Christine Stuart photo

Standing on top of the 46-foot-tall grassy levee in Hartford’s North Meadows Tuesday, Mayor Eddie Perez said that the city needs $12 million in state funding to help improve its flood control system by July 2009.

In the wake of Hurricane Gustav, which hit the Louisiana coast Monday, Perez is asking Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who is in charge of the state Bond Commission to approve the $12 million at its next meeting.

It’s unclear if the Bond Commission will hold a meeting at the end of September, but in August it approved $4 million to improve the levee system in East Hartford—a system which is connected to Hartford’s levee system.

What’s at risk?

Perez said if the city is unable to make the improvements by July 2009 homeowners that live in the flood zone may see their insurance premiums increase and it could make it difficult for homeowners in the zone to refinance. In the north of the city the flood zone extends as far as North Main Street and Windsor Street and in the south it extends almost as far as Wethersfield Avenue.

Perez said the city has already spent $13 million to improve Hartford’s levee system, but over the next five years it will need to spend up to $50 million to keep up with post-Katrina certification requirements. He said the city is prepared to go to the city’s voters and the federal government for the additional $25 million, assuming it receives $12 million from the state.

Rich Harris, spokesman for Gov. M. Jodi Rell, said Tuesday in a phone interview that the governor feels very strongly flooding needs to be prevented. He said Rell knows the state needs to maintain the integrity of its levee system, which is why the commission approved $4 million in levee improvements this past August.

It’s unclear if the city of Hartford submitted a formal request to the Office of Policy and Management for the $12 million. It’s also unclear whether Rell would approve borrowing $12 million. In general, Rell is cautious when it comes to putting anything on the state credit card, which is how she likes to refer to the state Bond Commission.

Christine Stuart photo

Last year the city of Hartford spent $2 million to replace eight pumps in two of its six pumping stations, which pump water from retention areas and conduits back out to the river. The pumps hadn’t been updated since 1938.

Clarence Corbin, Hartford public works director, said “We generally feel they’re in good shape,” however, keeping woody vegetation and animal burrows out of the levee is critical to their maintenance.

Perez equated keeping the levees in top shape to other essential city services such as trash pick-up. “We can not afford to have any of this infrastructure fail,” he said.

He said he understands $12 million may be tough for the state to borrow, but the city is facing a difficult deadline to make the improvements.