Derby taxpayers will vote Nov. 4 on whether to move forward with $31.24 million in repairs and upgrades to the city’s sewer system.
The city’s Water Pollution Control Authority sponsored an information session on the issue Wednesday night at Derby Middle School.
Only about 12 people attended, including four public officials.
Five members of the public asked questions. They were skeptical of the projects, to say the least.
Click the video to watch the presentation, followed by a portion of public comment.
Approving the sewer referendum could tack on an additional $257 to the annual sewer bill for the typical single-family sewer user for the next 30 years.
That did not sit well with Art Newberg, who owns a two-family house on Derby Avenue.
“I am seriously thinking about selling my house while I can still find some sucker to buy it,” Newberg said.
Hawthorne Avenue resident Tony Diaz echoed the concerns. Derby is getting more and more expensive, but there are houses on Hawthorne Avenue that are abandoned or in foreclosure.
As the cost of living in Derby goes up, the quality of life isn’t following suit, Diaz said.
“I’m not saying I can’t afford this. I’m saying, ‘When is it going to stop?’ Diaz said.
Hawthorne Avenue Carol Senfield said the WPCA asked for and received money for repairs throughout the 1990s. She wanted to know where all the money went.
The upgrades, WPCA officials and their engineers have said, are needed because the City of Derby has ignored making significant repairs to its sewer infrastructure for years.
WPCA officials have said repeatedly over the last two years, that the city’s pumping stations and treatment plants desperately need to be replaced.
They’re worried that if the referendum fails, Derby sewer users could be hit with even bigger rate increases from emergency repairs and replacements.
The projects on tap include:
$830,000 to build a new South Division Street pump station
The current pump station was built in 1966 and has never been upgraded
The steel walls are rotting away
$1,070,000 to build a new Burtville Avenue pump station
The current pump station was built in 1965 and was never upgraded
The pump station is 20 feet underground, and is a safety concern for workers because there is no “fall protection”
$7,460,000 for a new Roosevelt Drive pump station
Pumps 40 to 50 percent of all sewage flow in Derby, yet hasn’t had a significant upgrade since 1972
Built in 1966
In recent years, was cited by state environmental regulators for allowing raw sewage to flow into the Housatonic River. The WPCA, under threat of fines, put in a new “grinder.”
Steel body is rotting away
$3,780,000 for a new Roosevelt Drive forcemain
Will increase capacity from 2,000 gallons a minute to 4,000 gallons a minute by replacing a 12-inch pipe with a 16-inch pipe
City officials see this as a way to encourage the Town of Seymour, along Route 34, to connect to Derby system, which would provide revenue
WPCA engineers also said it is needed to help with possible redevelopment projects along Route 34 heading west of downtown (example — the former Derby Cellular property)
Engineers said it doesn’t make sense to upgrade the Roosevelt Drive pump station and leave an undersized forcemain in the ground
$3,660,000 to replace downtown/Route 34 sewers
Current downtown sewers are too small and limit economic development
Project will be coordinated with long-planned state Department of Transportation Route 34 widening, which makes this project a bit cheaper
$8.94 million for various upgrades at the Derby Water Pollution Control Facility (sewage treatment plant, the heart of the system)
Install modern “grit removal system:” current “grit removal system” is often a guy in waders with a long stick
Install modern electrical system, eliminating safety issues
Replace 1966 anaerobic digestion system
$5 million for upgrades to “solids handling system” at the sewage treatment plant
Current system is a mess, requires constant repairs and causing large overtime costs
Belt filter press was installed in 1980, failed and had to be repaired in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Rotary thickener is from 1972
Constant failures as well
Some parts of the solids handling system are kept together with duct tape and rusted vice grips
$500,000 in financing costs
Approving the sewer referendum could tack on an additional $514 to a bill for a typical two-family residence.
Larger non-residential users, such as Griffin Hospital, could see a $95,000 increase.