Governor gets to sees stimulus money at work

Norwich - Gov. M. Jodi Rell stepped into the pumping station at the Fairview Reservoir to a loud humming noise from the automatic pump. The hum meant the nearby water tank had reached the half-full mark.

Mechanic Frank Feraco manually shut off the pump for the VIP visit.

Federal stimulus funds paid for the new pump system and digital controls that give exact depth readings in the tank and automatically turn on the pumps when the water level drops to 150 feet. Grant and loan funds totaling $1.3 million went to Norwich Public Utilities through the federal stimulus program.

NPU is using the money to refurbish two water tanks, one at the Fairview Reservoir and one on Richard Brown Road near Mohegan Park, and to install updated, efficient pumping systems at the two locations.

Rell told about 20 city and utility officials Friday that she wanted to get an "up-close-and-personal look" at how $3 billion in federal stimulus money is being spent in Connecticut.

NPU General Manager John Bilda said $550,000 of the Norwich project was a grant, and $750,000 came in a 2 percent loan from the state Department of Public Health. Besides the new pump-station equipment, the money will be used to sand, repaint and rust-proof the water tank and upgrade the equipment, which dates back to the 1970s.

Bilda said the grant helped free up money so the utility could extend municipal water lines and install new fire hydrants. Those projects otherwise would not have been done, he said. The water-tank upgrades and the water-system expansion both employed local contractors, and the utility hired permanent new staff as well.

Although the picturesque reservoir provided the setting, the water there played no role in the project. The water tank uses water from the city's municipal system, while the Fairview Reservoir is a back-up water supply currently not being used.

c.bessette@theday.com

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