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First Phase of Southern Line Set to Begin; Second Phase in the Works

Construction readying for breakout phase of Souther Water Line, with vote on second phase projected for this fall.

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.

Steven DeVaux July 07, 2011 at 10:22 AM
Let Aquarion pay for it. Why are Brookfield taxpayers taking on public debt for a private corporation? They have bonds and bond counsel. Don't use up Brookfield's line of credit just to get a cheaper interest rate on the bonds because they're tax free.
Bob McGarrah July 07, 2011 at 11:10 AM
Five STEAP grants over the last five years? What was that money used for?? Bob McGarrah
Retired July 07, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Makes sense.....instead of interjecting in the Greenridge water issue, Aquarion should focus on this and let them fund this project.
Alan Walp July 08, 2011 at 12:08 AM
When we were told that the well that provides water for our house has radon, iron, lead, and turbidity and we had to pay $14,000 to strip out the plumbing and put in a water treatment system, we didn't cry about it and go to the city or anyone else for a handout. Why does anyone other than the users have to support their water costs? The bond issue is a Brookfield municipal liability. Every Brookfield business and residential owner shares the responsibility for paying it off. The more we borrow the lower our our credit worthiness - debt to income ratios worsen. The higher our borrowing costs/interest rates we pay. I also have a problem understanding, that if the only costs we will have are funding the fire hydrants themselves (who will pay to install and maintain them?), who will pay the recurring cost of the bond issue? The assessees yes, but will any non-users have to fund this ? More information please...
Howard Lasser July 08, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Mr. Walp, Last year the town passed an ordinance which includes a formula for assessing all properties that abut a municipal water line for all costs associated with the installation of that line. These costs include all engineering, legal, interest and borrowing costs. As noted the only costs that the town will incur are those for the annual maintenance of the fire hydrants that will be installed along the water line. On this last item I am happy to point out that the Board of Selectmen recently agreed with a proposal by Aquarian water to cut those fees in half. As for our credit worthiness, in the annual audit the towns independent auditors indicate the level of borrowing a town could carry. Based on their calculation the town if far below that level by magnitudes of multiples of 10’s of million. As for our interest rates, last year the Town was rated very highly by several credit rating agencies.
John Berger July 10, 2011 at 07:13 PM
A special thanks to the First Selectman for acknowledgeing, for the first time, that there is an exception to the, "only user pays" rule. Now all the taxpayers in Brookfield will know they are to be burdened with the cost of maintaining the fire hydrant system. One must wonder why the administration waited so long before sharing this important exception to the rule with the taxpayers. Mr. Lasser was happy to point out that the Aquarian Water Co. agreed to cut their fees in half, but neglected to inform the Patch readers the original cost of those fees Since the taxpayer is being saddled with yet another town expense it is incumbent upon Mr Lasser to explain what the cost per hydrant is to be and who will be responsible for the maintenance. As the old saying goes,:"inquiring minds want to know"..
Howard Lasser July 11, 2011 at 12:06 AM
Mr. Burger, I do not understand your post or intent. The information you claim is news has been well documented by the Selectmen many times and I know you have been at meetings where Bill Davidson remarked that “user pays” is more accurate than “revenue neutral”. I know you are also aware that the hydrant fees the town was charged is $750 each. It is not incumbent on any elected official to dictate how a media outlet reports its story. We have gone to great lengths to communicate with the public, through televised meetings, newsletters, articles in various media. We also have published our email addresses for direct contact to answer any questions. The facts have been out there for people who want to know. What is disconcerting is when someone knowingly misleads or misstates information. Why one would do that I will leave to the reader to surmise.
John Berger July 17, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Mr. Lesser. I thank you for providing tthe "Patch" readers with an important piece of information. I can assure you there are a great many taxpayers who are unaware the annual maintenance fee for fire hydrant maintenance is $750.00 or that home owners living miles from the warter line are being held responsible for that fee.
Steven DeVaux July 17, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Mr. Walp, The town's actuaries also told the Board of Selectmen in it's annual report what they should be paying in to the town's pension funds. The town's paid political hacks failed to do so in their proposed budget. They pick and choose as we can see with all paid politicans (Congress, the governor, the president) with selected items. Why is the town bonding on behalf of a private water company? Is ANY other town in Connecticut doing so with their STEAP grants or are other towns letting the private water companies float their own debt?
John Berger July 19, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Mr. Lasser: Thank you for your e-mail of 7/17. However your response did not satisfactorily address the current question. A personal attack about a typo is not a substitute for answers. So, please stay on topic and explain to the taxpayers who are not on or near the water line what they are getting for their maintenance fees of $750 per hydrant per year. The change from “revenue neutral” to “user pays” also requires explanation, since “non-users” are going to pay the hydrant fees. This is neither “revenue neutral” nor “user pays”.
Howard Lasser July 19, 2011 at 12:12 PM
John, I do not believe this is an appropriate venue for a debate. If you want to debate I would certainly meet you anywhere or anytime. I believe however, it is a good opportunity to insure that the facts are disseminated so here are the facts: The town has determined (for several administrations) that when we run a water line it makes sense to also provide for fire suppression (fire hydrants) as a health and softy issue for the town. The state requires the municipality to pay for annual maintenance and testing of these hydrants. Because the Selectmen contested the fees charged over the past several years, the fee has been reduced from $750 to $350.
John Berger July 22, 2011 at 11:41 AM
Mr. Lasser, I believe the Brookfield Patch to be an excellent forum for taxpayers to express their opinion and seek answers to their questions and problems. There are a multitude of residents who are reluctant to speak out at public meetings or hearings and their anxiety is warrented. The Brookfield Patch gives them a platform to express their concerns. The original question is still unanswered. "What exactly does the "non-user", who lives miles from the water pipeline, get for the current and considerable amount of $350.00 per hydrant per year?" "Healty and Safety" is a boiler plate answer. We need something be more specific.
Rob Gianazza July 22, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Mr. Berger, it has been my experience that the Patch does provide an excellent forum for sharing questions and answers. There is a caveat however, readers and writers need to be tolerant of differing opinions and make clear the difference between facts and opinions. When all involved respond in a manner that exhibits civility, everyone benefits.
Howard Lasser July 22, 2011 at 03:31 PM
John, I believe I go out of my way to let people know my opinions on these issues, either at the Board meetings, through direct emails and through my newsletter (which is published on the Patch). We may not agree but no one has ever accused me of not being forthright about where I stand on an issue. I know that the reasons hydrants are a community benefit have been articulated at various times over the years, however, if you missed it, one more time will not hurt. So here goes (not necessarily in order of importance): 1) The Federal Road corridor is a vital commercial district that is frequented by most, if not all, of us. Providing fire suppression is a matter of safety to all who shop there. 2) Providing water and fire suppression enhances the value of this commercial district encouraging growth in our commercial tax base which in turn relieves the residential tax payers of some burden. 3) Anytime clean water is provided closer to the need it is a benefit. Even if you are not within proximity of a hydrant it shortens the distance and time the fire pumpers have to go to fill up their equipment when the need arises. I am sure there are more reasons, but these are the ones that come to my mind at this time.
John Berger July 23, 2011 at 01:29 PM
Mr.Lasser, The readers of the Brookfield Patch thank you for the additional information on Brookfields fire suppression system and are looking forward to the tax relief it may bring
John Berger July 24, 2011 at 10:12 AM
Mr.Gianazza, The Brookfield Patch is a valuable source of information and the "comments section" is a service to the community, it provides a level playing field for those wishing to express an opinion. Those who make comments must remember, "you can always disagree without being disagreeable".

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