First Selectman Bill Davidson said town officials will soon be considering a $4,685,000 appropriation for the second phase of the public water system commonly known as the Southern Water Line, which will provide service through the southern corridor of Federal Road, a popular commercial district.
“The area from Costco to Stew Leonard’s is already a powerful attraction that brings many shoppers from outside the immediate area,” he said. “Having public water will make it even more attractive and slightly ease the burden on the residential taxpayers.”
Town officials have said for years that it is amazing that such a large commercial area was built without public water.
Davidson said, for example, the second phase of the southern corridor water system would provide public water for that is expected to be under construction by next spring in the north section of the Kohl’s shopping plaza and Costco, by acquiring an adjoining parcel to its location at 200 Federal Road.
He said it also would provide fire suppression along the corridor through the installation of hydrants.
Over the recent years, the town has constructed a public water system along the northern corridor of Federal Road, which is being developed into the Town District Center, a 198-acre pedestrian-friendly commercial streetscape, and then, more recently, through the central section of the road.
Davidson said the second phase of the water project also would provide service to the residents at the 106-unit Sandy Lane Village condominiums, who have experienced contaminated water, and the residents at the Rollingwood condominiums, who have encountered obstacles in maintaining an adequate supply of water.
The first selectman said the state Department of Public Health (DPH) has approved the plans for the second phase of the project, which would run to the intersection of Federal and Candlewood Lake roads. He said the DPH is seeking to resolve “the water issues” at the two condominium complexes.
Davidson said the first phase of the southern corridor project, which will cost $285,000, has been approved at a special town meeting, bid proposals are due by July 29 and construction is scheduled to be completed this fall.
He said that phase would start near the intersection of Junction and Federal roads with 12-inch pipe being installed for 1,088 feet along Old New Milford Road to a point near the Greenknoll branch of the YMCA.
Davidson said that system would “branch back” to Federal Road and also provide service to customers in that 1,088-foot zone.
The Cost of Water
The Rev. Phil Morgan, the senior pastor at The First Assembly of God church near the intersection of Junction and Federal roads, said his congregation is scheduled to be assessed $152,000 for the project, making them the largest assessee for the first phase of the project.
He said although that figure might be lowered through an appeals process, the congregation will have to discuss fund-raising to pay for its portion of the water line, even though it currently has a suitable well system and doesn’t plan to connect to the public water in the foreseeable future.
“We may connect to it at some point, since our wells, for example, could go dry,” Morgan said. “Being assessed for a water project even though you won’t be using it right away is not unusual. I support the water system because Federal Road needs public water and there are benefits for the town.”
The senior pastor said Davidson has “been as transparent as possible” in providing information to the property owners along the first phase.
“It is a big expense, but it can be more manageable since the town is planning to bond for the project and it will be paid for over many years,” said Morgan, who has been at the First Assembly of God since 2003.
He said his congregation has “some time” to consider options since the initial payments will likely not be due until the second phase of the project is completed, which will be no earlier than the fall of next year.
Morgan said documents provided by municipal officials indicated that the YMCA would be the second largest assessee for the first phase.
According to Davidson, the southern corridor water project would be funded on a “user pays” basis.
Davidson said the only costs to the general taxpayers would be for the fire hydrants.
State Rep. David Scribner (R-107) said he has applied for $1 million in state bond money and a $500,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant to offset some of the costs with the second phase of the water system.
He said despite the state’s current fiscal crisis, he is cautiously optimistic that the funds will be approved. He said the bond appropriation was included in the package that the General Assembly has approved, but noted that each project has to be considered by the state Bond Commission, which is chaired by Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-Stamford).
Scribner said that he has helped acquire five STEAP grants for the town over the last five years.
The state representative said that he anticipates that the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will be able to provide low-interest loans to property owners along the water system through the Clean Water Fund.
Getting Started on Phase II
Davidson said the proposal for the second phase will be on the agenda at the Board of Selectmen’s July 11 meeting. That project would also have to be approved by the Board of Finance, some land-use commissions and a special town meeting before a referendum could be scheduled.
The first selectman said since it appears residents will consider major improvements to Cadigan Park and Town Beach at referendum in the November 8 election, a referendum on the second phase of the southern corridor water project would likely be held either in September or December.
“We just can’t put too many things out there at once,” Davidson said, noting that construction of the two-mile Still River Greenway bicycle and running path may also be considered at referendum in November or at another time in the near future.
Davidson said he and local developer Marty Handshy, who has been the town’s water consultant since early last year, have devoted considerable time to the water projects.
He had said last year that he hoped to build a water system through the southern corridor of Federal Road by December 2011.
“Government action can be very clunky,” Davidson said regarding the complicated nature of completing a water project. “It can take way more time than some people think.”
The first selectman said water-related issues have occupied a considerable amount of his time since he took office about 19 months ago.
Davidson said the third phase of the water system, which would extend from the intersection of Candlewood Lake and Federal roads to the Danbury border, is not “a pressing issue at this time.”
He said he wants to get that phase completed, but noted that Danbury’s public water system only extends to Stew Leonard’s, which is south of the Brookfield border and that “ideally” it would be best to have the water systems from Danbury and Brookfield connect at the border.