NB Politicus

City Taps Patton Brook Well For Water After Calling Off Bargain Basement Sale, Hiking Rates To Pay For MDC Water

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.

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Patton Brook Well culvert near Shuttle Meadow Reservoir  (Photo taken Sunday, November 5, 2017)

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.

 

 

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Water flows from Patton Brook Well into New Britain’s Shuttle Meadow Reservoir on Sunday, November 5th, 2017

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.

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Water from Patton Brook culvert may be flowing into Shuttle Meadow reservoir. Photo taken on Sunday, November 6, 2017

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislature Takes On Water Issues; Rep. Lopes Bill Requires Fair Market Value For City To Sell Wells, Watershed Land

Posted in environment, environmental protection, water resources by nbpoliticus on February 13, 2017

By John McNamara

State Rep. Rick Lopes (D-24) has filed a bill requiring municipalities or water companies to “complete  a fair market appraisal of any property encompassing a watershed, well or reservoir before such property may be sold, and to make such appraisal public at least 90 days prior to such sale.”

Lopes’ proposal is due for a public hearing on Wednesday, February 15th, at the Legislature’s Planning and Development Committee.

Rep. Rick Lopes

Rep. Rick Lopes

The legislation (6481) stems directly from Mayor Stewart’s second attempt to sell the Patton Brook well in Southington to the Town of Southington for $1 million last year. The New Britain Common Council authorized the sale  in a controversial move that brought strong public opposition at a public hearing last July.  The sale remains under review by the state Department of Public Health. The city administration,  through the Board of Water Commissioners, also quietly approved the sale of watershed land in Burlington last last year, land that is also a part of New Britain’s coveted and extensive watershed  in the region.

The effort to sell city watershed, along with a Stewart administration-back proposal by Tilcon, Inc. to lease watershed land on the New Britain-Plainville line for mining operations, has met with growing resistance from the Bradley Mountain Alliance . A citizen coalition has coalesced around protecting the watershed and its members regularly attend City Hall, the Board of Water Commissioners and state regulatory agency meetings.  Year-long drought conditions that have forced the city to purchase water from the Metropolitan District Commission has further increased citizen opposition to the sale of Patton Brook.

According to a commentary raising objections to a Patton Brook sale last July: “The real value of Patton Brook Well – whether it is to be leased or sold – should be calculated on its capacity to produce potable water for residents and businesses.  At no time have New Britain officials, including Stewart and Water Services Director and Southington resident Gil Bligh,  provided a professional or independent appraisal of the Patton Brook Well’s actual value in setting a sale price of $1.2 million two years ago and $1 million this year.  Basing a sale or lease on a real property assessment of the pumping station and the small amount of acreage alone is absurd and irresponsible.”

Rep. Lopes, who represents the 24th assembly district inclusive of New Britain neighborhoods close to watershed land, opposed the attempted sale of Patton Brook in 2014 and 2016 saying in a letter to the editor “water and access to water will always remain a valuable asset. The city of New Britain had the foresight to purchase property with access to water all over the state and these water rights remain among our most valuable assets. Giving up wells and reservoirs are short-term fixes that will only cost the city in the long run.”

Lawmakers are also taking up a series of bills supported by the Save Our Water , a non-partisan citizens’ group that initially mobilized to oppose MDC and Bloomfield decisions to give Niagara Bottling Company of California access and favorable rates to MDC reservoirs. Its membership is growing and includes New Britain as concern over protecting the water supply and natural resources is growing throughout the state.

Save Our Water’s legislative agenda includes law changes on drought protection (HB-6349), permits for large water bottlers (HB6341), water rates for water bottlers (HB6319),  uniform clean water project charge rates (HB6342) and regulation of bottle water (HB5619).   Save Our Water opposes Senate Bill 753 — an act concerning the viability of expanding the bottled water industry in Connecticut. Instead Save Our Water favors its own legislative package “to ensure the prudent management of our state’s valuable water resources, establishing priorities for water usage during droughts and requiring that water rates for large-scale water bottlers are not lower than rates for residential customers.”

 

 

It May Be A "Magic Bus" After All: NB As The Center Of Rapid Transit

Posted in downtown, environment, Hard Hittin' New Britain, transportation by nbpoliticus on January 26, 2014

CT Fastraks — called the “magic bus” to critics such as former Governor John Rowland — will start rolling 12 months from now (February 2015) on the 9.3-mile rail right of way from New Britain to Hartford.

The New Britain Herald’s Scott Whipple previews the potential of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for New Britain folks using the bus to get to Hartford’s theater and cultural institutions in a Sunday story.

At drive time I’ve listened to WTIC’s Rowland carp about a project (ironically) launched during his time in the Governor’s office.

