hill, Newington and West Hartford. The overflow
also pollutes the Connecticut River and tributaries and Wethersfield
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Commissioners claim CEO withheld studies
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,
"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.
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,
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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'
“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,
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
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
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.”
FEB. 25, 2002 at 7pm - Town Hall Meeting Room...
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
had not wanted to hear from us until there was sufficient rainfall to
out Revson...treatment plant to be located behind DPW garage, out of
of everyone and everything - in a line with WMS; planning for
of pipes, pumps, connecting to buildings yet to come...tied in with
Construction (McDonald-Sharp retained by Fletcher-Thompson as well).
2. Update on water conservation
- good news (except that the automatic/computer operated measurement
supplied for schools can't be made to function by school staff...Select
Committee Chair. doing it the old fashioned way HIMSELF (implication
that it might not be done otherwise).
3. Discussion on treatment
facilities - visit to Greenwich--system in Brunswick School near
Airport, Sacred Heart. Committee members were quite enthused
the system. It was stated that CT will not allow reuse of water
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
(within budgets as bids come in)...
of Select Committee appointed (12-20-01 by Board of Selectmen) as
member of School
Building Committee(now a member of the
of Education, elected November 6, 2001)...consultant to Select
(on avoiding sewers) is retained by architects for school construction
(to coordinate progress with State of Connecticut approvals and
meeting...vital to keeping
public informed (had been scheduled for
after World Trade Center attack) as H2O conservation/recycling efforts
at High School must begin in a timely fashion or NO part of school
can proceed. With more
present, the Chair. summarized progress to date, at the September 18,
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
put forward. Questions from the public were entertained.
meeting lasted from 7pm to just before 9pm.
Chair. of Select
Committee addresses Special Town Meeting on June 21; "YES" vote
June 28 makes progress for septic system improvement project
progressing on repair to Hurlbutt septic systems (as of the beginning
August, according to reliable sources)...
of progress as Select Committee met on May
29, 2001 at 7:30pm in the Commission Room. Present was a quorum
of Chair. Don Gary, Lucy Bowden, Alan Dorsey, Claudia Hahne, Richard
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
to the east/north, parallel to School Road on Revson to hopefully take
all but the elementary school flow. That will be handled by
septics and pump chamber. Cost estimated preliminarily as
for this. June 7 Board of Selectmen will will begin the School
project by satisfying DEP on "consent" agreement--Kindergarten Village.
the request for the funds--perhaps total of $750,000--(through Town
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
starting in September 2001). Funds to continue McDonald-Sharp
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...
was adjourned at @9pm.
from consultant on testing progress April 9 in the middle of a
big thunder storm; things looking good for Hurlbutt. More
needed to prepare septic system redesign at Revson and Bisceglie, the
back" septic site for possible new school building effluent.
for report on Bisceglie (from last summer). Present were seven
of the Select Committee, First Selectman Hal Shupack, Selectman Woody
Superintendent of Schools Janet Shaner and several members of the
The meeting lasted from 7:40pm to 9:50pm. This meeting had been
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.
has been on-going among architect Fletcher-Thompson and engineers
as "scenarios" are developed for April 21 community meeting.
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
by technologically challenged LWV Observer...
ON THURSDAY, MARCH 22 OF SCIENTIFIC SUB-COMMITTEE:
Sub-Committee met at 7:30pm to present materials to Chair. for better
with the main Committee, new other Teams and the Board of
After review of water recycling/conservation report (see below), it was
found that the consultant had made a typographical error on the top
and had presented accurately a sense of the scale of conservation
that might be expected (in the tables)...just a note on detail:
flush system (as in the Ladies' Room on the Merritt Parkway heading
toward Hartford) would prevent double-flush on toilets designed for
This is accomplished by electronic-program design of chip used for
ON PROGRESS TUESDAY, March 20 at 7:30pm, Commission Room at
word from DEP not yet agreed upon...but watch for Friday, March 23 dig
at School Road--high water tests by State of Connecticut.
water testing took place...results may be described at Special Board of
Selectmen's meeting 3-26-01 (last item on long agenda).
