Capital projects on the ballot

Naugatuck voters will vote on four capital projects on Election Day, including $1 million to fix the Hop Brook Pool pictured above. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck voters will vote on four capital projects on Election Day, including $1 million to fix the Hop Brook Pool pictured above. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — After casting their votes on candidates for state office on Election Day, borough voters will also decide the fate of four capital projects.

Residents will be asked to vote on $12.4 million for incinerator upgrades and pollution abatement projects at the wastewater treatment plant, $5 million in infrastructure projects, $1 million to renovate Hop Brook pool and $775,000 for a new recycling center.

The ballot for Nov. 4 includes separate questions on each project. In total voters will be asked to OK $19.2 million of bonding for the projects, but each project will be approved or rejected independent of the others.

Barry Bernabe, managing director of the Milford-based financial company Phoenix Advisors, LLC, discussed the financial impact of the bonds at a public hearing Oct. 23.

If voters approve all four projects and the borough bonded all of the $19.2 million immediately, it would cause the mill rate to increase a total of 1.7 mills over the first four fiscal years, according to Bernabe. Debt payments would then begin to decrease, he said, if no new debt is added.

Bernabe added it’s highly unlikely that the borough would bond for the total amount at once. He said debt payments are more likely to remain close to flat as new debt is added and old debt is paid off.

The largest of the four projects is $12.4 million for upgrades to the incinerator at the wastewater treatment facility. This includes $11.5 million for the upgrades to the incinerator and $920,000 for a wastewater facilities study.

The work is mandated by the Environmental Protections Agency. The agency has enacted new emissions guidelines for all wastewater incineration units across America in order to reduce the risk to humans from consuming fish containing mercury.

Neil Kulikauskas, operations manager at the Rocky Hill-based engineering company Kleinfelder, said if the borough doesn’t do the upgrades it could be forced to shut down the incinerator in May 2016. The borough will also face stiff fines if the upgrades aren’t made, he said.

Burgess Bob Neth, who chairs the five-year capital committee that brought the projects forward, added the borough will also lose out on about $3.4 million in revenue if it has to shut down the incinerator. The revenue comes from fees charged to other towns to use the plant and rent paid by Veolia Water North America, which operates the facility.

If this project is voted down, the borough is likely to move forward with doing the work anyways. Officials will have to find another avenue to pay for the work.

“There are provisions of law that would allow the borough to bond certain expenditures without going to referendum if the borough is under a governmental and/or court mandate to take certain actions. This is a complicated process which could happen in many hypothetical ways, but ultimately the borough is going to be required to make costly, federally-mandated upgrades to the plant regardless of the mechanism involved,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said.

The $5 million for infrastructure improvements includes repaving roads, repairs to the Whittemore Bridge and installing a traffic signal.

The borough already has $2 million set aside for the bridge work, Neth explained.

However, he said, due to delays in starting the project the cost increased $1 million.

A new traffic light would be installed at the intersection of Melbourne Street and Rubber Avenue for a cost of $75,000.

The rest of the money will go to repair 14 roads around the borough, including May Street, Cherry Street, North Main Street and Hoadley Street.

Residents will be asked to bond $775,000 to move the recycling center from its current location on Rubber Avenue.

Borough Engineer Wayne Zirolli said a new site for the recycling center has not been chosen yet. He said the borough is looking at two sites — one in the Naugatuck Industrial Park and the other on the Chemtura property off of Cherry Street Extension.

The recycling center has been at its current location since the early 1980s. Zirolli said the borough wants to move it for several reasons, including the existing asphalt paving and concrete block walls are deteriorating, its location next to Long Meadow Pond Brook is not an appropriate and the state requires the bulk trash to be covered, which is impossible in the current location.

Zirolli added the current location is also too small and the traffic flow is confusing for many people who use the recycling center.

In addition to the shortcomings of the facility itself, Zirolli said the borough believes there are significant economic development benefits to moving the recycling center off of Rubber Avenue.

The Hop Brook pool has been closed for three years. The $1 million will pay for repairing and reopening the pool. A support building with changing rooms will also be built at the pool.

Neth explained the pool had been in disrepair for many years and the borough was patching it in order to keep it open. Eventually the decision was made to close it.

“They had an assessment done in 2011 and it basically came to the point where it was just too costly to patch,” Neth said.

If residents do not vote in favor of reconstructing the pool the borough will not allow it to just remain a vacant hole in the ground, he said.

“The choice we have to make here is we either do it or we bury it. That’s going to be the bottom line,” Neth said. “The public will make that decision.”