But next winter I am counting on it to get to the job in Hartford instead of sitting in stalled traffic on I-84.  It just so happens that the I-84 trek that intersects with I-91in Hartford has the most traffic volume anywhere in the nation. Not surprising given the limits and difficulty of what CT Transit busses currently offer.

New Britain’s Terminal Takes Shape (CT DOT)

Right now, if the work day in downtown Hartford takes me past 5:30 pm, I’ll miss the last departure for the “2” Express to the commuter lot at Brittany Farms.  I am left to get home some other way.  The CT Fastraks — BRT or Bus Rapid Transit is a better name — will keep going well into the night for the same regular bus fares we pay now.

For New Britain  the BRT system means a lot more than getting back and forth from Hartford for work, school or seeing the sites. The  terminal being built at the old Greenfield’s site is the only stop with a significant amount of parking.  The two large municipal garages are expected to be utilized in an a yet to be defined arrangement between the city and the state Department of Transportation.

With ample parking and unused, long vacant commercial property in the center of New Britain,  BRT  is setting downtown up for  transit-oriented developments in retail, housing and new businesses. A small-scale renaissance is possible bringing people and commerce back after they left for the malls and the burbs a generation ago. Not exactly the “magic bus” Rowland and the naysayers are predicting.

Critics like Rowland linger. They predict low ridership will turn the region’s first real stab at rapid transit into a boondoggle.   But more knowledgeable opponents who favored rail over a BRT system are resigned to making the project work as part of a network inclusive of rail or other options that will reduce traffic on the deteriorating I-84/I-91 corridor and connect communities for work, school and just getting around.

Twelve months and counting.

ALEC: Buying Influence and Tilting Laws Against Solar Energy

Posted in Campaign Finance, energy, environment, Money in Politics, Solar Energy by nbpoliticus on January 2, 2014

Let the Sun Shine In

Isaiah_Poole

Now the Koch brothers are coming after my solar panels.
I had solar panels installed on the roof of our Washington, D.C. home this year. My household took advantage of a generous tax incentive from the District government and a creative leasing deal offered by the solar panel seller.
caf-alec-Brookhaven National Laboratory

Brookhaven National Laboratory/Flickr
Our electric bills fell by at least a third. When people make this choice, the regional electric company grows less pressured to spend money to expand generating capacity and the installation business creates good local jobs. Customers who use solar energy also reduce carbon emissions.
What’s not to love?
According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative network better known as ALEC, our solar panels make us “free riders.” What?
Yes, according to ALEC, an organization that specializes in getting the right-wing agenda written into state laws, people like me who invest in energy-efficiency and shrinking our carbon footprints ought to be penalized.
Why does ALEC want us punished? Since it’s bankrolled by, among others, the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, it’s hard not to surmise that they’re worried about a threat to fossil fuels businesses. Koch Industries’ operations include refineriesoil and natural gas pipelines, and petrochemicals
That’s no conspiracy theory. Recently the British newspaper The Guardian wrote aboutthe assault on solar panels as part of a broader exposé on ALEC.
John Eick, the legislative analyst for ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture program, confirmed to The Guardian that the organization would support making solar panel users pay extra for the electricity they generate. That’s already about to happen in Arizona, where homeowners who use solar panels will pay an average of about $5 extra a month for the privilege, starting in January.
The solar power industry called the new rule a victory only because power companies in the state were demanding assessments of as much as $100 a month — more than high enough to deter families from considering switching to solar.
Making solar energy cost-prohibitive for homeowners and businesses is part of a larger ALEC objective, affirmed at its recent annual meeting, to continue its effort to eliminate state renewable energy mandates.
According to meeting minutes, ALEC has already succeeded in getting legislation introduced in 15 states to “reform, freeze, or repeal their state’s renewable mandate.” ALEC lobbyists are pushing policies through states that will speed up climate change and increase pollution. They’re threatening the renewable energy industry, which is already creating new jobs and saving money for homeowners and businesses.
Without the current policy paralysis in Washington and a lack of bold, creative thinking about how to build a new, green economy at the national level, they wouldn’t be making so much headway.
My organization, Institute for America’s Future — together with the Center for American Progress and the BlueGreen Alliance — recently published a report that shows what’s at stake with ALEC’s destructive agenda.
Our “green industrial revolution” report recommends tying together a series of regional solutions that take advantage of the unique assets of each part of the country, such as the abundance of sun in the West and the wind off the Atlantic coast, into a cohesive whole.
These regional strategies would be supported by smart federal policies, such as establishing a price for carbon emissions and a national clean energy standard, creating certainty and stability in the alternative energy tax credit market, and providing strong support for advanced energy manufacturing.
This is the way to unleash the kind of innovation and job creation our economy — and our rapidly warming planet — desperately needs.
My solar panels are the envy of my block and I wish more of my neighbors will be able to make the same choice I did. But they won’t if fossil-fuel dinosaurs like the Koch brothers and right-wing organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council keep casting their dark clouds on efforts to build a clean energy future.
It’s time for them to step aside and let the sun shine in.
Isaiah J. Poole is the editor of OurFuture.org, the website of the Campaign for America’s Future. OurFuture.org
Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org

