BEACON FALLS — The Board of Selectmen wants to make sure all its ducks are in a row before going before the public with a proposal for major upgrades at the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
“We’ve had a number of working groups on this over the past couple months. We’re kind of at a point now where we have a couple of different schools of thought on how to proceed from where we are to where we need to go,” said First Selectman Christopher Bielik during the board’s Nov. 10 meeting.
The treatment plant needs about $16 million worth of work to completely upgrade the plant and the town’s sewer system. Part of the work includes lowering the emissions of phosphorus and nitrogen as mandated by new state and federal regulations.
Voters already approved $1.7 million, which included paying for a study to find out the work that needs to be done and upgrades to the pump stations.
Bielik recommended not jumping into the work right now because the study, which was completed by the Cheshire-based engineering company Woodard & Curran, was inconclusive.
“Even the engineering consultants that are looking at this plant can’t tell us with any degree of certainty how critical is it for this project to move forward immediately. What is the risk to the town if we don’t push forward in this fiscal year,” Bielik said.
Bielik said some of the commissions and boards in town were looking to the Board of Selectmen to make a decision on the treatment plant. The consensus of the board was to hold off on moving forward at this time.
“I don’t think that we are in a position to be ready to do that. There’s still more that needs to be decided upon before we’re ready to take something to the public with action,” Bielik said.
Bielik said one of the main issues that needs to be figured out is the implementation of user fees for the sewer.
“Introducing some kind of fee schedule for the people who are deriving primary benefit from that is a significant part of us moving forward with this in offsetting the operating costs and putting the costs where they belong. We have discussed that even people who aren’t hooked up to it derive a benefit from it by being directly allowed to pump their septic systems and dump, for free, into the wastewater treatment plant,” Bielik said.
Bielik said the method of capturing user costs had been discussed, but only in general terms. He said the actual implementation of how the town is going to do that is a key component to moving forward.
“Until we have that piece of it nailed down I’m reluctant to say we should vote to go ahead on doing something without understanding the intricate arguments going into it in the first place,” he said.
Bielik said he believes it’s important to hold an informational meeting for the public and take a vote on implementing user fees, but he wants to ensure the board has much information as they can first.
“Anything we decide to move forward to putting the cost down on the users themselves, unless some future board changes whatever it is that we come up with as a plan, we’re going to be living with those decisions for a long, long time. We need to understand all of that much better than we understand it today in order to be able to have the town’s people be able to understand it when we go forward,” Bielik said.