NEWINGTON - The state has stepped up to rescue the town from the school bus garage fuel leak by alleviating some of its financial burden.
Through the efforts of Newington’s legislative contingent, the State Bond Commission voted to approve a $1.5 million grant-in-aid. Funds will assist with the costs of environmental remediation following the Dec. 27, 2017 discovery of faulty underground piping that leached 19,000 gallons of diesel into the ground around the Garfield Street site.
Around $2 million has already been spent for the cleanup - $1.5 million by the Board of Education and the rest covered by insurance. The grant will reimburse the Board of Ed, which had planned to postpone several school maintenance projects due to the unforeseen expense.
“It’s unfortunate that anyone has to spend money on this but we’re fortunate the state is willing to step up after they cut so much of our funding over the last two years,” board Chairman Joshua Shulman said. “It puts us in a better place in general with long term maintenance.”
State Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Newington, led the cavalry to the Governor’s Office, where he, state Rep. Gary Byron, R-Newington; and Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Newington, asked Chief of Staff Brian Durand to help the town out.
“A lot of municipalities have been hit hard in regards to some of the funding reductions and this was just another blow to the town of Newington,” Guerrera said. “It was an accident that happened and that’s what we’re here for, to help municipalities in these situations.”
Guerrera continued to remind state officials of the issue’s importance, leading up to April 13’s favorable vote.
“This was a huge victory for the town of Newington,” he pointed out. “It’s a nice feeling when you’re able to deliver some good news.”
Town Manager Tanya Lane has been managing clean-up efforts and keeping the board and Town Council apprised of updates. Town Attorney Ben Ancona is overseeing environmental expert Dr. Gordon Binkhorst’s investigation into the factors that led up to the leak.
The results are expected to be presented at the next council meeting, April 24.
All of the oil has been removed from the site, according to Ancona, who said the next step is filling in the large pit around the area where the bus garage used to stand.
“They’ve reached clean water,” he said this week. “The site is completely clean and backfill will happen next.”
He called the grant a home run, adding, “I can’t be happier for our legislative leaders for getting it done.”
Byron was glad to help.
“I am proud to have worked with Rep. Tony Guerrera and Sen. Paul Doyle in obtaining this funding to help defray the cost from the diesel spill,” he said. “This could not have been arranged without Guerrera’s relationship with the Governor’s Office and the thorough presentation made by our town manager, Tanya Lane.”
Town and school officials will discuss the future of the bus garage site over the next few weeks.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.