Voters OK transfer for upgrades at plant

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BEACON FALLS — Voters unanimously approved the transfer of $250,000 from the general fund to pay for upgrades to the 45-year-old wastewater treatment plant.

At the town meeting Feb. 21, 28 voters said yes to the measure, which will allow the town to complete the first phase of a $10 million project.

The funds will come from the town’s surplus. Town finance policy requires the town to maintain a fund balance of 9.25 percent of yearly expenditures. The general fund currently has about $850,000 above that minimum amount, according to First Selectman Christopher Bielik.

Bielik said he would not use the surplus to lower next year’s tax rate because one-time revenues should be used for one-time capital expenses.

“It’s going to be like a rubber band that snaps back toward us and bites us twice as hard the next year,” he said of using the surplus funds to pay for regular operational costs.

The first phase of upgrades, which will cost around $600,000, will save the town $60,000 to $70,000 a year in operational expenses, Bielik said. The rest of the money will come from a $1 million wastewater treatment contingency account.

That means the cost of the upgrade will be paid for in savings over the next decade.

“We’re trying to do small bites of it at first,” Bielik said.

In the first phase, upgrades will add an aerator to remove nitrogen and phosphorous from raw sewage, reducing the amount of chemicals needed for the same outcome. The work will save the town around 35 percent on energy and sludge-processing costs.

In about a year, the town will complete plans and seek funding through grants, bonds and low-cost loans for the next phase of the project.

The next step will include a $1.4 million utility upgrade.

Bielik said he expects the entire project to take six to seven years to complete.