BERLIN – The first formal step towards a dual wastewater plant system in Berlin was completed Wednesday when Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale and developer Troy Purnell of Berlin Properties North (BPN) signed a document laying out their intentions in an unusual public-private partnership.
“It’s what we’ve come to an understanding on and we’re very happy about that,” Cardinale said.
Purnell said, “It’s a good start. It’s a great start. Obviously, we’ve still got some details to go through.”
Cardinale said the document is essentially “a road map” for the future.
“It’s not a binding document. It’s a road map,” said Cardinale. “I think it’s going to be good for the town and the future of the town.”
“The focus right now is getting through the water and sewer plan amendment,” Purnell said.
Purnell, Cardinale and some members of the Berlin Utilities Commission went before the Worcester County Planning Commission on Thursday afternoon to discuss the changes in their request.
The county must agree to the new approach by adding it to the Worcester County water and sewer plan.
“The thing we’ve got to do now is see what the county thinks about it,” Cardinale said.
The town had originally planned a major expansion of their existing plant, but town officials changed their tune when Purnell offered to build a larger plant for his Crossroads project at the site of the old Tyson chicken processing plant to handle Berlin’s future wastewater needs.
BPN will pay for the sewage capacity needed for the mixed use, residential, retail and commercial project, while the town will pay for the rest of the plant meant to serve the town at large. The public-private partnership is one of the few in the state.
Berlin had already submitted a request to the county over the now abandoned plan for a plant expansion.
One issue that must be overcome before anything can be built is the town limits. The Tyson property lies adjacent to Berlin’s northern border, not within the town, which means that the site needs to be annexed in from the county.
“I’m ready to start working on it tomorrow,” said Purnell of the annexation agreement. However, that will depend on the town, he said.
Cardinale said he expects a draft of the annexation agreement before the fall. The sooner the better, he said.
Purnell said he expects to be able to break ground on the new plant in 12 to 18 months.
“I’d love to tell you 12,” Purnell said, but cautioned, “It’s a very, very arduous and intensive process.”
Permits must be granted and public hearings held, he said.
Purnell’s other Route 346 projects, the Nelson Ave. townhouses and the Purnell Professional Park, separate endeavors from the Crossroads project, will be ready to go in six to eight months.
The memorandum signed this week will be followed by a formal wastewater contract in the future.