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
draft report on water recycling--meeting in 2 weeks, if possible, to
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
ended a bit after 9pm.
Special Board of Selectmen's Meeting Saturday, Feb. 24--League Observer
notes that discussion in response to a question regarding location of
fields brought out that the CTDEP "order" that is about to come down
forcing the Town of Weston to upgrade all existing Hurlbutt such
when "high water" tests prove out feasibility of this prospect, Weston
will be allowed to proceed with finding the rest of the solution to
septic disposal need--without sewers (if this is physically possible).
Committee January 9, 2001, 7:30pm, Commission Room, Town Hall:Present
were Chair. Don Gary, Lucy Bowden, Claudia Hahne, Alan Dorsey, Tom
Jim Costello, Joe Fitzpatrick (Building Committee). This meeting
lasted approximately one hour.
of Bethel,the water conservation specialist suggested by
reported regarding water conservation program design (he will not do
detailed construction plans) within structures on School Road (three
be completed in three weeks (approx.).
written report distributed recounting DEP visits re: immediate 12 room
installation on School Road for KINDERGARTEN complex of temporary
These buildings will use Elementary School septic fields (piped
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
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
need to use Bisceglie option. NEXT MEETING: in
three weeks...Select Committee to report to community "Speak Up" on
10, 2001 at 10:30am at Norfield Church Parish Hall (NOTE: this was
Committee Dec. 5, 2000 at 6pm, Town Hall Meeting Room
Fairbank of MacDonald-Sharpe; Don Gary, Dick Bochinski, Claudia
Richard Wolf, Paul Heifetz (for P&Z); in the audience--Chair.
of Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools and three other
Conservation Commission observer; two members of the Board of
sub-Committee members; Town Administrator; League
school community; Norwalk HOUR, Weston FORUM; the meeting was
(meeting over @7:30pm)
- Report of results
of testing at both Bisceglie and Heady given; the broad testing
complete at the School Road and the above noted two other locations.
- DEP had been in
Weston this day and had a positive meeting with Chair. and Engineer
selected (?) who will look into architectural retrofitting for
water in old schools--DEP interested in this project.
- Board of Education
reported on their needs for the next three years for a portable
for kindergarten (10 classrooms plus one for pre-K)--to be placed
on the Field Hockey field next to the Board of Education Headquarters
on School Road. If possible, the new facility would be connected
tothe North House septic disposal field.
- For the future,
the Select Committee needs, ASAP, direction from the Board of Education
as to EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT TO BUILD AND WHERE (location general).
- Quote of the
day: from the DEP..."THERE ARE NO BAD SOILS...WE JUST ASK TOO
MUCH OF THEM SOMETIMES." NEXT
NOT December 19, 2000 (Tuesday) at 7:30pm, Town Hall...early January
DEP could not come down until after New Year's.
Committee NOV. 14, 2000 Commission Room, Town Hall
COMMITTEE--PRESENT WERE: All members of the Board of Selectmen,
of Schools and the Chair. of the Board of Education, the HOUR
the FORUM, parents, sub-Committee members, the general public.
Stuart Fairbank reported (a copy distributed to Committee
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
findings that new fields may be located there and old fields (yet to be
evaluated) together might, but might not, provide adequate space for
the sewage disposal needs of the schools. It was recommended that
Heady Property and Bisceglie Park be tested before the next meeting
28). It was noted that nitrate removal via a tertiary treatment
will be needed. Recycling of water calculations are to be made
as well. We are to all hope for precipitation totals by the
that match typical data for our area, when "high water" levels will
to round out testing. (Pray for rain.)
Committee...Tuesday, October 17 in Town Hall...
