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Thursday, October 19 News

Hiawatha Lane housing complex could be coming, $2.5m for pipe clears RTM

WESTPORT — Week after week, the last major impediment to the construction of a large affordable-housing development on Hiawatha Lane clears another town board.

The Representative Town Meeting Public Works Committee unanimously recommended the RTM approve a $2.5 million maintenance project to replace a 40-year-old main pipe under the Saugatuck River that serves Pump Station No. 2.

The pump station and the pipe, both in need of repair, have been cited by the town as reasons to reject Summit Saugatuck’s application for a 155-unit apartment complex which would add over 30,000 gallons per day of sewage stress on the existing infrastructure. A 1,600-foot-long sewer extension from Davenport Avenue to Hiawatha Lane would be required for the development to move forward.

If the full RTM approves the replacement of the pipe, which runs 1,300 feet from the pump station on Riverside Avenue near the Black Duck Cafe to the Water Pollution Control facility on Elaine Road, Summit Saugatuck will have a clearer path to its goal. The pump upgrade would cost Summit around $150,000, according to Public Works Director Steve Edwards.

“So by doing this ... it’s a big development hurdle that if anyone wants to develop in the Saugatuck area or Hiawatha area will basically have the capacity. It’s one of the pieces of the infrastructure that’s needed,” Jennifer Johnson, RTM 9, said.

Edwards said it is his job to maintain the infrastructure, and the repair is badly needed. “You can’t take a risk of failure, and this condition here, we’re dealing with the potential risk of failure. Development is an aside.”

“And I’ve told P&Z this all along, that they have to deal with development based on their regs (regulations), not based on my willingness ... to maintain my system,” he said.

The new pipe, made of plastic, will be installed 75 feet under the river in bedrock and will be more resistant to deterioration. “We went with plastic instead of the ductile iron. Plastic will last longer with the corrosive environment,” Edwards said.

Set to begin work in July, over an eight-week stretch, the replacement will require the lot 5 commuter parking lot (next to the Black Duck Cafe) to be shut down.

Commuters who use those spots will be left to find other spaces for the months of July and August. The project is expected to be completed by September.

“They will be displaced,” Edwards said. “Unfortunately, it will be Chief Foti’s (Koskinas) nightmare, but we’ve coordinated with him and there will be alternative parking.”

Tim Hollister, the attorney representing Summit Saugatuck, said the town’s Department of Public Works has been saying since September 2015 the force main pipe and pump station upgrade will happen this summer. On April 26, arguments will be heard in state Superior Court in New Haven with regard to Summit’s appeal from the Westport Water Pollution Control Authority’s July 2016 denial of Summit’s sewer extension request.

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“We presented evidence in mid-2016 that this was going to happen, and the reasons that we presented the lawsuit in the first place have now been confirmed,” he said.

Town Attorney Ira Bloom said in an emailed statement Summit’s application needed to wait until the work was finished: “Steve Edwards has repeatedly said that his goal was for a 2017 completion of the force main pipe. The Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) has advised Summit that its earlier application in 2016 for a sewer extension was premature and that it needed to wait until the work was completed.”

In an August interview, Bloom said the town denied Summit’s application for a sewer extension because the replacement and repair projects would take two to five years to complete.

“They (the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority) denied it because, at present, the pump station behind Black Duck Cafe needs repairs and there’s a force main pipe, which goes under the Saugatuck River to the sewer treatment plant, that has to be repaired,” Bloom said. “And until those things are done, an estimated two to five years to complete, it is not possible to hook up a development of that size, and that’s what the engineering reports said quite clearly, as did Mr. Edwards, so this application is premature, and that’s what the WPCA said.”

According to Hollister, “The town has been using the sewer to stall land use that they don’t want.”

@chrismmarquette; cmarquette@bcnnew.com

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