John Oliver Sewage Plant Will Handle Hawleyville Outflow
DANBURY — It’s official. Every time residents of Newtown’s Hawleyville neighborhood flush, they will be sending their special deliveries to the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant.
On October 8, the Danbury City Council voted 18-1 to rename the municipal sewage plant after the comedian.
This decision came just weeks after he initiated a tongue-in-cheek battle with Danbury initiating the first of several segments of expletive-filled rants against the city on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton did not waste any time responding on social media. He posted a video of himself at the sewage plant saying the city was going to name it after Oliver.
“Why?” the Republican mayor asked. “Because it’s full of crap just like you, John.” That drew a delighted response from Oliver, but he went off against the city again because Boughton later said he was just joking.
One of the finer points that has so far escaped publicity is that the sewage plant also handles thousands of gallons of outflow from Hawleyville, via a recently installed sewer line that also carries waste from Brookfield and Bethel before reaching its final destination in Danbury.
Local Public Works Director Fred Hurley said Newtown has annually purchased up to one percent, or 150,000 gallons of the soon-to-be-renamed John Oliver Sewage Plant’s 1.5 million gallon processing capacity.
The offer that helped get Oliver’s name pasted to the sewage plant — at least for the near term — comes in exchange for a multi-faceted philanthropic gesture.
After Boughton’s questionably serious suggestion, Oliver upped the stakes on his August 30 show by offering to donate $55,000 to local charities if Danbury actually followed through with renaming the plant.
“I didn’t know that I wanted my name on your (expletive) factory but now that you floated it as an option, it is all that I want,” Oliver said.
After the council vote, Boughton said the feud has been a good distraction from the coronavirus and other troubles of the times. He also said Oliver’s promised donations have helped spur local fundraising efforts for area food banks that could end up collecting a few hundred thousand dollars to feed needy families.
The mayor added he will be offering tours of the sewer plant for $500 donations to local food pantries.
“I think it’s been a home run. It’s been a lot of fun,” Boughton said of the spat. “If I can put food on people’s table for Thanksgiving by naming a sewer plant after a very popular comedian, we’ll do it all day long.”
It is still not clear why Oliver singled out Danbury for a tongue-lashing. He first brought up the city during an August segment on racial disparities in the jury selection process, citing problems in a few Connecticut towns from decades ago.
He noted Danbury’s “charming railway museum” and its “historic Hearthstone Castle.”
Oliver has offered to provide the new sign for the plant that includes his name, as well as attend the ribbon-cutting, Boughton said. A timeline has not been finalized.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said the entire incident offered some comedic relief in a year in which it has been tough to find humor.
“We all know what flows down hill,” Rosenthal quipped, “but this generous donation from John Oliver will get some money flowing down hill to help close the loop on food insecurity for many who might otherwise go without.”
Always thinking local, Rosenthal added, “If Mr Oliver wants to make a donation here in Newtown in exchange for our 150,000 gallons, we’ll supply the pipes.”
Representatives for Oliver and HBO had no immediate comment following an Associated Press query.
In related news, a handful of Newtown sewer customers whose outflow is so minimal that they qualify for a standard minimum usage charge, saw that fee jump up more than 20 percent on recent bills.
Hurley said the comparatively large increase was the result of at least two interim usage fee increases that were transacted over the past few years, but were never transmitted to the Newtown Tax Collector’s office for inclusion into those few local user’s bills.
“The customers would have arrived at the same minimum usage charge today anyway,” Hurley said, “it’s just a little surprising because they got hit with two prior increases they were not being billed for all in one month.”
The latest aggregate increase will appear on all bills going forward until the next potential fee hike.
Associated Press content was included in this report.