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Norwalk Council set to vote on $1 million as ‘initial investment’ to address flooding

An Oct. 27 flood on Burritt Avenue. (Rick Reardon)

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Common Council members are set to vote Tuesday on Mayor Harry Rilling’s request for a $1 million special appropriation to begin work on flooding issues.

If approved, the funding would begin to address issues across the city, Department of Public Works Superintendent of Operations Chris Torre said at last week’s Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting.  “We have identified 26 areas where either the pipes need to be increased or decreased, dredging, curbing, a lot of things that go along with storm water management,” Torre said.

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

The proposed spending would be funded with $650,000 that had previously been earmarked for culvert and brook improvements on Keeler Brook, near Rowayton Avenue. The other $350,000 would be funded by issuing general obligation bonds in an authorization already approved for the Keeler Brook project. Thus, the City’s debt would not increase beyond what has already been authorized, according to Finance Director Bob Barron.

Norwalk Finance Director Bob Barron at last week’s Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting uses his pinkie to represent the $350,000 piece of the $1 million funding planned to be used on storm water issues.

Barron at last week’s Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting called the $350,000 “authorized but unissued debt.” This is the authorized debt that has been presented to rating agencies as part of maintaining Norwalk’s triple a bond rating.

The new spending would be in addition to $290,000 that has been appropriated over the past four years to address storm water issues, Barron said.

“Chances are the need will be greater but there is an affordability aspect to everything and since we already had this appropriated, (the Keeler Brook project) was recently closed, the mayor asked that this $1 million be put in to address this immediate need,” Barron said.

The Keeler Brook plans, which date back years, fell through because a property owner wanted more for his property than it was worth and the City did not want to use eminent domain, Torre said.

DPW will work with CH2M Hill Engineers, Inc., a company doing work under Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) contract for an additional $150,000, to identify priorities.  “They will analyze hydraulics of pipes, areas that need to be dredged,” Torre said.

“This is just a drop in the bucket. We have been getting tremendous flooding issues all throughout the city,” Mayor Harry Rilling said.

Residents are complaining that they have lived in Norwalk for decades and never had a flooding issue, but do now, he said.

‘We are in a difficult situation with the types of storms we are seeing and the fact that our infrastructure is so outdated and inadequate, in a lot of other areas,” Rilling said. “So this study is probably going to identify areas of concern that we are going to have to address over the long term. We are talking … I would say probably with confidence that we are talking millions of dollars to update our infrastructure. We’ll have to prioritize…. it’s going to be a protracted expenditure over several years.”

“This is going to be an ongoing thing that we have to do,” Rilling said. “Some of our storm drains and sewers are 100 years old. There is just enough capacity to take the water and drain it out.”

Twice in the last month and a half, there was two feet of water on West Avenue and water gushing up out of storm drains, he said.

The $1 million is an initial investment in long-term issues which have “not been overlooked but we are doing the best we can,” Torre said.

It’s prudent to assume that the trend of downpours will continue, Rilling said.

“The rainfall this year might be an anomaly but an aging infrastructure, if that’s deemed to be the cause of it, it’s never going to get better,” Barron said. “So this $1 million is still a significant investment in making it better, according to the priorities that are identified in the study.  I think it’s the right way to do it, we’re not throwing $1 million at an unknown problem, we are engaging professionals to tell us where we are going to get the biggest bang for the buck. Then when the study gets back we’ll have a better long term idea what the capital investment in the City’s infrastructure will be.”

6 comments

Piberman November 13, 2018 at 10:17 am

With rising sea levels and increased threats of major storms why the reluctance of City officials to explore creating storm flood gates as Stamford did decades ago with considerable success. A major flood would devastate Downtown.

Good to see the City seeking outside engineering expertise. Why not do the same with the very major dislocation for years from the Boondoggle Bridge ? As well as identifying costs to City residents and businesses ?

Lisa Brinton Thomson November 13, 2018 at 10:21 am

Flood mitigation is necessary. One million probably is a drop in the bucket. Produce a detailed plan please – don’t just ask for money 🙂 Management 101.

Steven Colarossi November 13, 2018 at 11:32 am

The City needs to particularly address the serious public health issue caused by the interconnections between the storm drain system and the sanitary sewer system.
In our neighborhood (between Ward Street & Main Avenue), rain water flows into the catch-basins which then dump, not into a creek or drainage swale, but into the sewer lines carrying waste. Heavy rains overtax the sewerage system causing backflows of sewerage into our homes.

Aside from the obvious “ick” factor and health risks, the current configuration of storm lines draining into the sewer lines is costing the City money because we are adding rainwater to our wastewater and then paying to treat it (as we do all sewerage). Perhaps the City (which has known about this problem for years and refused to address it) might finally figure out that funding repairs to this broken system will save considerable money in the near and long-term. And maybe the prospect of saving money will finally inspire Norwalk to put an end to an on-going public health concern.

Rick November 13, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Has anyone suggested to hold off in building anything else on water st thats telling Rich no high rise until the work is done? Thats telling RDA no new housing .

“They will analyze hydraulics of pipes, areas that need to be dredged,” Torre said.

Isn’t that something the Army Corp does? The have to give the ok for Eversouce to cross water st, no chance this is something they do? What a joke this is Mr Torre where did you get all of your background from?

Some Commission members in Norwalk have received the emails sent and sent back from the Army Corp on flooding on water st , its been an ongoing conversation for months any chance you call them and see if they can help? Harbor Shellfish and water quality commissions were asked to do what? Put them s the box Harry and see what opposition you get. There is something wrong here folks .

Some of NON articles including video have been classified by the Army Corp whats that suggest?

http://www.nae.usace.army.mil

Lets not wait any longer for Norwalk city hall call them ask them what they can do and maybe it will save the city . Look at what the US army Corps do and see of we can save some money.

CH2M Hill Engineers, Inc., a company who gets 25.00 an hour to cut the grass at the pumping stations are they not? Want pictures that may suggest that?

No one has suggested new drains new buildings where dirt lots were on raymond and day have escheated the flooding along South Norwalk?

Taxpayers are being played no matter how much is spent ,

Developers are raising the level of the streets and land , its taking more land that was dry and making it a flood zone Norwalk knows this and it seems to be missing rom Torres details.

Address issues across the city get everyone involved stop creating an island around city hall Norwalk has enough of them .

Aging infrastructure, if that’s deemed to be the cause of it, why not have work tacked onto the bridge, the power company and the work planned by the RDA and developers , Most of the water mains in South Norwalk in the flood plain areas need replacing why isn’t SNEW not sitting at the table also, as it is Harry had the streets done in South Norwalk making flooding worse where was Torre then? At Lunch?

EnoPride November 14, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Off topic, but couldn’t help but notice the house to the right in the photo. It looks like it could be slapped with a violation or two, maybe? Oh, never mind. P&Z is busting murals these days, not blighted houses.

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