OLD LYME — The Water Pollution Control Authority made incremental progress Tuesday night, approving a contract to hire a benefit assessment consultant, discussing a potential agreement with the three private beach communities, as well as considering an independent expert to evaluate water testing at Hawk’s Nest.
WPCA Chair Richard Prendergast said that hiring a assessement consultant will help define variables in the town’s Sound View Beach neighborhood which is slated for sewer installation, but has a wide range of commercial and residential properties.
In a referendum on August 13, town voters approved a $9.5 million sewer construction bond for Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Town Area B. The project will receive partial reimbursement with a 25 percent Clean Water Funds grant, reducing costs to about $7.44 million.
“A consultant might be able to help us with establishing our methods and handling those commercial properties that are tricky to figure a fair benefit assessment,” said Prendergast.
A benefit assessment is “the charge a municipality or wastewater district places against a property to recover the cost of capital expenditures for the acquisition, construction or upgrading of wastewater collection, conveyance or treatment facilities.”
Old Lyme Assessor Melinda Kronfeld would also provide a “refresh” of the assessed properties in the Sound View sewer project, said Prendergast, but because of a software issue those numbers were not yet available.
Prendergast said discussions with the the town’s three private beach associations — Old Lyme Shores, Old Colony Beach and Miami Beach — have been productive but haven’t resulted in a finalized agreement. Each private beach association has its own WPCA and will construct sewers in its own chartered jurisdiction.
“We’ve had discussions with the private beach associations — they were wishing to discuss the easements that they need and we were wishing to discuss the joint cost-sharing agreement and how it would work. We have a framework on how it would work. We have what they want us to do and what we want to do and I think in general we agreed, but it’s not formally written. The next step is to schedule the final draft and let’s bless it and go to a possible vote to accept it — so we’re not there yet but we’re making progress,” said Prendergast.
Prendergast disputed what he described as rumors that the town will spend significantly more money than the private beach associations to join the cost-sharing agreement.
“That’s absolutely false. We’re paying our share, our percentage, and if we do a cost-sharing agreement where we share infrastructure, it saves them money and it saves us money and I think that’s a key driver for us to join the cost-sharing agreement because quite honestly it’s a lot easier to do the wrong thing and not have to negotiate with three different entities but we’re motivated to save money so that’s why we’re doing it,” he said. “And I think it’s the right thing to do to not have two pump stations side by side from each other.”
The WPCA is also in the process of looking for an independent expert to evaluate the results of water testing at Hawk’s Nest. Prendergast said WPCA member Joe Carpentino, who was not at the meeting, had gathered information on two or three candidates for the WPCA to consider.
“What I hope that will happen is he will have a couple of candidates that he has viewed as substantial enough for us to consider and possibly interview. We’ll have to decide what to do with that. I think it’s premature to set up a process on that because we haven’t seen the candidates or their recommendations or resumes, so I think what we’ll do is we should be able to have those candidates submitted at the next meeting and we can develop a process of if we want to hire the person or not,” Prendergast said.
Paying for the consultant is an unanswered question, he said.
“From a budget point of view we haven’t discussed that because we don’t know how much it costs, but I guess we’ll work with when the time comes, unless there’s any objection,” Prendergast said.
WPCA Treasurer Doug Wilkinson asked if a “Request for Quote” was necessary before proceeding.
Prendergast said the structure was looser because the WPCA wasn’t asking for state funding to hire the consultant.
“We get the candidates, we get a recommendation, we get a feel for it , then we can develop a process,” he said. “I think we do have a process for our good but we do not have to do a process like we did in the past because at this point because at this point we’re not submitting for state funding.”
Wilkinson said it was important to define the scope of the consultant’s work.
“I just want to be comfortable that before we pay a bill, before we commit, that we know what we’re getting,” Wilkinson said.
During public comment, resident Sandy Garvin, whose family still owns 42 houses in Hawk’s Nest, asked for clarification concerning well testing and analysis.
Wilkinson said because the WPCA carried over $25,000 from last year and has $20,000 in this year’s well-testing account, it was not necessary to request more money for testing in the coming fiscal year’s budget.
“The analysis of the testing won’t cost more than $35,000 and the state won’t ask for more testing. Even if they did, we are not asking for more money if it’s not needed. We have a lot in reserve for testing and analyzing.”
Frank Pappalardo, chair of the Sound View Commission, said there was no common denominator for establishing the up-front costs of a pump station and the three beach associations’ easements.
“Is it by usage, by user fees? How do you determine the Town of Old Lyme’s percentage if we have no common denominator for such?” he asked.
Prendergast said the cost-sharing agreement will be a document in which the town agrees to an ownership percent and that will trigger the cost the town has to pay.
“We have estimates of those costs but the costs are not stable yet because part of it is the design is being developed and the construction is being developed and all of those things are being finalized,” he said. “When we have the costs, we’ll be able to know how much to make the actual assessments. Right now the cost estimates are based on experts’ analysis of what it will cost and that’s what we went to the town referendum with, the best information we had from experts who do this for a living, so eventually I think we’ll be able to disclose what costs will be and ownership will be.”
In other business, members re-elected Prendergast as chair, Frank Chan as vice chair and Wilkinson as treasurer.