The North Nichols sewer project was fundamentally ill conceived from its inception, which began more than a decade ago. While we inherited this disaster and are trying to correct damage that was put in place long before we took office, my administration and the WPCA are doing everything possible to try and contain the costs of this project and give residents some form of financial relief. In fact, the WPCA is recommending that $10 million dollars of costs associated with Contract 4 be removed to give residents financial relief. The costs removed from the North Nichols project include all road paving and road improvements, as well as the oversight costs that were provided by Tighe and Bond. Costs that benefit the entire Town were separated from costs associated with sewer line construction.
The Town of Trumbull and the WPCA are currently preparing assessment summary information and will provide that information to concerned residents on the Town’s website. In addition, the Town is currently scheduling smaller work sessions with individual neighborhoods to explain the costs associated with this project and also explain each homeowner’s assessment.
The assessments proposed by the WPCA in 2012 for North Nichols are actually lower than they would have been in September of 2009, when this project was started under the Baldwin Administration. In fact, the total amount being assessed on homeowners today is $516,000 less than it would have been in 2009. The average assessment in 2009 would have been $23,275. The average assessment being proposed by the WPCA today is $22,656. The average sewer assessment on Contract 3 was $21,195 and this assessment was levied more than two years ago. In essence, the assessments in North Nichols equal the Contract 3 assessments, plus inflation. I should also point out that the interest rate on the Contract 4 Assessments of 2.75% is the lowest interest rate every achieved on any sewer project, since sewer construction began in the mid 1970’s. When you compare the quarterly payments of Contract 4 assessments with that of Contract 3 assessments (spreadsheet attached), the quarterly payments are within $20.00-$30.00 per quarter, a minimal change. While the final assessments have not yet been set, I am sure the WPCA will examine whether further cost savings can be achieved.
The residents of North Nichols are absolutely right to be upset. This project should have never started given all of the problems associated with Contract 3 Jog Hill. I said this as a candidate for first selectman three year ago and I maintain that opinion today. The residents of North Nichols were materially lied to about the cost of this project. Ten years ago, the previous administration told residents that their sewer assessments would be between $15,000-$18,000 dollars. They told residents this without acknowledging the increased cost and pricing for petroleum, pipe, diesel and asphalt. This was a ruse designed to build support for these massive capital projects that had poor internal controls and a lack of proper oversight.
I think members of the board of finance at the time, some of whom are still in office and others, who have been vocal in their criticism of this project, owe the residents of North Nichols an explanation as to why they would approve this bond authorization in 2009 without proper review of the bid documents and design specifications. They also should explain why they approved a $27 million bond authorization given all of the problems associated with the previous sewer project.
It is because of actions like these that I fully support the recent charter revision which requires capital projects in excess of $15 million dollars be put before the voters by way of a referendum. This type of public involvement and transparency will ensure that fiascos like this one do not happen again.