$48-million sewer plant renovation will be discussed Oct. 17

With a $48-million sewer plant renovation on the November ballot, the town is planning its second public information meeting this fall on project.

Plans for the sewer plant project will be discussed Wednesday, Oct. 17, starting at 7 p.m. in town hall’s large lower level conference room. The Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) will conduct the meeting.

“WPCA members will provide information about what it proposed why the upgrades are necessary, the estimated cost, what funding assistance is being offered, project schedule, and other relevant aspects of this important project,” the WPCA said in news release on the meeting.

About a dozen people turned out for a Saturday morning public information meeting on the project Sept. 22.

At that meeting Amy Siebert, chairwoman of the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA), outlined the project and the need for it — to improve the level of treatment to meet state standards for nitrogen and phosphorous in the water discharged — as well as anticipated costs. There followed a lively back-and-forth discussion with audience members, chairwoman Siebert and First Selectman Rudy Marconi.

Town officials say the $48 million total projected cost could be reduced by three grants totaling $11.5 million. The town is optimistic about getting the grants, which would lower local cost down to $36.5 million. But eligibility for the grants requires that the project be designed, put out to bid, and a contract awarded by July 2019 — and to get that done the money needs to be approved by voters this November, when it’ll be on the ballot along with local and state candidates, as well as Ridgefield’s charter questions.

That’s one of the reason officials are conducting the public information meetings, trying to get the word out.

The bulk of the cost would be borne by sewer users — properties hooked up to the sewer system — in the form of increased sewer use fees. Marconi has said these could be expected to about double.

But town officials are also planning to have all taxpayers — including those off the system, who have houses with septic systems — carry repayment of a portion of the cost, probably about $8 million, through the general town tax rate.

The logic supporting this is that all Ridgefielders benefit from having the downtown commercial areas which are possible only with a sewer system, and also that even septic system owners use the sewer plant periodically when they get their septic tanks pumped.

Anyone requiring special accommodations due to disability in order to attend the public meeting on the sewer project may contact the WPCA office at 203-431-2734 to make arrangements.