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Monday, February 25, 2008

City inches closer to state funding for wastewater treatment plant

By Brian McCready
Milford Bureau Chief
— Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. called the news good, but said he hopes one day he can reclassify it as great news for the city.
The General Assembly is poised to approve a $14 million loan and grant package that will help the city finance federally mandated upgrades to the Beaver Brook wastewater treatment plant.
The city has been hoping to secure the money from the state for several years, and last month it appeared the state would not allocate any money for Milford. This could have cost taxpayers an additional $5 million to $10 million in bonded debt over 20 years. The city has to pay an interest rate of 4.5 percent, while the state offers a 2 percent interest rate.
Despite the good news, Riche­telli said the news will become great if the city can receive an additional $25 million to $30 million in grants and loans from the state. Originally, when the city bonded the costs of the upgrades to both the Housatonic and Beaver Brook plants, it also factored in pump station upgrades.
The total cost for all of the work was $64 million, but Richetelli said delays in getting the money has increased the price tag, and the $64 million will be enough just to complete the work to the two wastewater-treatment plants. He said the additional $25 million to $30 million is necessary to pay for the pump station projects.
“Because of four-plus years of delays, the costs have escalated tremendously,” Richetelli said. “We hope the smaller projects will be included instead of us having to bond ourselves.”
He said work on both wastewater-treatment plants has been ongoing for the past couple of years, and work will be completed by the end of 2009. He said work on the pump stations has not begun but several are on the immediate horizon because of their deteriorating condition.
He said the West Avenue pump station is the city’s “highest priority” because one-third of the city’s flow runs through there, but he said the Gulf Pond pump station also needs to be rebuilt.
“The sewer systems are the most essential system in the city,” Richetelli said. “We cannot risk an environmental disaster. We need to do this work.”
State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Dennis Schain said the fact that $216 million is being earmarked for wastewater treatment plant upgrades allows the city to receive a 20 percent state grant, or $3 million, and the rest will be paid through 2 percent loans totaling $14 million.
State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said she is delighted the state has approved the money for the Beaver Brook upgrades. Last month, $21 million was allocated for the Housatonic upgrades, also through grants and loans.
“This makes the project do-able,” Slossberg said of the state funds. “This is a project we’ve been working on for many years.”
She said the next step is to secure money for the pump station upgrades. State House Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford, said the entire state delegation is excited about the Beaver Brook funds. “This was something long overdue,” Amann said.
As for the pump station upgrades, Amann said, Richetelli needs to sit down with DEP officials and strategize about acquiring the additional money.


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