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Proposed 1-million gallon storage tank sorely needed in Derby, city officials say

January 18, 2019

NEW HAVEN-Whether its fighting fires, preparing for surgeries or just keeping faucets flowing, Derby’s city and emergency officials believe the one-million gallon water storage tank proposed on the High School/Middle School complex is a necessity.

“What keeps me up at night is the fear of loss of water,” said Joseph Burnett, the director of safety, security and emergency preparedness at Griffin Hospital which is just a short distance from the proposed Nutmeg Avenue water tank.

Burnett said the hospital’s water supply is necessary for such things as heating and cooling, cleaning and cooking, sterilizing and operating.

This winter alone, Burnett estimates that Griffin is using 60,000 gallons of water daily.

“That’s 10 truckloads,” he said.

Burnett, as well as Ansonia Fire Chief Michael Eheman, Derby Fire Chief Robert Laskowski, Jr. and Derby Mayor Richard Dziekan, were among those who urged the Representative Policy Board to approve the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority’s proposal to begin building the one-million gallon storage tank this year.

Former Ansonia Mayor Thomas P. Clifford, IIII, as the board’s chairman, presided over the Jan. 17, 2019 public hearing in the Authority’s Sergeant Avenue, New Haven headquarters.

This marks the second time in seven years that the Regional Water Authority is seeking permission to build a storage tank in Derby. Plans to build a two-million gallon tank on Telescope Mountain on Summit Street were withdrawn after city officials and neighbors complained about the impact of blasting and the aesthetics of a water tank in a residential area.

The new site was chosen from 105 others because of its wooded location, its proximity to a water main and its availability. If approved, a final project design will be completed this spring and construction to run until next winter with much of it taking place after school ends in June. The project is budgeted for $5.1 million. Once completed it will serve some 13,000 customers in Ansonia, Derby and Seymour.

Alternative, but more costly locations, are three sites on Ansonia’s Hull Street, which is a densely populated area. The proposed Derby site is bordered by the schools, the Public Works and shuttered VARCA buildings and Osbornedale Park.

At the conclusion of the 90-minute hearing, Clifford told those in attendance that a ruling would be forthcoming next month.

Only one resident, Mary Motasky expressed concerns about aesthetics of the tank and sought more specific information on its location.

“How visually is it going to impact my neighborhood,” she asked.

Motasky lives in the 70-unit Summit condominiums on Coon Hollow Road. The proposed tank’s location is in a wooded area about halfway between the far end of the school complex and Coon Hollow Road.

“We are going to clear trees around the tank but not the entire parcel,” said Ted Norris, who with Rose Gavrilovic, presented the Authority’s proposal to the board. He said the tank would be 50 feet tall with a 60-foot diameter. Once completed the Authority plans to surround it with trees.

Motasky, who suggested the tank be painted green, also asked about blasting.

“We do not anticipate blasting,” Gavrilovic said. “A small portion of rock will have to be removed and we’ll flatten the area. But we don’t anticipate blasting.”

Motasky and a neighbor appeared to be the only non-Derby city officials at the hearing.

This caused Marc Garofalo, Derby’s former four-term mayor and current Town/City clerk, to question the reasons behind not conducting the hearing in Derby.

“It should have been held in Derby because it does impact Derby,” he said adding more residents would have attended. Unfortunately, he said “for some Derby residents New Haven is two time zones away.”

Besides Garofalo informed the 21-member policy board Derby is the home of “Dew Drop Inn known for the best chicken wings in the state...Bad Sons Brewery and its selection of craft beers...and the world-renown Roseland Pizza—I know that sounds like heresy to anyone in New Haven.”

All three locales are within a short distance of the proposed tank.

Following the hearing, Clifford, who served as Ansonia’s mayor from 1987-91, admitted Garofalo raised a valid point on the hearing’s location. He said the chief executive of a municipality could request a public hearing take place in their town or city.

But under the board’s bylaws only hearings on the Regional Water Authority’s proposals to dispose of land are required to be conducted in the municipality involved.

“I’ll bring this to the executive committee’s attention during our quarterly meeting in February,” Clifford said. “Maybe we will appoint an ad hoc committee to review our bylaws and rules of practice.”

Eheman, Ansonia’s fire chief, recalled at least three occasions—the Latex Foam fire, a multi-house blaze on Grove Street and a water main break on Church Street—his department drew so much water that it impacted the hospital.

Sampson, the current Derby aldermanic president who previously served as his city’s assistant fire chief and chief said he often had to take a “front line pumper out of service” during fires so it could be used to increase water pressure at Griffin Hospital.

“I spent many a sleepless night wonder what I was going to do when there was a serious structure fire,” he told the board. “This is a public safety issue.”

On Oct. 21, 2011 there was a water main failure near the intersections of Routes 34 and 8 which left Griffin without water pressure forcing it to cancel scheduled surgeries.

The Authority’s proposal involves leasing 2.15 acres on the north portion of Nutmeg Avenue from Derby for $1 for 99 years with the option for two 99-year extensions.

Additionally, the authority is planning to fund the city’s purchase of 1.25 acres of adjacent picnic land owned by St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ansonia. The nearby parcel would be used as a construction staging area. Afterwards a portion will be paved for the city to use as a parking lot for the future use of the VARCA building. The church’s Board of Directors this week approved a negotiated sale of the land.

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