Several towns discuss hooking into Norwich sewage plant

Norwich - Representatives from several towns interested in hooking into the city's sewage treatment plant met Wednesday morning to discuss logistics and possible funding sources for the pipes and pumping stations needed for the massive project.

Representatives from Norwich Public Utilities and the towns of Preston, Sprague, Franklin and Bozrah attended. Lisbon also is interested in the project, but officials from that town did not attend Wednesday's meeting at the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments office. Johan Strandson, a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also attended to discuss possible funding for the rural towns involved in the project.

Sprague First Selectwoman and state Sen. Cathy Osten said the towns hope to have cost estimates within the next two weeks in time for another meeting with representatives from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Department of Economic and Community Development.

NPU General Manager John Bilda called the meeting a "very, very productive conversation." Bilda said NPU is about 60 percent through the engineering design phase of planning for the sewage treatment plant upgrade. An NPU project estimate in March put the total cost at $96 million, with about $20 million covered by participation from surrounding towns.

Bilda said the upgrade design and final cost estimates could be completed within the next year, and a possible agreement with surrounding towns could follow the same time schedule.

The plan became controversial during the legislative session, when a Senate bill supported by Osten called for giving participating towns the authority to reject proposed sewer rates in a multi-town sewage treatment arrangement. NPU opposed the legislation, which is not being considered in the final days of the legislative session.

"We are working in such a good way together that it could be a moot point," Osten said of the bill.

Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon said the cost might be less for his town, because Norwich sewers already run down Route 12 through Preston, and there is a pumping station at the former Norwich Hospital property. But the city sewer line stops at the city border with Preston on Route 2, the other main commercial route through town.

c.bessette@theday.com

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