Committee looks at next steps to create wastewater district
AMENIA — Noting a long history of searching for a solution to the town’s septic problems in the commercial center, the wastewater committee asked for town board approval of a next step at the regular meeting of the town board on Thursday, May 18.
“It has been on the agenda for 50 years,” said wastewater committee Chair Charlie Miller, asking the town board to approve the creation of a map, plan and report to establish a wastewater district, an essential step toward applying and qualifying for grant funding.
The commercial center has a high-water table underlying small lots, Miller said, combining to create septic problems.
A 2022 study by Tighe and Bond, reporting on its research in 2021, outlined a scope of work that detailed its recommendation for the type of system that would best serve the town. In a subsequent survey, Miller said that 58% of residents surveyed indicated that they believed that there is a problem with existing septic systems and 38% said that they would want to connect to a town sewer system.
The Tighe and Bond plan recommended horizontal directional boring as the method for laying the pipe, eliminating the need for trenching and excavating lawns, the traditional method of the past.
Miller said that as the planning stands now, 233 parcels would be included in the wastewater district, nearly the same boundaries that define the present water district.
The wastewater committee searched for possible sites for the treatment facility and has determined that the best course would be to discharge the treated water into Amenia Stream.
Estimated project costs could total $19 million to cover engineering and construction, allowing for 30% in contingencies and an inflation rate of 4%. Operations and maintenance of the system are presently estimated at $181,000, costs to be borne by the district users.
Engagement of the community in the planning phases has been and will continue to be important to the process, Miller said, noting that there have been several community information sessions.
Survey respondents are strongly in favor of forming a wastewater district to enable the committee to go forward with applying for grant funding, Miller said.
The next step in that process is to create what is termed a “map, plan and report,” Miller explained.
The wastewater committee recommended to the town the services of engineering consultants LaBerge Group of Albany and TRK (Tabner, Ryan & Keniry) Attorneys, also of Albany, to carry out the mapping and planning phases for the project and create the report.
Town Supervisor Victoria Perotti asked how the services would be funded. Miller replied that the wastewater committee has $20,000 available in its budget now and the balance of $14,000 would come from a planning grant.
Councilman Damian Gutierrez expressed his concern that the town board has not been sufficiently involved in the process.
“We as a town board have not discussed this,” Gutierrez said, although he said that it is clear that the map, plan and report are the next step.
Councilwoman Vicki Doyle noted that in the fall of 2022, the town board had been asked for funding for the map, plan and report.
Richard LaBerge of the Laberge Group said that much work had been done already within the Tighe and Bond feasibility study and its report.
“There is a lot of money out there for wastewater,” LaBerge said, adding that probable funding sources and the user costs for each funding scenario helps people to make a decision.
“You have to create the district first,” Ryan explained.
Councilman Brad Rebillard questioned the plan to discharge clean, treated effluent into Amenia Stream because the Silo Ridge development is already discharging its treated effluent into the same waterway. He was concerned about the effect of the added volume.
Miller responded that the map, plan and report would include data on that question.
Acting upon a related resolution, the town board authorized Rebillard to negotiate the purchase of property at 74 Lake Amenia Road, with the prospect of converting the home to a new use as the town’s first unit of workforce housing. Additional acreage on the site is seen as a possible location for the wastewater treatment facility that would discharge its clean effluent into Amenia Stream.
In accepting the responsibility, Rebillard clarified that he is acting as a consultant in the matter, representing the town board as a consultant to the housing board.