The Select Committee met and reviewed
information unearthed recently regarding prior engineering reports
septic disposal options for the schools. These reports (4) were
between 1970 and 1982--and all came to similar end--not implemented
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
Perhaps, with this historical information and location guide to the
their work will be able to be completed more rapidly (?).
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
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
feel that only the professionals from McDonald-Sharpe will be able to
Weston's case (which is not a political problem but rather an
one). Also reported to those present was the fact that the leader of
DEP unit that reviews sewage disposal will attend to the Weston project
personally. (Jennifer is on maternity leave.)
of Selectmen (Oct. 5) and Board of Finance (Oct. 12), it is reported,
contract for McDonald, Sharpe;
the Board of Selectmen, Select Committee Sub-Committee asks for
that improvements to present water usage practice as well as hardware
corrective action be able to be approved outside the confines of the
alternative study. It was "understood" that this suggestion was a
good idea--as well as the understanding that testing would be done at
Heady Property for not only septic system for a potential new Pre K-2
but also for necessary evaluation of the rest of the property for TOWN
at Sept. 21 Board of Selectmen's meeting; terms until December
2000 (to be extended as needed); new member from the Board of
(Jim Costello)...to replace Chair. of that Board--during discussion
of traffic study arose--Board of Education thinks that the O,R&L
took care of this. Did it? For an unofficial and non-League
review of O,R&L, click HERE.
COMMITTEE MEETING, 9-14-00
Don Gary*, Alan Dorsey, Tom Failla**, Marguerite Terzian, Claudia
Richard Wolf***, Dick Bochinski, Lucy Bowden; absent: Mike
Foster; members of subcommittees, members of the Board of
Superintendent of Schools; members of the Board of Selectmen
of the time).
voted to select McDonald-Sharpe as its engineering firm, after
with input from "Scientific Sub-Committee" members. QUESTION:
will we know if a septic solution can be found? ANSWER: Soon--but
not too soon.
* = voted for
** = at the
Board of Finance when vote was taken
*** = abstained,
voted "for neither"
COMMITTEE MEETING, 9-5-00
Committee members present were: Don Gary, Lucy Bowden, Marguerite
Terzian, Tom Failla, Richard Wolf, Dick Bochinski and Alan
Sub-Committee members (many); Board of Selectmen (all);
FORUM; LWV Co-President; general public
met on Tuesday, September 5, 2000 at 7:30pm in the Town Hall Meeting
was to listen to one particular member of the Sub-Committee on
Solutions (who had been away on business) and then approve or modify
contract with DYMAR. After a vote to not move forward with the
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
to this same invitation to work with Weston. Chair. will be
at Board of Selectmen Special Meeting Wednesday, September 6th to
[NOT OFFICIAL] as it was heard at the 9/5 meeting, September 12 at
DYMAR and MacDonald-Sharp will have sent "last, best description" of
they can do, with the Select Committee meeting again on Thursday,
14 to decide.
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
COMMITTEE...AT AUGUST 29 MEETING:
Richard Wolf, Tom Failla, Don Gary, Dick Bochinski, Claudia Hahn, Alan
Dorsey, Lucy Bowden and Marguerite Terzian. SELECT COMMITTEE did not
on contract--completion of contract by Town delayed and no time for
allowed...review to come this week, then vote at a Special Meeting
"conservation" review function--maintaining water usage testing--taken
over by "Scientific Solutions Sub-Committee" by a unanimous vote.
COMMITTEE...August 22; Voted 5-1-2 (2 abstained because of
reasons) to recommend...DYMAR. DYMAR chosen by vote after
from executive session of Select Committee...August 22, 2000 discussed
and debated prior to Executive Session the virtues of this most
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.
MEETING: August 16, 2000 in Town Hall (7pm):
exploration of what exists--both in terms of understanding the actual
of water use, etc. as well as finding original drawings for septic
well under way, in fact, the work to date looked complete.
selection of consulting firm by full Select Committee, beginning of
on feasibility study for proposing septic system/nitrogen removal
and finding new locations for these. Chair. of Select Committee
to elicit questions from sub-committee for reference checks of
Memo distributed regarding procedures used in research.
members of the Select Committee decided to conduct interviews of
in public on August 15--August 16 meeting scheduled for 7pm for regular
on interviews on-line.