A New Britain Biker Fights Global Warming

Posted in environment, global warming by nbpoliticus on June 10, 2007


Merrill Gay of New Britain is nearing the end of a month without driving an automobile. It may not be that unusual for an individual who lives a short, pleasant walk from home to workplace in the Walnut Hill Park area of New Britain. But Gay, 46, is a busy father of young children who works as executive director of the New Britain Discovery Collaborative that engages the community in creating quality early childhood education. Given his activism and schedule, I’d say he needs a car in a city and state with a very sparse public transit system.

Between May 15th and June 15th, however, Merrill Gay has been “triking” through the streets of New Britain and beyond in a recumbent bike with a fiberglass frame that looks very much like a winning soap box derby entry. Gay is part of a “car free” challenge whose participants are sending a personal message on the over use of the automobile and the environmental benefits to be had if we reduce auto emissions.

To start his last week without gasoline-powered wheels Merrill triked to a meeting in Hartford. “This is now the 3rd trip into the capitol city,” Gay wrote on his blog (www.nbtriker.org). “So I’ve perfected the route and shaved about 10 minutes off the trip. That’s probably due mostly to having lost a couple pounds and gotten into better shape with daily riding. As of the end of the ride today my mileage for the challenge is 253 miles so far.”

When he’s asked why he’s making this mostly personal effort for a greener earth, Gay has a ready answer: “It doesn’t seem like a day goes by that I don’t hear or read another story about global warming and its effects. I wonder what kind of mess we’re leaving for our kids. As I ride I see that most cars on the road have one person in them and I’ve read that 40% of car trips are just a few miles long. So in a way I’m trying to prove to folks who see me that it can be different. It is possible to do most of what we use a car for by human power.” And besides, he says, “I’m having a blast.”

Not all of us need to follow Merrill Gay onto the streets with a recumbent bike to strike a blow for the environment. Some of us might take a bus to work if limited transit routes and schedules allow. We could walk down to the local drug store for a prescription instead of driving a couple of blocks using less gas and burning more calories. We could engage neighbors and family members in ways to car pool to work, events or other activities to which we mindlessly drive alone to the same place.

The point is that Merrill Gay is being a good citizen, showing us in a fun and interesting way that we need to heed the warnings and act personally and politically to reverse global warming and preserve mother earth for the next generation.

A New Britain Biker Fights Global Warming

Posted in environment, global warming by nbpoliticus on June 10, 2007


Merrill Gay of New Britain is nearing the end of a month without driving an automobile. It may not be that unusual for an individual who lives a short, pleasant walk from home to workplace in the Walnut Hill Park area of New Britain. But Gay, 46, is a busy father of young children who works as executive director of the New Britain Discovery Collaborative that engages the community in creating quality early childhood education. Given his activism and schedule, I’d say he needs a car in a city and state with a very sparse public transit system.

Between May 15th and June 15th, however, Merrill Gay has been “triking” through the streets of New Britain and beyond in a recumbent bike with a fiberglass frame that looks very much like a winning soap box derby entry. Gay is part of a “car free” challenge whose participants are sending a personal message on the over use of the automobile and the environmental benefits to be had if we reduce auto emissions.

To start his last week without gasoline-powered wheels Merrill triked to a meeting in Hartford. “This is now the 3rd trip into the capitol city,” Gay wrote on his blog (www.nbtriker.org). “So I’ve perfected the route and shaved about 10 minutes off the trip. That’s probably due mostly to having lost a couple pounds and gotten into better shape with daily riding. As of the end of the ride today my mileage for the challenge is 253 miles so far.”

When he’s asked why he’s making this mostly personal effort for a greener earth, Gay has a ready answer: “It doesn’t seem like a day goes by that I don’t hear or read another story about global warming and its effects. I wonder what kind of mess we’re leaving for our kids. As I ride I see that most cars on the road have one person in them and I’ve read that 40% of car trips are just a few miles long. So in a way I’m trying to prove to folks who see me that it can be different. It is possible to do most of what we use a car for by human power.” And besides, he says, “I’m having a blast.”

Not all of us need to follow Merrill Gay onto the streets with a recumbent bike to strike a blow for the environment. Some of us might take a bus to work if limited transit routes and schedules allow. We could walk down to the local drug store for a prescription instead of driving a couple of blocks using less gas and burning more calories. We could engage neighbors and family members in ways to car pool to work, events or other activities to which we mindlessly drive alone to the same place.

The point is that Merrill Gay is being a good citizen, showing us in a fun and interesting way that we need to heed the warnings and act personally and politically to reverse global warming and preserve mother earth for the next generation.