Berlin, Developer Agree To Split Sewer Plant Bills

BERLIN – Town officials this week reached a compromise of sorts with Berlin Properties North (BPN) over who should pay for what as the two entities partner on the development of a second municipal sewer treatment facility at the long-defunct Tyson Foods plant, but cost-sharing questions still linger for the project.

BPN owner Troy Purnell appeared before the Berlin mayor and Council on Monday seeking relief from three rather innocuous invoices his company received relating to the proposed second municipal sewer treatment plant at the old Tyson facility on Route 346. Purnell told the council he believed the invoices, which combined total a little over $3,300 and relate to work done by the project’s consultant, should be the responsibility of the town and not his private enterprise.

After considerable discussion, the two sides agreed to split the costs of the three invoices down the middle and work to better ensure similar misunderstandings don’t arise in the future when more weighty financial issues come up during the public-private partnership.

The project calls for Purnell and BPN to develop a state-of-the-art treatment plant at the site for his proposed residential and commercial development and turn the treatment plant, and its excess capacity, over to the town.

An independent consultant is working with both the town and Purnell during the project’s infancy and both entities will likely utilize its services throughout the long life of the agreement. On Monday, Purnell told town officials he had received several invoices related to the project and asked for relief for three specifically he believes should be the responsibility of the town. He asked town officials not to let three small invoices get in the way of what could, and should, be a productive partnership.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “It was my understanding we’re working together on this as partners and I’m willing to pay for our side all the way to the end. I’m of the understanding BPN would pay its fees and the town would pay its fees.”

Councilwoman Paula Lynch agreed, saying the three invoices in question were relatively small, but an understanding had to be reached about who was paying for what before the stakes were raised.

“I understood we would pay our freight and you would pay your freight,” she said. “This is a drop in the bucket, but you can see where this could become a larger issue.”

Purnell said that is precisely why he was bringing the three invoices in question to the town’s attention at the early stage of the project.

“I just want to make sure this doesn’t turn into something larger than a drop in the bucket,” he said.

Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale suggested Purnell sit down with the other principals in the partnership including himself and Administrative Director Linda Bambary and anyone else with a stake in the project to figure out a better way to divide the expenses. He suggested open lines of communication rather than nebulous invoices traveling back and forth through the mail.

“If in doubt arises about who should pay for what, just pick up the phone and call and we can work it out,” he said. “The only way this thing is going to work is as a partnership.”

Councilman Gee Williams said the procedures and protocols of the partnership will have to be figured out as things come up. He also suggested they be figured out early before the project grows in scope and size.

“This is all part of the learning curve,” he said. “We have to figure some of these things out before we get too far down the road.”

With that said, Councilwoman Ellen Lang made a motion the town split the three invoices in question with BPN as a gesture of good will while the parties sort out who will pay for what in the future. The motion passed unanimously.