MERIDEN — The city needs to bond an additional $2.23 million for a state-mandated project to lower phosphorus discharge levels at the city's wastewater plant on Evansville Avenue.
Officials say the additional money is needed to cover loan interest, project contingency and any possible legal dispute.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which is overseeing the project, recommended the city include funds for those possible expenses with the bonding, Public Utilities Director Dennis Waz said. Some of the money may never be spent, Waz said, but “it’s insurance so I don’t have to go back to council looking for extra money.”
The new bonding, which requires City Council approval, would bring the total amount bonded for the project up to $50 million from the $47.76 million approved by the council last year.
The City Council's Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the request on May 28 at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall, 142 E. Main St.
Meriden is one of several local municipalities completing upgrades to meet stricter phosphorus discharge limits enacted by DEEP. Phosphorus is considered an environmental hazard because it causes algae blooms, which deplete oxygen in water bodies and pose a threat to wildlife, according to DEEP.
The project in Meriden includes improvements to some of the city’s remote pump stations located away from the treatment plant.
Meriden expects a state grant to cover 38 percent of the project’s costs. The city will receive a 20-year, low-interest loan for the remaining costs.
Waz said the city will cover its portion of the costs through sewer rate increases The city’s sewer rates have gone up each of the last two years, Waz said, but will not increase this upcoming billing year beginning June 1. The city will continue to review rates on an annual basis going forward to determine whether they need to be raised to cover the project’s costs, Waz said.
The city recently submitted its application to DEEP for the grant funding and low-interest loan. Once the application is approved, Waz said the city will proceed with awarding a construction contract. Barring an unforeseen development, the contract will be awarded to the “lowest apparent bidder” — C.H. Nickerson & Co., Inc., a Torrington-based contractor that has completed wastewater treatment plant upgrades for several Connecticut municipalities.
The contractor submitted a construction bid of $38.4 million. City Manager Tim Coon said the construction price came in around or a little bit under what the city anticipated.
Construction is expected to begin this summer and will take around 30 months, Russo said.
Russo said the plant currently discharges about 0.7 milligrams per liter of phosphorus, which will get lowered to under 0.1 milligram per liter with the new upgrades.