August 3, 2000 Board of Selectmen's meeting, Chair. of "Select
appears and reports on progress. First Selectman asks that the
Committee soon-to-be-hired consultant also do research and testing for
possible future Town Hall/Library/Fire House expansions; another
reminds all that first priority is finding alternative to sewers for
needs in time to move ahead with new school construction.
Committee...notes from August 1, 2000
Don Gary, Chair., Richard Wolf, Marguerite Terzian, Claudia Hahn,
Dick Bochinski; Les Wolf(sitting in for Mike Foster), Morris
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
interviews and discussions after each). The need to develop a
conservation plan at the schools was discussed (perhaps as part of the
consultant's effort). Also, a report from the "scientific"
indicated that Weston's water usage at the high school is much, much
than at Staples or Fairfield...indicating a leak.
next week at 7pm...there will be meetings on Tuesdays in August (all at
7:30pm except for August 8th)!
Committee...notes from July 25, 2000
Don Gary, Chair.; Richard Wolf, Marguerite Terzian, Alan Dorsey,
Hahn, Dick Bochinski; Morris Gross (sitting in for Mike Foster)
Laura Smits (for Lucy Bowden); this meeting was taped; Norwalk
hours, this was a meeting devoid of "outside" speakers.
reviewed the work to date of the subcommittees. It is hoped to
consultants by August 8th (one week later than had been
In particular, some interesting reports came from the "scientific"
and the "conservation" team. As a result of their findings to
it is ever more necessary to retain professional advice.
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
at the Hurlbutt fields were used to underly engineered septics; also,
Bisceglie picnic spot and "par cours" (southern section), delimited
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
It was reported
that the School's staff in charge of maintenance has not been able to
wide-ranging tests or even draw up plans for a regimen that focusses on
metering, reuse or recycling of water. This is for 2
the staff is not trained for this nor is there money in the budget to
the skilled advice needed to set up an overall plan for water
This might be one of the tasks set aside for the Select Committee's
(?)--when the "RFP" is finished, all members of the Committee
have contributed to designing the questions to be explored by a
Also, each consultant interviewed will have been asked the same
Committee representative took specific note of the pace at which the
Committee was working--and observed that they would probably over-run
90 day deadline...and then delay the construction of whatever is
to be built to meet the reported enrollment crunch.
August 1, 2000
COMMITTEE...Notes for July 18, 2000
Town Hall Meeting
Room, 7:30pm to 9:30PM approx.
Chair. Don Gary, Mike Foster, Lucy Bowden, Claudia
Alan Dorsey, Dick Bochinski, Richard Wolf, Tom
Marguerite Terzian; Superintendent of School Dr. Janet Shaner,;
Wolf, Business Manager of the Weston School System. The Weston
has the need of accurate numbers for future (expected ) school
what the peak population is expected to be and when it will occur
is information the Select Committee requires. Superintendent
and Joe Wolf offered a document from the State Department of Education
(October 28, 1999) which indicated that around YR2008 would be
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
ahead of Weston High.
ensued about the projection methodology--modified cohort
As a small community, Weston is particularly vulnerable to changes
by companies moving out of the area, as well as the vagaries of the
estate market. Mr. Wolf noted that his modifications of State
and projections allow for just this type of localized effect.
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
the orders to not consider the septic issue--that it would be
Had the Board of Education chosen the alternative of "3-4-5 On
the sewer issue would have clearly come to a head much earlier.
instead, the Building Committee and the Board of Education voted in
of option "4A prime" which placed the new school near wetlands on
Road, and left the functioning school septic fields intact on Revson...
