Large projects, capital items on horizon in Beacon Falls

BEACON FALLS — Town officials are looking into the future to plan for how to move forward with some large capital projects and items.

“We’ve put things off too often over the years, whether it’s roads, whether its police cars,” said Board of Finance Chairman Thomas Pratt, during a workshop Oct. 24 with the Board of Selectman and several department heads.

The most expensive project on the horizon is upgrades for the wastewater treatment plant. Officials said the plant is outdated and is at capacity, and equipment needs to be fixed or replaced.

“This is a project that has been talked about in various forms probably for like 10 years,” First Selectman Chris Bielik said.

Officials estimate that the work for the treatment plant will cost about $14.2 million and expect it to be completed in two phases. There are also about $229,000 worth of smaller projects needed at the plant, such as replacing the roof of the pump station and wastewater treatment plant, and replacing treatment furnace and water heater.

The town is also looking at millions of dollars worth of road work.

“Most of the roads that need the paving, they’re just drainage issues,” Public Works Road Foreman Rob Pruzinsky said. “Any road work, you have to check what’s underneath the ground.”

Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 Fire Chief Brian DeGeorge said the town will need to replace a firetruck and an ambulance in the near future. The company’s capital plan includes the new firetruck next fiscal year for an estimated $900,000, while the ambulance is slated to be replaced in the 2022-23 fiscal year at a projected cost of $250,000.

The Beacon Falls Police Department is looking for four new radios next fiscal year for about $17,000, and officials are also looking to replace the roof for about $35,000 at the department in a couple of years.

“I think my biggest expense at some point is going to be the roof,” Lt. Eddie Rodriguez said.

The plans are in the preliminary stages and nothing is set in stone. Officials are still determining how to fund the upcoming projects, and expect do so through a mix of the general fund, the capital fund, bonds and bans, and applying for grants.

Finance Manager Natasha Nau explained bonding is a long-term loan for up to 30 years, where a ban is a short-term loan for up to 20 years. Issuing a ban gives a town more flexibility for short-term projects, she said.

“It is significantly more expensive to bond. If we were to do that, we would have to be pretty committed,” Nau said.

The town’s existing debt totals about $9.14 million. If the town borrowed $3 million through a combination of bans and bonds, the town’s debt would increase to about $13.1 million, according to Nau. The projected debt jumps to $15.7 million if officials borrowed $5 million, and borrowing $8 million is projected to increase the debt to $19.6 million.

Officials took no action and plan to continue the discussion at another meeting.