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Norwalk BET approves WPCA, Parking Authority budgets

Vanessa Valadares, the city’s chief of Operations and Public Works and Ralph Kolb, the senior environmental engineer at the WPCA, present the WPCA budget to the BET.

The Norwalk Board of Estimate and Taxation signed off on budgets for the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) and the Parking Authority for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, unanimously approving both at its meeting on Tuesday. 

Both budgets are “enterprise funds,” meaning the revenues they generate cover their expenses. They’re both outside of the city’s traditional operating budget, which covers the day-to-day operations, and its capital budget,which includes items the city bonds for, such as infrastructure.

Water Pollution Control Authority

The Board approved a budget of nearly $20.5 million for the authority, which manages the City’s sanitary sewer collection system, pumping stations, and wastewater treatment facility. That’s up from the $19.5 million approved the previous year.  

Ralph Kolb, the senior environmental engineer at the WPCA, said the budget included a 4.5% rate increase for users, which amounts to an increase of about $18  for each residential unit and a $26 increase for each commercial unit. 

“Every year we tweak the numbers according to our needs,” Vanessa Valadares, the city’s chief of Operations and Public Works, said, adding that this will help cover some cost increases , particularly around debt service. 

She also noted that the WPCA’s rates are not as high as other municipalities in the Northeast because the authority has been proactive with their maintenance projects. 

“We are not as high because we have a very good facility, and we’re keeping our costs low,” she said. “Some of the other plants have been in trouble for not investing for many years.” 

The authority has a long list of infrastructure improvements, including adding lining to thousands of feet of sanitary sewer pipe, Kolb said. 

“What the team is doing is we’re continuing to invest in our treatment system and reduce inflow,” he said, describing what happens when rainwater mixes into the sanitary sewer system during storms. “It’s a little over $4 million project—we’re in the process of lining 50,000 feet of sanitary sewer pipe. Our goal is to line 25% of the collection system within 10 years.”

The  lining helps make room for capacity at the treatment center, Kolb said, because if rainwater and runoff stay out of the system, that’s less for it to have to process. The treatment center can process about 18 million gallons a day, and on average, over the past three years, that’s 12 million per day, Kolb said. 

The WPCA is also adding two new staff members as a part of this budget to help work with the construction projects, Kolb said. 

 Parking Authority

The Board also approved a nearly $7 million budget for the Parking Authority for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, up from $6.5 million the previous year. 

“The parking authority has worked very hard at coming back from COVID,” said Jim Travers, director of the city’s Transportation, Mobility, and Parking Department. “We’re seeing more activity that’s happening inside the garage. Our transient activity continues to grow.”

Still, Travers said, they haven’t returned fully to pre-COVID times when there was a waiting list for the garage at the South Norwalk Train Station. 

Travers said  they have “fully leased the facilities for the first time in a while,” including a fashion institute that is leasing space at the South Norwalk Train Station. That lease helps to bring in additional revenue, Travers said. 

While the city still has a contract with LAZ to manage the parking, that contract is expiring this year, Travers said, adding that the authority is currently out to bid for the contract and will be reviewing their options. 

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