Town officials continue to negotiate with private property owners and plan to begin construction on the Tanyard Brook rehabilitation project in Spring 2018.
Engineers have been working for years on the replacement of the Tanyard Brook culvert to ease rampant flooding problems along the path of the largely subterranean stream. Much of the brook’s path from Garfield Avenue to the reservoir on State Street runs under private property, requiring town officials to get 36 homeowners to sign off on the project in exchange for compensation. That has been a sticking point in the project that has caused delays over the length of the project.
“Our goal is to get all easements; some people upstream have not signed on yet,” Community Development Manager Diane Williamson told the Town Council last week. “They’ve all been met with. They’re all aware of the project. And they are aware of how we would like to proceed in that we would compensate them for the restoration. Now we have to sit down with them and negotiate that compensation. They haven’t signed the agreement because we haven’t agreed on compensation yet.”
The compensation is part of the multi-million project, much of which will be funded through a $17 million bond voters approved in November. Seven million dollars of the bond was set aside for drainage projects in town, though town council members recommended seeking federal and state grants to help further defray the project’s cost.
“Even though there’s $7 million from the referendum, we have other drainage issues that are going to come up,” Councilman Ed Stuart said. “This is a multi-million project, so that’s why it is crucial that we get other funds other than what’s appropriated.”
Phase 2 has actually been divided into two phases, with the first, from the North side of Garfield Avenue to Richmond Street, beginning in April 2018 and wrapping up in November 2018, according to Nicole Ianuzzi, an engineer with the Beta Group. The second phase, from Richmond Street to the reservoir on State Street, would complete the project in 2019. Dividing the project will help with moving along a project that has been in the works for five years.
“The more we push it out, the more expensive it’s going to be,” Councilman Tim Sweeney said.
A timely beginning to the project is largely dependent on homeowners signing off on the work planned for their properties.
“Some of them we have to do a little bit more homework with because they are objecting,” Ms. Williamson said. “We will work through their objections. Not all of the easements have been signed yet. They want to know what will happen to their property during and after construction .”
Delaying the project until next year will actually help with the finances, according to Town Treasurer Julie Goucher, seeing as much of the money will be borrowed through the bond.
“The nice thing about bringing this into the 2018 spring season is that we’d probably be going for bond issue after the project is getting underway. The first debt service payments would then likely be due maybe 2019, maybe into 2020,” Ms. Goucher said. “It gives us time to get our fiscal ducks in a row and see what we can afford. And I know this is a priority project, so I think that there’s not much of a question of whether we want to borrow or it, but it does give us some more time.”
Tanyard Brook has been a source of neighborhood flooding for nearly two decades. When the 4,500-foot culvert was originally designed and constructed before the 1960s, Tanyard Brook was intended to handle runoff from a 10-year storm event. Since then, the town has grown and buildings and concrete surfaces have replaced woodlands that helped minimize runoff. The clogged and collapsed culvert is susceptible to flooding during heavy rain events. The $3.5 million Phase 1 of the project corrected the outflow into Walker’s Cove with a tide gate to allow for the release of stormwater when necessary. Further up the brook, repairs and upgrades will increase the capacity of water it can handle.
Ultimately, the project, while likely not ending flooding woes in the town, will ease the problems along Tanyard Brook and elsewhere, council members have said.
“This is not just this area,” Councilman Nathan Calouro said. “Other areas will be affected because the flow will be better; it won’t box up, and ultimately we’ll be in a better place.”
Engineers are expected to present another update to the council in July, at which time they expect to have easements with private property owners negotiated and signed.