With a short list of topics to run past the Board of Finance Monday evening, First Selectman Pat Llodra started with the wintry weather. Joking that “we want a mild winter, on Friday through Monday,” she had her eye on the town’s recent snow removal costs. Weekend pay is time and a half on Saturdays, and double time on Sundays. She told the Board of Finance that, “We have experienced quite a drain already.”
Hoping to keep everyone alert to expenses, she said the first seven “snow events” for the winter of 2013-14 have cost $338,000.
“We want to monitor carefully the drain on the budget,” and that they could draw funds from contingency. “We have been in this position before,” Mrs Llodra said.
In her brief report to the board on January 13, Mrs Llodra also spoke of town personnel matters as the search to fill positions in the IT department continues, and potential sewer extensions in Hawleyville, noting that she would like to determine “how much more we would generate in taxes” if sewers were in place and property values would increase.
She also hopes to understand what type of revenue stream would be generated by the project and what the costs would be to bring a sewer line through Hawleyville, she said. Public Works Director Fred Hurley and Water and Sewer Authority members have been working on an analysis, she said.
The challenge, said the first selectman, is that the project is in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for this fiscal year, but she does not have definite costs.
“We could miss the bonding opportunity,” she said. “I want to anticipate costs and go forward with the bonding.”
With $5 million in the CIP, BOF Chairman John Kortze asked, “Do you anticipate more?”
“I anticipate less,” Mrs Llodra said.
Member Joe Kearney, concerned that property owners could see sewer-related costs, asked, “Do property owners have a say?”
“Yes,” Mrs Llodra said, but explained that the town has not yet said anything, does not have any “real numbers” yet and, “We may not pass the burden on to our property owners, or cover some [costs] ourselves, or not.”
Some of the project would be near land with development potential, she said.
“If enough people say No — if there are enough nos, could it stop the project in its tracks?” asked Mr Keraney. “Why don’t we find out these things?”
Mrs Llodra explained that this is an economic development project.
“We know what we’ll get without sewers — it’s what we have now. But I want an aggressive plan to develop areas for commercial potential. We need sewered properties. That exit off I-84 does not have substantial development,” Mrs Llodra said, adding, “Development is walking away.
“Either we recognize what we need to do to improve tax base, and that’s an area we focus on, or we don’t go down that road,” she continued.
According to Newtown’s Plan of Conservation and Development, “Newtown is an attractive community in which to locate and grow a business and to live.”
The plan cites various areas that have seen successful economic growth such as Route 25, Church Hill Road, Commerce Road, Barnabas Road, and others, which “are indicators of the types of development resources that will be needed in the future to attract new businesses and provide expansion opportunities for Newtown’s existing businesses.
“The inventory of viable economic development sites needs to be increased …” Exit 9 in Hawleyville is identified as an area offering potential “to meet the needs for new economic development sites in a manner consistent with the desire for balanced development, in a fashion that will enhance Newtown’s community character.”
Also on Monday, Public Works Director Fred Hurley reported he and others started a sewer assessment project for the area last year.
“We looked at the potential for Hawleyville and what it looked like was there would be enough potential to get a project done.” Through recent appraisal work, he said, “It looks like it makes more sense to restrict development to several parcels with restricted sewer line.”
Not all properties would necessarily be required to hook up, he said.
“Only hook up the primary development pieces,” adding, “We are trying to put the cost where the benefit is: balance. There are people there that we promised would not have to hook up, and that’s a promise we want to keep.” But to honor more than one promise, Mr Hurley also hopes to broaden the tax base.
Certain development on Hawleyville parcels “would be difficult” without sewer lines, he said, “but those parcels hold promise if a sewer is available, and would help with commercial and industrial taxation rather than residential taxation.” Economic growth in Hawleyville “would help with where the [town’s] mix of tax revenue comes from, and shift it to commercial and lift some of burden from homeowner.”
Looking ahead, he anticipates seeing more solid numbers emerge through analysis for the sewer project in coming weeks.