I had all the toilet discussion I could handle Thursday afternoon.
I attended the public forum sponsored by The Downtown Task Force at the Golden Hill United Methodist Church, across from City Hall, that focused on the tri-community regional proposal to connect a sewer line from Monroe to Trumbull that’s piped into the city’s sewage treatment plants.
Shelton-based developer Bob Scinto, born and raised in Bridgeport, wants to relocate the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield to a new construction site on property he owns in Monroe which does not have a sewage treatment system. For the privilege of connecting into the Trumbull system that’s connected to Bridgeport the city stands to garner an upfront tax payment of several million dollars with additional fees going to the city’s Water Pollution Control Authority.
The question on my mind and many others is: what’s an appropriate dollar figure for the city and what impact will this have on the city’s burdened–especially when it rains–sewage capacity.
Thursday afternoon Scinto was part of a panel, with a regional slant, that included Paul Timpanelli, chief of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, George Estrada, former director of Public Facilities for the city, and Michael Feeney, chief financial officer for Bridgeport and chairman of the Water Pollution Control Authority. Anne Pappas-Phillips, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, moderated the event.
Estrada, the lone city resident on the panel, did a a nice job in a slide show highlighting the city’s educational, cultural, judicial, medical, transportation (and, yes, sewage) assets that serve the region to the 75 in attendance that included members of the Bridgeport City Council such as Council President Tom McCarthy, James Holloway, Sue Brannelly, Michelle Lyons, Angel DePara and Leticia Colon.
Estrada shared that the city’s sewage treatment plants can currently handle the daily wastewater generated by Bridgeport and Trumbull except during major rain storms when sewage overflows discharge into Long Island Sound. He pointed out that 2.94 million gallons of sewage per day flows from Trumbull to Bridgeport. (Yeah, I know, this is not the kind of post you want to read downing breakfast or lunch.)
Timpanelli, a strong public speaker, provided the audience a quick description of the proposed tri-town tentative agreement without getting into revenue specifics worked out by the chief elected officials of the respective towns. Timpanelli brokered the deal between the communities.
This is where the afternoon went right in the toilet–not in a nasty sense–but Timpanelli offered that the 85,000 daily gallons of additional sewage that would flow from Monroe to Bridgeport would be offset by modernizing the toilets of all city-owned facilities such as schools. Basically, he said, the current toilet that now uses 4.5 gallons each flush can be reduced to 1.5 gallons per flush with correction, with roughly a $200,000 investment financed by the deal.
Scinto emphasized that this was the first time in the state that three towns worked together to create something positive for Bridgeport.
Feeney stressed that Bridgeport already has achieved regional cooperation through its Aquaculture School and emerging dispatch center.
The first question came from Roger Reynolds, an attorney representing a nonprpofit environmental group, that has put the city on notice that unless it makes improvements to its sewage treatment system it will haul the city into federal court. Actually it was more of a statement, as OIB reported in an interview with Reynolds a few days ago, in which he does not believe state statute allows sewage fees deposited into the city’s general fund.
Timpanelli pointed out the various fees associated with the deal, some that can go into the general fund and others that will go as a user fee to the WPCA.
Several from the audience had questions but things didn’t heat up until Andrew Fardy, a long time pol in the city, made it known that the city is always getting screwed by the ‘burbs and this is no different. Fardy was flushed by the notion that everything would be fine as long as the city modernized its toilets.
Sitting there, I wondered why Mayor Bill Finch’s Chief of Staff Adam Wood, who made an appearance at the event, allowed this public forum to go forward before all the ducks were lined up with full City Council support. What is it, a trial balloon before it gets to the City Council?
I had a quick question that I directed to Scinto, a good guy, who hasn’t had a lot of patience in recent years working with the Bridgeport political process: “Bob, what is your patience level to see this deal through?”
He explained calmly that he wanted to do this deal in Monroe to benefit Bridgeport, but that if he had to he could do it in Trumbull that’s already connected to the city sewer system, and Bridgeport would not receive the full financial benefit.
A few questioners after me, in fact the last one to speak, was OIB friend Phil Kuchma, a downtown developer, who launched into a heated three-minute jihad about why this proposed deal was crappy for the city.
“You insult people by saying we’ll do it in Trumbull,” Kuchma frothed.
Meanwhile, City Councilman Jim Holloway, sitting next to me, elbowed me in the ribs: “This is blood money. A bad deal for the city. I can’t support it.”
Scinto calmly responded to Kuchma, a city resident: “It’s your town. If you don’t want to see this here, it’s your call.”
We haven’t seen the last of this issue, and I’m not saying it’s bad for the city, but all this talk of toilets has given me a front row seat. Stay tuned.
If you want to see graphics that Estrada presented see this link:
Speaking of sludge, news release from Mayor Finch
City Slated To Receive $4.8m for Sewer Overflow Work