By John McNamara
More than a year after the Stewart administration and Common Council sought to sell off the Patton Brook Well at an undervalued price of $1 million the unused well is replenishing the Shuttle Meadow reservoir.
Mayor Stewart and her Council majority authorized the sale in August 2016, seeking to give up the nearby water source that is part of New Britain’s coveted watershed land in the region. The Town of Southington, where the watershed parcel and pump station are located, was the prospective buyer. Previously New Britain shared Patton Brook with Southington at reasonable rates for decades but used its other sources for city residents.
In the her second attempt to jettison Patton Brook altogether, Mayor Stewart and her Common Council allies insisted that repairing the well for New Britain’s use would be too costly and that Patton Brook did not figure prominently in the city’s water reserve plan. The flow of water from Patton Brook through a culvert into the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir with little in the way of repairs and expense contradicts the Mayor’s assertions that the well could not be turned back on for New Britain without a major capital expense.
In winning an 11-4 Council vote for the sale of Patton Brook Well in the summer of 2016, Mayor Stewart accused opponents of “political posturing” and spreading “outright lies and unfortunate misinformation.” Said Stewart: “We are not selling the New Britain Water Co. and have absolutely no intentions of doing so. We are transferring ownership of a physical well that isn’t connected to the city’s water pipes and hasn’t been used by the city in decades. The Patton Brook well sits on a 0.61 acre parcel of land in Southington and is valued at around $61,000.”
Amid strong public opposition and an ongoing drought that forced the water department to hike rates to pay for $400,000 in Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) reserves this year, Stewart finally relented last April as officials were awaiting state approval of the sale.
Opponents of the well sale say the city administration became aware of a developing drought as early as December 2015, but took no appropriate action to conserve supplies nor warn residents as efforts to sell Patton Brook proceeded.
In a related development the Connecticut General Assembly enacted legislation introduced by State Rep. Rick Lopes (D-24) requiring that municipalities or water departments to obtain an independent appraisal of public watershed before it can be sold.
In early October acting Water Director Ray Esponda told the New Britain Herald that water from Patton Brook can flow into the Shuttle Meadow Reservoir, but that it would take $1 million in repairs to allow the well’s water to reach other reservoirs in the city’s regional reservoir system.
Last month the city Water Department also contradicted Mayor Stewart’s $61,000 value, confirming that the well has a current capacity of at least one million gallons a day. Translated into consumer water rates the city would quickly obtain a return on a $1 million investment whether it leased the well’s water or needed it for use by city residents. Alternatively, funding from the Army Corps of Engineers could be pursued to add capacity to New Britain’s regional watershed and supply.