Trumbull reaches tentative sewer deal

A tentative 10-year agreement has been reached between Trumbull and Bridgeport’s WPCA, but First Selectman Tim Herbst said the town is still pursuing other options.

The agreement comes after a year of mediations between Trumbull and Bridgeport over a contract to treat Trumbull’s wastewater effluent through the Bridgeport WPCA. In 2009, Bridgeport’s WPCA warned it could end a 13.5 percent break on sewer rates for Trumbull that had been in place for 25 years.

“The agreement provides for a discount rate that will eventually be phased out over a 10-year period,” according to Herbst. “The discount rate would be placed in an escrow account pending Trumbull’s departure from Bridgeport. During the next 10 years the Town of Trumbull will explore other options to treat its waste water effluent.”

If Trumbull fails to find alternate methods to treats its effluent, the town retains its right to file rate appeals with the City of Bridgeport after year 10, he said.

“We are clearly in a better place than they wanted us to be,” Herbst said of Bridgeport. “That is obvious by fact we can get a 10-year deal with discount rate and eliminate penalties.”

Herbst listed what he sees as benefits of the settlement for Trumbull, including no sewer rate increases, having no penalty provision if the town goes over the number of gallons allocated, and Bridgeport not being able to direct bill Trumbull residents.

“The City of Bridgeport wanted $2.2 million in arrearage from the Town of Trumbull,” Herbst said. “Under the terms of this agreement we will only pay $1.6 million, a savings of over $600,000.”

Herbst said the town will save an estimated $100,000 per year, as it will not be paying for litigation and engineering costs to fight the rate.

The tentative agreement must be approved by the Trumbull Board of Finance and Trumbull Town Council.
According to the Connecticut Post, a spokesman for Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said Herbst was playing “fast and loose with the facts” on the agreement and negotiations are ongoing. The spokesman criticized Herbst for dragging out arbitration and litigation.
Stratford and Trumbull
Herbst lauded the agreement and said he is eager to find a better alternative.

“This is the result of a lot of hard work on behalf of town attorneys and WPCA,” Herbst said. “My next priority is to come up with a long-term solution — where the town needs to be in 2025. I very much believe that the best long-term solution for Trumbull is to form an alliance with the Town of Stratford or a combination of Stratford and Fairfield.”

Herbst said building a treatment plan is not practical for the town, from cost and environmental standpoints. Herbst said he has a good working relationship with Stratford Mayor John Harkins.

“I do know that this is predicated upon the outcome of the pending appeal and prospective referendum relative to the Stratford merger with the Greater New Haven WPCA,” Herbst said. “I believe an agreement can be reached with Stratford if they merge with the New Haven WPCA or if they remain their own entity.”

If the town does want to move forward with any of these options, Herbst promises a referendum.

“We will take it directly to the voters,” he said. “My job as the first selectman is to educate the public on what I believe are best options and have an honest dialogue about the numbers.”