Fairfield BOF faces potential $16 million in sewer costs, FEMA denial

FEMA denied an appeal for funding reimbursements for the 2015 repairs to Penfield Pavilion.

FEMA denied an appeal for funding reimbursements for the 2015 repairs to Penfield Pavilion.

Genevieve Reilly / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — The Board of Finance received two reports of unforeseen budget changes that may total to $16 million.

At its Tuesday meeting, the board was informed that Water Pollution Control Authority project costs have grown by $12 million, and that a $3.2 million FEMA reimbursement appeal for Penfield Pavilion repairs was denied.

Conservation Director and Interim Director of Public Works Bryan Carey presented to the board on marked increases in WPCA project costs.

The East Trunk Sewer Line Upgrade has doubled in its original approved cost, from $2.5 million to $5 million. Meanwhile, the Water Treatment Plant Hardening Project has jumped by more than $4 million from $3 million to $7.4 million, and the Easton Turnpike Pump Station Upgrade will cost the town an unforeseen $6 million.

Carey and his department discovered this rise in numbers in the last few weeks, as he and the WPCA Board have worked on capital budget planning and gone through Department of Public Works files following the arrests of Scott Bartlett and Joseph Michelangelo.

Board of Finance members expressed frustration with these significant cost increases. Board Chair Tom Flynn clarified, however, that their frustration was aimed not at Carey, who has only just stepped into these existing problems, but rather at the fraught DPW communication structure and its former leadership.

“I don’t trust a damn number that’s coming out right now,” Flynn said.

The board also discussed a letter received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency denying an appeal for a $3.2 million reimbursement for the 2015 Penfield Pavilion rebuild.

Penfield Pavilion was destroyed during 2012 Superstorm Sandy, necessitating massive repairs. In 2016, FEMA originally approved a $4 million reimbursement for the project.

In November 2018, however, FEMA claimed that the project did not meet regulation guidelines, disqualifying it from funding. The Finance Department filed its first appeal in January.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Chief Fiscal Officer Bob Mayer said that the Finance Department received a denial of this first appeal in June. The department filed a second appeal two weeks ago, which Mayer said they have positive hopes for, having made comments and adjustments regarding specific issues noted by FEMA as cause for rejection. They should have a response within a maximum of 150 days.