NEW FAIRFIELD – At its regular July 12 meeting, the Board of Selectmen voted to amend its contract with Supreme Industries to include removal of brush from private roads, and also voted to recommend the sale of the municipal water system to the Planning Commission for consideration at a future meeting. The votes passed by a 2 to 1 margin, with Selectman Kim Hanson voting against both proposals.
The Board voted to add the pickup of brush from private roads in town to the existing contract it has with Supreme Industries. Supreme Industries is the Harwinton, CT based land clearing contractor that the Town had contracted with to remove brush from town-maintained roads at the beginning of the month. In the Board discussion prior to the vote, Mr. Hanson took issue with the fact that the contract for the clearing of private roads was not put out to bid as had been discussed at a previous BOS meeting. He thought that perhaps the Town could secure a better price for the added work, noting that adhering to FEMA guidelines for the clearing of private roads was most likely unnecessary as he felt there was only a very small chance that FEMA would reimburse anything for the pickup done on non-town-maintained roads.
First Selectman Pat Del Monaco replied that she doubted chances for FEMA reimbursement of private roads was as low as Mr. Hanson indicated. She noted that other towns in the area are pushing for private road reimbursement from FEMA. Ms. Del Monaco said that as the brush monitoring process was already in place, it would be wise to continue to follow FEMA guidelines on brush removal for all roads. She also noted that it appeared the amount of brush picked up would be a lot less than the 50 cubic feet originally estimated, meaning the cost of the contract will most likely be lower than originally estimated.
Mr. Hanson responded that he did not see why the Town would not wait a couple of weeks to put the private road pickup out to bid. He mentioned that it might give the opportunity for some local firms to bid on the business.
Ms. Del Monaco stated that Supreme Industries had the equipment necessary to do the job, noting the firm had a larger chipper and a big grapple hook to tackle the lard logs and branches that smaller, more local companies might not have access to. Selectman Khris Hall agreed with Ms. Del Monaco.
After the 2 to 1 vote in favor of expanding the contract, discussion moved to the potential sale of the town water system. The Board had to vote to move the draft of the contract along to the Planning Commission for its review and approval. If approved, the contract will go back to the Board of Selectmen which would recommend the issue to a vote at a town meeting.
The water system currently maintained by the Town serves businesses in the center of New Fairfield. Aquarion Water Company has proposed buying the system for $150,000. Aquarion Water Company is a subsidiary of Eversource and is recognized as a state utility.
The company would take over management of the infrastructure which, according to Selectman Khris Hall, failed late last year and almost failed earlier this month. Last year’s failure, she said, left many restaurants and two-day care facilities without water.
The entire Board agreed that the Town needs to sell the system and get it into the hands of a qualified company that can manage it full time. Mr. Hanson had an issue with increasing the current 75 foot easement to 200 feet as stipulated in the contract. He felt that by accepting the increased easement the Town was giving Aquarion access to more water than it needed to effectively deliver water to the center of town. He also felt that some of the wording in the contract gave Aquarion the right to demand that any work or activity being done in the area by the town be halted if Aquarion felt that it would impede the flow of water. Mr. Hanson said he was worried that Aquarion could arbitrarily halt work without the need of any study indicating the water flow was indeed being impeded. Mr. Hanson was in favor of adding language to the contract limiting Aquarion to a 30 gallon per minute flow rate, giving the Town the right to negotiate with Aquarion if needs changed in the future.
Ms. Del Monaco and Ms. Hall did not see a need to go back to Aquarion to request the changes. Ms. Hall said she was not concerned with how much water the company pumped. For her, the key item was getting the system into the hands of professionals as soon as possible who could better maintain the system and ensure that town merchants continued to get a dependable source of water. Mr. Hanson agreed that the Town needs to “get out of the water business” but wanted to ensure the Town protected its interests by securing the best deal possible.
After discussion, the Board voted 2 to 1 in favor of moving the contract to the Planning Commission.
Other items discussed at the meeting were an announcement that New Fairfield Day would be held Saturday, September 15, with a rain date of September 16. There are plans to expand the festivities to include a dinner dance that Saturday night and a concert on Friday night.
It was also announced that the State is currently reviewing the possible installation of flashing crossing lights on Route 39 near Icons, on Route 37 at the far parking lot entrance to the Senior Center, and on Ball Pond Road near the community beach. The crossing locations have been submitted to the State for review after the Town received numerous requests from residents.
The next regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Thursday, July 26 at 7:30pm in the Community Center.
By Greg Slomba