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Here are some highlights from the Feb. 19 Town Council meeting:
Interim Town Manager Bonnie Therrien said of the Blizzard of 2013, “...it was a doozer, “and joined Mayor Anthony Candelora in recognizing the town’s departments, from Public Works to its emergency responders, for their getting North Branford through the storm and back in operation. Operational storm expenses are expected to weigh in at over $500,000 “… between all costs right now,” said Therrien. Additionally, police overtime payroll is expected to be $6,000.
“It’s not going to be a cheap storm by any means,” said Therrien.
Due to Connecticut’s State of Emergency declaration by President Obama, FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of 48 hours of the town’s storm expenses; although Gov. Malloy is working to have the reimbursement period increased to 72 hours, said Therrien.
“Hopefully, we can get more FEMA dollars for this storm,” said Mayor Candelabra.
The town is also set to replace components in a communications console damaged by a “roof incident” at police headquarters, said Therrien, who authorized moving forward with the fix as a matter of public safety.
“It’s $98,000 to replace, and it should be covered by insurance,” Therrien told the Town Council. “I told the Lieutenant I don’t think we can wait for an insurance check – if this thing goes down, we’re in trouble.”
The town also needed to replace a heat pump that burned out over the weekend at Town Hall, she noted.
Also on Feb. 19, the Town Council heard from Terri Eller, Director of Commercial and Industrial Sales for United Illuminated (UI) holdings, about an opportunity to re-designate UI priority fix locations during storm emergencies.
“For many years, each town really has had only two priority locations,” explained Eller. “So during Irene, you really only had two priorities, Evergreen Woods and Hillside Terrace. After Irene we went around, (we) met with all 17 (UI-serviced) towns and told them that, as a result of Irene, we going to allow towns to increase by eight more priorities and give them 10.”
UI received the list of additional “Tier Two” priority locations from then-Town Manager Richard Branigan in April 2012. The list, which members of Town Council asked to see, includes other priority locations including the Regional Water Authority, North Branford High School, Town Hall, the police department, fire department and Jerome Harrison School.
“After Sandy, the state was calling us about their priorities,” added Eller. “The state assumed towns would take care of their priorities, so they told us they would be coming up with some (state) priorities for you. For example, they may highly recommend you make RWA a Tier One in your town.”
Any priority changes suggested by the town have to be approved by UI’s Director of Operations and can take up to three weeks to be implemented. The current list has been put under review by the Town Council.
The council also discussed the future two soon-to-be empty town buildings, the Community Center and Senior Center, both located where Phase Two Route 80 widening work is underway. Both buildings should be empty by May or June, when the newly-renovated Community Center/Senior Center building at the former Stanley T. Williams Schools is expected to open, said Therrien.
“I’ve been approached by a few developers interested in doing some developing on the Route 80 corridor, especially on town-owned land where the buildings are,” she told the council. “The sooner they have an answer, the sooner they can possibly move forward. I just think we need to have that discussion. The other impact this will have is on our budget for next year. We don’t know what to budget for those buildings, come July 1, for heat or cleaning or a myriad of things.”
The Town Council discussed possibilities including winterizing the buildings to “mothball” them and save costs; but decided a separate meeting needs to take place to discuss the matter further.
On another topic, Town Engineer Kurt Weiss notified the council that state Dept. of Transportation (DOT) will begin work in May to realign Route 139 at the North Branford-Branford town line. The widening will adversely impact the town’s sewer meter in the area, forcing it to be moved, at a cost of $12,678 to the town. The meter allows the Town of Branford to bill North Branford for its use of the Branford treatment plant.
Weiss said a consultant was hired over the summer to develop the plans for the relocation of the sanitary sewer, which was approved and incorporated into DOT plans.
While the DOT approved 100 percent reimbursement to the town for construction of the new sanitary sewer; the reimbursement will be reduced by 30 percent of the cost of the value received for 30 years. Due to that “cost benefit calculation,” said Weiss, “… we owe about $12,000 to DOT for construction work for the sanitary sewer.”
He said the reimbursement agreement was reviewed by Town Counsel John Gesmonde and that the town had no choice but to pay the state the fee.
“We have a sewer capital fund that the $12,678 will come out of,” said Weiss. “We always have a reserve for something like this.”