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
plan. Answers given were that we expect that DEP will require treatment
facilities for 20 gallons per student (15 gallons, if we are
the Board of Education would go along with almost any site now--the
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
for $70 million plus inflation in Hartford.
sub-committee hopes have engineers to be interviewed by the Select
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
interview process.) Considering the short length of time the
Committee has in which to find a solution, the selection of
an independent, experienced firm is vital. A case must be built
alternatives to be chosen.
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
at the previous meeting) and the Town Engineer will get together before
next meeting to determine which statements are accurate about the
of the WMS septic situation.
Tuesday, July 25, 2000 at 7:30pm in the Town Hall Meeting Room.
COMMITTEE ...NOTES (JULY 6, 2000, 7:30pm)
Town Hall Meeting
7:30pm to 9:45pm
here for photographic essay (not done by League):
Don Gary, Marguerite Terzian, Corey Attra (for Tom Failla), Mike
Michael Greenberg (for Richard Wolf), Alan Dorsey, Dick Bochinski, Lucy
Bowden; Town Engineer John Conte
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
capita water usage at Weston High School is higher than might be
Review of septic
systems on School Road revealed that the Elementary School site is
not "failing" as seriously as the other sites up School Road.
is because the soils are better there. There is possibly even
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
asked as to why, in other engineering reports, had only "sole
approach for treatment been considered (instead of designing different,
new systems [each smaller] for the different sections of the school
Discussion was circular, returning to the "failure" of existing designs
and the supposed intractability of DEP to consider options. The
of the exercise was challenged by Building Committee and citizen
it was requested that members interested be allowed to explore an
in showing how a developer would approach the Town of Weston for zone
etc. if a sewer were to be installed to service JUST the Schools (and
OF THE SCHOOLS HAS CAUSED THE PROBLEM TO SURFACE:
Can you put any kind of septic systems on School Road? Ans.
the water metering at the schools accurate and/or sufficient to get
from which to base hard and fast plans? Ans. No
did the Taurus Report actually say? Ans. Only commented
testing for the Elementary School--did make unproven, un-scientific
about the rest of the school septics.
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):
- ? (The minutes are being taken and available to all)
2. Search for
Scientific Solutions Yet Unexplored (Lucy Bowden and Claudia Hahn)
of the Recommended Actions (Marguerite Terzian and Dick Bochinski)
4. DEP Coordination
and Exposition (Don Gary and Tom Failla)
at Existing Facilities (Mike Foster--with aid of staff and
School's Engineer, who submitted a one page letter describing what
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
FACTS." Townspeople are urged to volunteer for "task forces" (no
mention whether the task force members will be indemnified as are
of the Committee)
of the Building Committee reiterated his feeling that the zoning "risk"
be described and perhaps debunked. He will come in with his
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
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
($25,000 already approved by Selectmen--needs approval of the Board of
Finance). Exploration of Bisceglie Park, the Heady property and
Road for future septic disposal part of the consulting is
from an independent consultant of high repute
offered help, requested that no condemnation be pledged; offer of
consulting sub-contract volunteer review.
COMMITTEE...NOTES, JUNE 28, 2000 (7:30pm):
all but representative from the Planning and Zoning Commission;
lasted for 2 and 1/2 hours. All the information collected for
of the Select Committee are also available to the community--in either
Town Hall or the Library.
Town Engineer went over each septic system (total of 9) and each
project in detail. Many areas where "unknowns" exist (i.e. no
on usage in summertime). The elementary school campus and fields
are built on the best soils and may offer room for new septics;
high school has the worst septic fields, although they are controlled
from both sides of School Road and may be shut off if there is a
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
to be measured to current code--retroactively. (NOTE: wherever
is green grass on Schools Campus, you can bet it is a septic system
do not meet current standards, and it was suggested that any
to School Road buildings would or might require septic system upgrades
to current standards...is this true?
