School board won’t fund waterline project

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The Region 16 school board last week rejected Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield’s request for a $40,000 payment to help defray the cost of installing a new waterline, which will abut an undeveloped tract on Talmadge Hill Road owned by the school system.

The $40,000, along with $176,000 each from two privately-owned companies whose properties through which the main will run, would have added up to the $392,000 in matching funds required for Prospect to qualify for a $495,000 EPA grant.

School board chairwoman Lisa DeGoes said it is simply too early to consider funding an infrastructure project related to the Talmadge Hill site. The school system has no concrete plans for the property, though it will likely be the eventual site of a new elementary school.

“What it comes down to is that we understand that the mayor would like to get this waterline put in, and that it would eventually benefit the new school,” she said. “However, we do not have a school referendum that has been passed. We have the property and that’s all. Until we have a building committee, and even a school, it’s not within our jurisdiction to say we can fund this. … It really is premature.”

Chatfield said he was disappointed the school system didn’t vote to support the project.

“All I was trying to do was save the region a couple hundred thousand dollars when their building project starts by having a water main go by the property,” he said.

The Beacon Falls Board of Selectmen voted unanimously against supporting the funding request. Beacon Falls partially funds Region 16 schools.

First Selectman Susan Cable said the town is committed to the region and to the new school but expressed concerns that mirrored DeGoes’.

“As a region, we’re committed to a new school,” she said. “But we want to have an active role in it, like everything else. We have to be conservative. But this particular waterline issue, we’re opposed to it at this time because we don’t know where we’re putting the school, how we’re putting the school, if it’s going to be another middle school, if it’s going to be a grammar school, if it’s going to have regional offices; we don’t know any of that. So we’re not going to do that now.”

Chatfield is already in the process of seeking a second federal grant worth $750,000—some of which, again, will need to be made up of matching funds raised by the town.

Representatives of the companies Chatfield asked to pitch in for the waterline had told him they would contribute if the project was extended past the Talmadge Hill Property. Chatfield said the original grant would have covered an installation only to that point.

“Fitzgerald Realty wants to donate their share, but they want to make sure that it’s going to get farther than Talmadge Hill Road,” Chatfield said. “So I have agreed with them; I have applied already for a second grant to go from Talmadge Hill to the U.S. Cap and Jacket Property. The first grant would have gotten me just to the area of Talmadge Hill Road.”

Chatfield expects to hear back about the second grant at the end of the year. For now, it appears he has clear commitments from neither the school board nor the companies he asked to contribute to the matching funds required of both grants. Though for the two private companies, the crux will be whether the second grant can be secured.

And if Region 16 can’t get on board at that time, Chatfield said he’d go ahead with the project by seeking funds from “alternate sources” like other property owners in the area.

In that case, the waterline would run right past the Talmadge Hill tract, and a new school there would simply need to hook in when it’s built.

“We [would] go to plan B,” Chatfield said. “We don’t include them. I’m not going to jeopardize the grant. I’ll save them even more money. Or maybe by then they’ll have a building committee.”

The school board’s share of $40,000 would, in that case, be made up by “alternate sources” like the businesses and other property owners, Chatfield said, but “I’m not going to worry about that until the time comes. [Region 16] didn’t completely shut the door.”

Chatfield said he has no intention of using town money for the project.