Updated, 6:50 p.m.: Information added.
NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk school buses have been moved across the street from the bus depot created by the Board of Education and the City just one year ago, according to BoE Chairman Mike Barbis.
NPS and the City of Norwalk were not aware that Eversource has an easement for a high voltage underground transmission line at 332-334 Wilson Ave., the site of the new school bus yard, Barbis said at last week’s BoE meeting. Eversource plans 25 days of work to replace its underground facilities and notified the City two weeks ahead of its planned start date, resulting in contentious negotiations, Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton wrote in a memo, explaining the reasons for an agreement that the Common Council will consider Tuesday.
Eversource has already begun the work, Assistant Corporation Counsel Darin Callahan wrote in a Nov. 15 memo to the Council.
The Board approved the agreement last week, with Barbis commenting that, “If any of you drive down Wilson Avenue, you’ll see across the street, there is now a big fenced in area, and there are police cars there all the time protecting our buses.”
Conversation was very brief, with Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski thanking Hamilton and others for their “work on sorting out this very complex issue that threatened to derail our entire transportation system.”
The Council in September 2017 authorized a 25-year contract to lease the Wilson Avenue bus yard from Stanley Seligson, Hamilton at the time said the lease would save the district $56,860 in its first year, and over the course of 20 years could save $7.5 million.
The City leases the property and then subleases it to First Student.
Eversource owns 319 Wilson Ave., where the buses are being stored, and will reimburse First Student for reasonable expenses, Callahan wrote.
“Eversource is in the process of conducting major maintenance on its electrical infrastructure throughout the City of Norwalk,” he wrote, explaining that the agreement is intended to “limit any interruption to First Student’s school busing operations and our school system, and address liability/ risk allocations issues.”
Eversource spokesperson Frank Poirot in a Tuesday email explained, “We are replacing existing underground cables with new cables the same voltage – 115 kV. The cables, originally installed in 1960, run roughly 1.4 miles between the Ely Avenue Substation and Norwalk Harbor Substation. The old underground cables will be pulled out of the existing conduit, or pipes, under the streets and new cables will be installed. There is no street excavation associated with this work.”
The company is working to submerge a transmission line under the Norwalk River in connection to the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Walk Bridge project; Poirot said the Ely Avenue work is unrelated.
Eversource began its work on Nov. 3 and the agreement will be backdated, Callahan wrote.
“Because we were able to agree on some basic terms, including indemnification language, Mr. Callahan agreed to allow Eversource to enter 334 Property for purposes of the Project provided that, the final agreement(s) were back dated to the date work was commenced (November 3, 2018) to cover risk arising while the parties negotiated the terms of the agreement,” Hamilton wrote.
The agreement holds Eversource accountable for hazardous wastes, absolves Norwalk of any liability for damaged or stolen equipment and requires Eversource to have liability insurance.
Eversource installed the fence and put in gravel, and is paying for security, the agreement states.
Work on underground cables, associated duct banks and splice vaults is expected to continue to Dec. 23, Callahan wrote.