Building, the Department of Public Works and Town
systems are not presently under orders or threat of orders by the
Before the next meeting, the Select Committee will walk Bisceglie Park
(one of the places that might provide space for new septic
The Committee will divide up into sub-comittees soon (to explore, most
expeditiously, the OPTIONS available). Scenarios for the possible
options will be developed.
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
into a Class A stream, for example. Because the Board of
is "under the gun" to provide classrooms, etc., that Board's
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.
6; July18, 25, August 1,8--TUESDAYS--at 7:30pm; July 6 at 6:30pm the
Committee will convene in Bisceglie Park for a one-hour walk of
septic site prior to convening at 7:30pm in Town Hall.
IS OFFICIALLY "OUT FOR SUMMER" JUNE 19, 2000:
of Schools speaks to Kiwanis Club; not in favor of year-round
(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
consulting report is made available. Superintendent remarks that
the efficiency of shared staffing least critical "at either end" of
(i.e. elementary or high school) spectrum; a new school 5
away from main campus not efficient, but Board of Education is flexible
(not exactly what she said).
AD HOC STUDY COMMITTEE 6-15-00
LWV of Weston
Co-President named as one of five public members; 4
Board of Education, Planning and Zoning Commission, Conservation
and Building Committee named--total of nine members. First
listed in Town Clerk's Office for Monday, June 19, 2000 at 7:30om in
Hall Meeting Room.
this special committee are:
Terzian, Planning and Zoning
Conservation - now Charles Finkelstein?
Board of Education - no longer on Board of Education - who is their
Don Gary -
Appointed Chair. of this AD HOC Committee
15, 2000 BOARD OF SELECTMEN'S MEETING ARE THE FOLLOWING LWV OBSERVER
NOTES TAKEN FROM DISCUSSION
Summarized from Selectman Woody Bliss' presentation:
In the interest
of (1) solving long standing school septic problems, (2) moving ahead
school planning process, and (3) responding to the public hearing of
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
problem solved. However, many do not want sewers, or
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
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
Engineering and research must be done to investigate and recommend
that can solve the problem.
Ad Hoc Committee
called the Select Committee on the Impact of Sewage Treatment on the
of Weston will has the following mission:
is charged with investigating the septic problems at the Weston schools
and municipal facilities, and making recommendations for solutions to
Board of Selectmen. These will include, but are not limited to,
a clear problem statement, exploring all options for solution and
associated risks, including consideration of what other communities
experienced solving similar problems, their success rates and costs.
The scope of
the Committee’s efforts are broad; these should include
for conservation measures in the schools to reduce the volume of water
consumed and hence the volume of sewage produced. The Committee
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
designated the Chair of the Committee and its membership at the June
2000 Board of Selectmen’s meeting.
will work through the summer and will be given 90 days to report their
findings and recommendations, including cost, to the Board of Selectman.
to the Committee
will have access to professional and technical services through the
Chair, in addition to town employees and residents who are
The Committee is encouraged to develop a budget at its first meeting.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
Town awaits Madison
Landing sewage system ruling
By Amanda Pinto, New Haven Register Staff
Wednesday, December 26,
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 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,
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"As far as we're concerned, it's not
a proven technology," Gram said.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
alone department" of by now ancient history...
around the State of Connecticut...
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
septic tank will not.
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.
the system will fail and waste will come bubbling to the surface.
woes have come to plague towns along the Connecticut shoreline, where
cottages often host big crowds in the summer. Even when septic
are adequately sized, small plots and high water tables make it hard
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
chain restaurants - familiar sights in other communities with sewers -
would destroy the towns' character, they say. Put them in the ground,
warn, and the developers will come.
In 1989, Old
Saybrook residents balked at a state Department of Environmental
order requiring the town to construct a sewage treatment plant that
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],"
State Rep. Brian O'Connor, D-Clinton. "We don't want people dragging
a large, regional sewer plant is not the solution, but as developers
home-builders increasingly look beyond the crowded Gold Coast of
County for suitable shoreline lots, the sewer issue remains a concern
the three towns.
