Trumbull WPCA Defends Sewer Construction Bills

The Board of Finance and Water Pollution Control Authority members had a frank discussion earlier this year about $10 million in non-sewer-related costs spread out over the town rather than just north Nichols.

Two Trumbull commissions have tried to clear the air surrounding sewer construction in north Nichols.

Also known as Contract IV, the sewer work itself is about $26 million. Other, non-sewer-related costs such as road paving, are about $10 million.

North Nichols residents will pay 75 percent of the $26 million, the town 25 percent. The $10 million will be spread out on all town taxpayers, a move that raised transparency questions with critics like resident Cindy Katske.

"How is it okay that a board specifically charged with overseeing the installation of sewers can unilaterally decide to spend a large portion of funds authorized for sewer installation on non-sewer-related items without any approval or oversight by the Board of Finance and the Town Council?" she asked.

First Selectman Tim Herbst has answered that question before, citing bond Attorney Joseph Fasi's opinion that the initial approval of sewer work (before Herbst took office in 2009) allowed it.

But, according to Katske, "Just because bond counsel said it can be done does not mean that it should be done."

Finance Board Member Tom Tesoro said he felt like he was being handed a "fait accompli" because the work was already done. He also agreed the work needed to be done.

"[There is] no logical choice but to approve it," but citizens should be allowed to question it, he added.


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Included in the sewer costs is oversight for the engineering firm Tighe & Bond, which could reach $2.5 million.

"I'm not challenging that this work needs to be done. How can you spend $2.5 million without authorization by the Town Council or the Board of Finance?" Tesoro asked. "I'm not trying to be mean here" or criticize WPCA decisions, he said.

WPCA member Tim Hampford replied that Public Works Director John Marsilio presented a "sound" plan for the work. According to Marsilio, costs accrued as the project went on and obstacles were found north Nichols roads.

At best he could offer a "best guess" because of unknowns, Marsilio said.

Finance Chairwoman Elaine Hammers argued that the WPCA has not yet overspent its budget and that the current WPCA members inherited Contract IV. The first selectman appoints WPCA members and Herbst changed over the board after he was elected.

Board alternate Cindy Penkoff was "horrified" that Contract IV was approved after defects cropped up after Contract III in the Jog Hill Road area. The town is suing Mark IV, the construction company on the job, for $9 million in repairs.

Herbst said he did not anticipate such issues coming up again because the Town Charter now mandates a referendum for bonding $15 million or more.

Assessments on north Nichols property owners have reached $29,000. The figure is payable for 20 years.

Tony Silber May 01, 2013 at 01:28 PM
How can the costs of the engineering firm hired to oversee the sewer construction be characterized as "non-sewer-related?" That makes no sense to me and yet this story seems to accept that at face value.
Tony Silber May 01, 2013 at 01:45 PM
Also, as the owner of a home with a septic system, who seven years ago spent more than 30k on a new system, I want the town to explain to me why it's fair for non sewer users like me to have to help pay these costs. Especially the consultant.
Aaron Leo (Editor) May 01, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Thanks Tony. I went back through my notes and that appears to have been an error.
Aaron Leo (Editor) May 01, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Do you still use the septic system or have you connected?
HL May 01, 2013 at 02:53 PM
I still use the Septic system, since it was only 5 years old or so when we moved in. having it cleaned once every 2 years is monumentally cheaper than paying for a hook up for 150 linear feet. Of course, we are still stuck with the assessment, and on top of that, a sewer usage fee. While I was able to get the usage fee reduced as someone who doesn't actually use it, there is still a small fee I have to pay for usage, which is silly.
JR May 01, 2013 at 03:13 PM
I don't see the WPCA defending anything. You have one commissioner who points at Marsillo and states "because he said so". And please stop suggesting that because this contract was approved in 2009 that nothing could have been done to manage the project better. At the very least they should have bid out the T&B work.
Tom Kelly May 01, 2013 at 09:08 PM
I don't think Aaron made an error at all....the $2.5 million in Tighe and Bond charges were removed from the North Nichols Sewer Project and paid for by all taxpayers. Remember, originally, those who touted Tighe and Bond, particularly First Selectman Herbst, predicted that Tighe and Bond was going to pay for their entire fee through "value engineering." I guess not. They did manage to contribute to Mr. Herbst's 2011 campaign, however. This after Mr. Herbst pledged to Trumbull voters that he would not accept any campaign contributions from contractors who did business with the town in excess of $5,000 per year. Mr. Herbst did not keep that promise he made in the Ethics section of the Blueprint for Trumbull's Future. I only wish that Mr. Herbst would have to answer for some of these things...instead, he acts like they were never said or written.
Tony Silber May 01, 2013 at 11:43 PM
Hey, Aaron--Still on septic. My section of town might never get sewers, Paul Kallmeyer said years ago. Hope you'll ask the FS and WPCA folks what their explanation is for why septic users have to pay $2.5 million for a sewer-construction oversight firm.
Patty Sheehan May 01, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Details....details.... Does anyone have a copy of that Blueprint for Trumbull? Perhaps it should be revisited with some factual documentation as to which goals were, or were not, met.
Kathleen McGannon May 02, 2013 at 01:44 AM
Don't worry. It is still in print. And it is amazing "what was said" versus "what's been done." Stay tuned!


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