August 1, 2014

Essex Town Meeting Approves Funding for Ivoryton Bridge Projects, Elementary School Natural Gas Conversion

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday approved funding for four special appropriations, including $325,000 for engineering design work for two bridge replacement projects in Ivoryton, and $110,000 to convert Essex Elementary School to natural gas hearting by this fall.

About a dozen residents turned out for the town meeting to approve the appropriations on unanimous show-of-hands votes. Despite the lack of opposition, show of hand votes were required because officials intend to use proceeds from a bonding authorization planned later this year to reimburse the expenditures for the bridge design work and the school natural gas conversion.

A conversion of the elementary school to natural has heating was endorsed by the local board of education last year. John Maziarz Jr., a representative of the Southern Connecticut Gas Co., told residents at the meeting the plan for an extension of the natural gas main south along Route 153 from Westbrook to Essex is on track for construction to begin this summer.

The gas main extension would end at the elementary school in the Centerbrook section, with another extension east along Bokum Road to provide service to the Lee Company and the Essex Meadows lifecare complex. Mazairz said the gas main expansion should be completed and ready to provide service by the start of the next heating season this fall.

The $110,000 appropriation for natural gas conversion at the elementary school was approved on a unanimous vote. The gas company is expected to hold a public information session at town hall later in the spring to provide information to home and business owners along the expansion route on the option, and potential cost savings, of using natural gas for heating and cooling.

Voters also approved a $325,000 appropriation to pay for engineering design for replacement of the Walnut Street and Ivoryton Street bridges in the Ivoryton section. The Walnut Street bridge that spans the Falls River was constructed in 1983 as a temporary replacement for a bridge that was breached in the June 1982 flood. Both bridges were rated in poor condition after a state Department of Transportation inspection last year, a report that led the board of selectmen to expedite plans for the bridge replacement projects.

Both the bridge and elementary school conversion appropriations were transfers from the town’s undesignated fund balance.The selectmen and finance board plan to reimburse the fund balance for the appropriations with proceeds from a bonding authorization that is expected to go to the town’s voters for approval later this year. The bonding authorization would also include funding for actual construction of the bridge replacements, replacement of sections of the elementary school roof, and other large capital improvement projects.

Voters also approved an expenditure of $25,000 from the municipal property sinking fund for renovations and improvements to the ground floor kitchen at town hall. Improvements to the outdated kitchen were needed because the town hall also serves as the town’s emergency operations center, and a possible emergency shelter for residents.

Voters also approved an expenditure of $21,700 from the elementary school capital improvements fund to pay for barrier fencing, a new walk-in cooler, and replacement of ceiling fans in the school building.