September 25, 2020

Deep River Town Meeting Approves $4 Million Sewer Expansion Project

DEEP RIVER— Voters at a town meeting Thursday approved a $4 million sewer expansion project that would extend the municipal system to about 130 properties in the River and Kirtland streets neighborhood on the east side of Route 154. The 46-19 show of hands vote of approval came after more than two hours of discussion, and two changes to the resolution authorizing the project.

Much of the discussion focused on the financing for the project , particularly the provision for a benefit assessment fee for properties on the new sewer line. The service area includes about 90 existing homes, with the remainder currently undeveloped parcels.

The initial seven-section resolution included a provision for a “one time benefit assessment fee of $2,000,” that could be paid off by property owners over 20 years. But acting on a recommendation from the bond counsel, Bruce Chadwick with the Hartford firm Shipman & Goodwin, voters amended the resolution to delete the reference to the benefit assessment fee. Chadwick advised removing the provision because the town’s water pollution control authority had not called a separate public hearing before discussing the fee at recent meetings.

The resolution was amended on a voice vote, but more than 90 minutes in to the discussion, Janet Kollmer, a former board of finance member, moved to restore the provision for a benefits assessment fee. While First Selectman Richard  Smith confirmed the WPCA was planning for a benefit assessment fee, Kollmer insisted the fee provision should be locked in to the resolution, and possibly higher than $2,000.

The project would be financed by a $1.2 million grant from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, and a $2.8 million USDA loan. The loan, with a 2.75 percent annual interest rate, would be paid off over 40 years, with the annual payment from the town set at $116,540. Kollmer said a benefit assessment fee should be required as a way to help defray the annual loan expense for taxpayers not served by the expanded system. During discussion¬† on Kollmer’s motion, it was confirmed the WPCA has discussed a fee that could be as high as $5,000 per property.

On a recommendation from the bond counsel, Kollmer’s amendment was crafted to provide for a benefit assessment fee of an undetermined amount that would be set by the WPCA after a public hearing. The fee would also require separate approval from voters at a town meeting.

Several residents spoke in support of the project, noting the expansion would resolve continuing problems with septic systems that require frequent pump outs due to soil and ledge conditions in the area that had been recommended for sewers, but not included, when the first phase of the municipal system was constructed in the late 1980s.

Smith noted the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection could order the town to provide sewers in the area at a future date when the current grant and loan funding package is not available. The expansion project is expected to be put out to bid next winter, with construction to begin in 2014 for anticipated completion in late 2015.