NEWINGTON - The school bus garage has been demolished and the town has begun paying for ongoing cleanup of the fuel release on Garfield Street.
The Board of Education has assumed full responsibility for the costs, totaling in the millions and partially covered by an insurance claim. The Town Council approved a $245,776 transfer from the Public Schools Capital Improvements Account (PSCIP) at its last meeting. Of this, $95,776 will be used to pay outstanding bills for the project, with the remaining funds going to replace air conditioning at one of the middle schools.
The school board previously approved financing the first set of invoices totaling $875,000, and the $95,000 was the only portion that required council sanction before it was transferred from CIP.
“The PSCIP account currently has approximately $1,096,325,” Board Chairman Josh Shulman said in a letter posted to the district’s website. “Paying from this account will necessarily delay projects that would have been performed, but the board is confident this action will have the least impact on the operation of the schools.”
The fuel release was discovered on Dec. 27, 2017, after a resident smelled diesel fumes in the area and reported it to the town. It was determined that about 19,000 gallons of diesel fuel was released over an 18-month period from a broken pipe underground, connected to the bus garage fuel pump.
Town Manager Tanya Lane, who has been leading the cleanup, told the council that the bus garage demolition was the least expensive of several different options for removing contaminants from the building. She clarified that this action was $90,000 less than alternatives - not $19,000, as misheard at the meeting prior.
Garfield Street will not be torn up to remove contamination, as determined by town officials after consultation with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“I think tearing up a road is extremely disruptive and under the circumstances, extremely expensive,” Lane explained. “New data reveals that we don’t have to excavate beneath the road.”
Lane went on to call this development “awesome” as it would save the town nearly $400,000. Contamination will be removed up to the roadside and the remainder left to attenuate, or be eliminated through natural processes like biodegradation and evaporation.
“My fiscal plan is to have this project buttoned up by the end of the month,” Lane said. “I’m trying to keep everyone moving along.”
Councilors praised her steadfast commitment to the emergency situation while continuing regular responsibilities and beginning to draft the 2018-19 budget. That same evening they approved giving her a two-percent salary increase, a plan postponed since last fall due to the state budget impasse.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, @schmittnbh or firstname.lastname@example.org.