Committee OKs talks to buy parcel with failed septic systems polluting Meriden reservoir

Committee OKs talks to buy parcel with failed septic systems polluting Meriden reservoir

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MERIDEN — A City Council subcommittee has authorized the Law Department to negotiate the purchase of two vacant Berlin homes with failed septic systems that city officials say are contaminating a nearby city water supply.

The council’s Public Works and Parks & Recreation Committee voted 3-1 Tuesday night to allow the city to negotiate a purchase price for 61 and 71 Kenmere Road in Berlin after discussing the issue behind closed doors for nearly an hour. 

Last week, the full City Council discussed a request from the Water Division to spend $165,000 to purchase the two properties, raze the homes and remove the septic tanks. The $165,000 would have transferred from the Water Division’s “net assets.” The council ultimately tabled a vote on the proposal and referred it to committee after some councilors raised several questions, including whether the city had other options. 

The two homes on Kenmere Road in Berlin are near Kenmere Reservoir, a major city water supply located about two miles north of the city’s boundary in Berlin. According to city officials, septic systems for the homes, which have been vacant for two years, have been seeping contaminants into the reservoir. The Water Division treats the water with chemicals as a result of the contamination.  

“It’s bacteria-based contamination as a result of human waste to some extent in there and it’s treatable with a chemical that removes that contamination and it’s within the guidelines of the process of providing safe clean water to residents,” City Manager Tim Coon said in an interview Tuesday. 

According to Berlin town records, the 1.4-acre property at 71-61 Kenmere Road is owned by Houston-based Reserve Mortgage Solutions Inc.

The committee’s vote Tuesday authorizes Associate City Attorney Stephanie Dellolio to negotiate a purchase price for the property, which unlike the $165,000 figure, would not include the cost to raze the vacant homes and remove the leaking septic systems. Once Dellolio comes back to the council with a negotiated price for the parcels, the council would then have to consider costs associated with demolishing the homes and removing or draining the septic tanks, Mayor Kevin Scarpati said.    

After coming out of a lengthy executive session, the committee did not discuss the reasoning for their vote. Voting in favor were Democrats David Lowell and Cathy Battista and We the People Councilor Walter Shamock. Republican Dan Brunet was the lone no vote, and Democrat Larue Graham wasn’t present. 

The city said the discussion was exempt from open meeting laws because it concerned negotiations for the acquisition of land. 

The committee’s vote to authorize negotiations now requires approval from the full council. Once a negotiated price for the properties is reached, the purchase would still require final approval from the council. 

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Coon said purchasing the properties is one of many options the city is looking at, but he declined to elaborate. 

At last week’s City Council meeting, Shamock questioned why the city didn’t act sooner or consider legal action if the failed septic systems have been affecting the reservoir for some time now, requiring the city to spend money on chemicals to treat the contamination. 

Coon declined to comment Tuesday on whether the city is considering legal action.


Twitter: @matthewzabierek


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