Ridgefield Water Pollution Control Authority allocates $500K to defray costs of sewer project

RIDGEFIELD — The town’s Water Pollution Control Authority voted unanimously on Monday to allocate $500,000 toward the Route 7 sewer project.

Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark, the board’s liaison to the WPCA, said the authority’s revised rate model makes the allocation possible.

A second unanimous vote provides that any grant money or rebates would be used to defray the overall project cost.

“The intent was to get the Route 7 project brought to completion, but not use as much of the ARPA funds,” said Kozlark, of the American Rescue Plan Act money from the federal government. “We want to preserve as much of that as we can.”

The installation of a new pump line connecting two of the town’s sewer plants and subsequent closure of the District II sewage treatment plant, which serves the area around the intersection of routes 7 and 35, was estimated to cost $5.8 million in 2018. The bids for that project, however, came in “substantially over what the estimate was,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said.

The lowest bid came from M&O Construction Co., Inc. in New Milford at $8.3 million. Additional “soft costs,” such as on-site engineering, brings the total expenditure to more than $9 million, Marconi said.

“What we are looking at is a difference of ... over $3.4 million,” he added.

Because Ridgefield’s charter requires a referendum to approve an expenditure of more than $3 million, officials wanted to bring the cost below $3 million and move the item to a town meeting instead. The allocation from the WPCA brings the cost down to $2.9 million.

“At the last Board of Selectmen’s meeting, (we) all agreed that a town meeting would be a better way to bring this to the voters,” Kozlark said. “The town will have the ability to vote on the use of those (ARPA) funds.”

Additional grant funding could shave another $600,000 off the total, Marconi added, meaning the town would use less of the American Rescue Plan money. Kozlark said she reached out to state Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, and state Rep. Aimee Berger-Girvalo, D-Ridgefield, to see if additional ARPA funding could be funneled in from Hartford.

Dates for a public hearing and town meeting on the matter have yet to be determined.

“The grant dollars and the bid are precarious if we don’t move forward with the project,” Kozlark added. “I encourage everyone to come out and learn more ... and vote positively for it.”

Project history

A top-to-bottom renovation of the District I treatment plant on South Street is about 50 percent complete. The goal is to close the District II plant and pipe that wastewater to South Street for treatment at the upgraded District I plant through a new force-main sewer line.

Voters approved $48 million for the two projects in 2018. Both were designed and are being overseen by the consulting firm AECOM.

The state pushed the town to undertake the project to meet new regulations and environmental standards under the federal Clean Water Act. Upgrades to the District II plant, which is 30 years old, were sidelined since the town would’ve had to hire personnel to operate the facility 24/7.

“When you begin calculating all of those costs to upgrade the plant due to age and environmental standards, it’s extremely expensive, hence the reason to go with the pump station,” Marconi said. “The capacity numbers will not be impacted at all. Everyone who has sewage capacity in that plant today will have it tomorrow.”

Marconi expects the second phase of the sewer project to break ground in the spring of 2022.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com