Now that voters have approved spending $32.15 million to upgrade the town’s aging sewage treatment plant, construction could begin as soon as next summer, Town Manager Michael Milone said Thursday.
"The Water Pollution Control Authority will finalize the design with the engineering consultant, we’ll go out for bids and are hoping to award the contract by late spring," Milone said. He said the project could take up to three years to complete.
Residents voted 9,112 to 4,338 in favor of the treatment plant upgrade, one of the town’s most expensive construction projects ever proposed.
It was one of three new spending requests totaling $34 million that passed by wide margins on Tuesday’s ballot. Residents also easily approved spending $750,000 for technology improvements as well as $1.5 million to repave roads.
Milone said he was "very surprised" by the overwhelming success of the sewage plant referendum, especially since a similar measure failed last year.
He said the project may have seemed more favorable to taxpayers after Cheshire received a $7.9 million state grant to help fund the improvements. The town was not eligible for the grant last year.
The town’s Water Pollution Control Authority also did a good job educating residents about the public health risks of delaying the project, Milone said. "If it’s not done, it’s going to create some serious problems for us," he said.
The technology referendum passed by a smaller margin, with 7,647 voting for the measure and 6,043 voting against.
The new spending will pay for enhancements to the town’s computer networks, upgrades to hardware and software and an expansion of the town’s wireless network. Milone said the improvements will make systems serving the public schools and other departments safer and more efficient.
He said the town has not invested in its technology infrastructure in about 20 years, making it difficult to adopt modern applications, such as a new computer-aided dispatch system the town bought last year.
Approval of the road referendum, meanwhile, will let the town continue to implement a 20-year road improvement plan. This is the third year voters have passed a proposal to repave roads, with 9,477 voting for the measure and 4,372 against. Milone said the town will wait until after the winter season to identify specific roads in line for repaving.