Town seeks transfer for plant upgrades

BEACON FALLS — The town will ask voters to approve a transfer of funds to begin the first step of a $10 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant.

A study completed a couple of years ago identified $17 million in costs to refurbish the 40-year-old facility, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said.

“That’s just too big of a pill for us to swallow,” he said.

Since then, the town has been working with engineers to scale back the project while still accomplishing the upgrades they need, he said.

“We’re trying to break it up into manageable pieces,” Bielik said.

The first step of the project will add an aerator to help remove environmentally problematic nitrogen and phosphorous from the raw sewage. Currently, the plant adds soda ash to drop the amount of phosphorous in the water, creating a sludge that needs to be sucked out and shipped elsewhere for processing, according to Joseph Rodorigo, vice chairman of the Board of Finance.

The new process will reduce the amount of chemicals needed and double the amount of solids while creating fewer liquids so that the overall amount of sludge that needs to be shipped out is less.

The work will help the town save between 30 to 40 percent on energy and sludge-processing costs, Rodorigo said. The town currently spends about $165,000 on sludge processing and $58,000 on electricity at the treatment facility per year.

The town will realize a return on its investment with savings from sludge processing, electricity, buying fewer chemicals, and needing to buy fewer nitrogen credits from the state, after six years, Rodorigo said.

“We’ll see real savings almost immediately,” Bielik said.

Including about $125,000 for engineered plans, the first part of the project will cost about $600,000 and be completed within a year, Rodorigo said.

The town has about $1 million in the wastewater treatment contingency account right now that can be used for the project, but the town wants to add another $250,000 from the unassigned fund balance to make sure the contingency account has enough funds to cover any other unexpected emergency costs.

“This is a good thing for Beacon Falls,” Rodorigo said. “It’s the first step in bringing the plant into statewide compliance. It meets the future needs of the community.”

The next step, which will likely go out to bond in the 2019-20 budget, will include a $1.4 million utility upgrade.

Bielik said he expects the entire project to be completed in phases over the next six to seven years to spread out the costs and not affect the town’s debt service payments.

The vote to authorize the transfer of $250,000 from the unassigned fund balance to the wastewater treatment plant contingency fund is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 21 in the Woodland Regional High School auditorium at 135 Back Rimmon Road.