Danbury renames sewer plant after John Oliver
DANBURY — Comedian John Oliver’s wish has come true.
City Council overwhelmingly voted Thursday evening to rename Danbury’s wastewater treatment facility the “John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant” after the HBO host who once invited Danbury residents to a “thrashing.”
“Congratulations, Mr. Oliver,” Mayor Mark Boughton said after the council approved the resolution 18 to 1, with one abstention. “You now have a poop plant named after you.”
With the new name will come $55,000 to Connecticut charities from Oliver and a community fundraiser that could raise at least $100,000 for 10 area food banks. Donors who give at least $500 can receive a tour of the plant.
The renaming was largely popular among residents, with the council receiving about 100 letters in support. Many said the back-and-forth between the city and Oliver brought them joy during the coronavirus pandemic.
But some council members had been reluctant to get on board.
“While I appreciate the humor during a time when we could all use a laugh, I personally don't find anything funny about insulting our community or least of all threatening violence to our children,” said council member John Esposito, who voted against the name.
“Sorry to be a party pooper here,” he added. “That’s just really how I feel.”
But other council members said the name was humourous.
“This was a much-needed laugh,” council member Roberto Alves said. “If John Oliver wants a poop factory named after him, in his own words, ‘cool.’”
The new name should be considered “ceremonial” and would not affect any borrowing process for the ongoing upgrades to the plant, said Laslo Pinter, deputy corporation counsel.
That helped council member Paul Rotello, who had been against the idea, support the resolution.
“It’s all in fun,” he said.
Council member Bob Taborsak abstained, noting voters approved borrowing $102 million to upgrade the plant. He said he would have supported naming the facility after someone connected to it, such as an engineer who designed it.
“This doesn’t mean I don’t want to see the food banks or the teachers get more money,” he said. “I believe there are other ways it could be done.”
Because of the nature of the facility, Boughton said it was unlikely anyone else would want his or her name on it.
“I don't know if an engineer would want a sewer plant named after him,” he said. “John Oliver needs this naming. He wants this sewer plant named after him.”
After Oliver ranted about Danbury on his show “Last Week Tonight” in August, the mayor joked about naming the sewer plant after Oliver. The comedian then begged the city to follow through and offered $55,000 in donations to local charities.
Oliver is supposed to attend the ribbon cutting and provide the sign with his name.
The back-and-forth brought greater attention to the city.
The Danbury Hat Tricks and 8-year-old Danbury resident Caio P. Leaf were featured and praised on Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” after they clapped back at the comedian’s comments.
Although Oliver’s donations were contingent on the renaming, he has already donated to Danbury teachers’ projects on Donors Chose, a crowdfunding site. Boughton said Oliver gave about $30,000 to the teachers, which is $5,000 more than he pledged.
The Connecticut Food Bank, which is supposed to receive $25,000, did not return a request for comment.
ALS Connecticut has not received its promised $5,000 yet.
“We are anxiously awaiting any news of his contribution to the chapter but have not at this point heard anything,” said Sandy Tripodi, executive director.