The plan Old
Saybrook officials developed as an alternative for handling local
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
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
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
the three towns is proceeding with its own plan. Westbrook is
sites that could be used to discharge effluent into the ground. Old
is evaluating individual septic systems in homes it does not plan to
up to sewers. And Clinton's consultants have presented the town
a plan for a daunting, $56-million, centralized sewer and treatment
or several mini-plants, an even more expensive option. Neither option
sitting well with town officials, and nothing is decided.
But Old Saybrook's
fight has implications for other communities in Connecticut that will
have to address wastewater problems. Whether their future holds sewers
or a mix of technologies could hinge on the outcome of this shoreline
battle with the state.
"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
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
With approval from the DEP still unclear, Luckett has taken to
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
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
and a wastewater pipe, and I want to build something next to it, then
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
them to as many properties as possible, spreading out the
The DEP's record over the last decade proves otherwise, said Dennis
a supervising sanitary engineer with the agency's water management
Towns that have gone to sewers have successfully kept unwanted
out through local regulations that restrict where sewers can be used,
an area where sewer-use is allowed, the town can restrict the flow of
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
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
is who can connect and spells out the circumstances and nobody else, as
long as those regulations pass constitutional muster, courts will
them," he said. Towns with no regulations, Zizka said, are the
that have to worry.
hands up and saying no sewer means no development isn't true, isn't
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
the parties agree on nothing.
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
to do - like the bigger sewer plants."
officials think the DEP is still committed to a regional sewage
plant. Greci calls that "sheer nonsense," saying the DEP has not
ruled the technology out. One of the concerns is simply who will
the enhanced on-site septic systems, which require more care than
septic systems, he said.
"If a town wants
this, we're going to look to have the town take the ultimate
for keeping them running because it is an alternative to putting pipes
in the ground," Greci said.
he is eager to manage such a system. The town has come to the end of
5-year, subsidized pump-out program that encouraged residents to pump
septic tanks. With backing from the state, Luckett said, the town could
enforce these and other regulations that would ensure septic systems
properly and remain up-to-date.
David Dow filled
a plastic cup with wastewater and held it to his nose. The
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
"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
Onsite Wastewater Training Center have installed over the last six
using federal and state grants. Dow, an on-site systems specialist,
the filte technology has proven effective for properties on
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
many properties along the Connecticut coast face. The URI center
is demonstrating the technology to get towns on board.
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
blowers, which add air to encourage the growth of aerobic bacteria that
thrive on the effluent. They can be fitted with an ultraviolet
source that knocks down the pathogen and bacteria count. They also
employ pumps to move effluent to the filter and dose it into the
field at certain intervals, so the entire field is used and not
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
and the towns enforce their regulations with fines. Dow and
say Connecticut has simply lagged behind other states when it comes to
the advanced technology, which has not been approved for use in an
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.
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
Don Bergmann, an RTM meeting from District 1, expressed concern that
the contingency account did not meet the standards of the RTM's 2006
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
Y'S FUTURE AT STAKE
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
"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,
"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
That treatment facility's current capacity would not be strained by the
Mahackeno sewer extension, said Land-Tech Consultants partner Peter
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
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
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
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..."
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.
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
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
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."
DiBella Liable On All Counts
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.
By JON LENDER and EDMUND H. MAHONY, The Hartford Courant
3:20 PM EDT, May 18, 2007
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."
THE HUDSON RIVER IS ALSO AN HISTORICAL WATERWAY
Frequently Fouls Hudson River, Report Says
By MIREYA NAVARRO
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
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
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
Discharge Sidelines Businesses
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER and ADRIANE QUINLAN
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
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
“There’s a kid that’s allergic.”
Blaze, Sewage Floods City Rivers
By JIM DWYER
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,
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
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
Debt Crisis? Bankruptcy Fears? See
Jefferson County, Ala.
By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and MARY WILLIAMS WALSH
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
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
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.”