NEW BRITAIN — Now that the sale of the Patton Brook well has fallen through, Mayor Erin Stewart's administration is hoping to negotiate a long-term lease for the well with Southington, instead.
But it's unclear whether Southington will be interested in continuing to use the well without being able to own it.
John Healey, Stewart's chief of staff, wants to talk with Southington officials about the prospects for a long-term lease at reduced rates. New Britain has charged the town more than $106,000 annually for years, and provides only a year-to-year lease.
Southington said it wanted to get out of that arrangement, and was willing to pay the city $1.2 million to get the well outright. But the common council this week rejected Stewart's proposal to sell, leaving the city to decide what to do with the decrepit facility.
Gilbert Bligh, who heads the water department, told the council that it would cost up to $1 million to rebuild the well and pumps to make them usable for the city. Even mothballing the facility wouldn't be inexpensive because it would require heat and maintenance, he said.
But aldermen were unwilling to sell off part of the city's water infrastructure, even in New Britain hasn't used it in years. The city has been leasing the well to Southington since the last 1970s, but Southington said earlier this year that it wouldn't renew.
Healey said a longer lease at reduced costs would still benefit the city, but also would let Southington free up some money to put into repairing the well. Southington has said it doesn't need the well or the water it produces, but would keep it as a reserve in case of a water shortage.
Several New Britain council members said the city should keep Patton Brook for the same reason. They suggested that Southington was just employing a negotiating strategy, and said it makes no sense for that town to refuse leasing the well but then offer to pay more than $1 million to buy it.
Most of the public speakers at a hearing were against selling, and warned that New Britain should keep all of its water resources because many states have experienced shortages in recent years. While that pattern hasn't affected Connecticut, the city should still protect all parts of its water system, they said.