Can they swing it? Hooking up Millerton and North East with a sewer system
NORTH EAST â€” Decisions have yet to be made concerning which sewer options would best fit the town of North East and the village of Millerton â€” if and when a wastewater treatment system becomes a possibility.
The Joint Sewer Committee (JSC) met last Thursday, Jan. 29, to discuss the possibilities. On hand were engineer Robert Flores, from CT MALE Associates (he drafted the feasibility study, which is still being tweaked), Jonathan Churins, project facilitator from Dutchess County Water and Wastewater Authority, JSC Chair Robert Trotta and members Carl Stahovec, Marty Markonic and Jonathan Panzer, Mayor John Scutieri, village trustees Anne Veteran and Yosh Schulman and town Supervisor Dave Sherman.
The JSC authorized an engineering report in August to study the costs, proposed site locations, sewer system types and opinions of sewer district establishments. Those points were addressed in Floresâ€™ report, which was not distributed because it was still in draft form, but is slated for distribution in about two weekâ€™s time.
The proposed wastewater treatment plant is likely to be located on vacant land owned by the village on South Center Street, near the townâ€™s highway garage. The plant would discharge into the Webatuck Creek.
One of the big questions is just how large of an area would be covered by the sewer district. There are a number of choices, but the committee has it narrowed down to the most probable options. There is the core, which deals with the center section of the village along Route 44, in the townâ€™s commercial district. This area would not extend beyond Kelsey Brook or the American Legion Hall. It would go through the center of the village, along Main Street, around to the main section where routes 22 and 44 meet. It would also include the area of South Center Street to the vicinity of the highway garage, where the treatment plant would be located. Option A would include the area of South Main Street and the vicinity of Park Street, Park Avenue, Central Avenue, including portions of South Maple Avenue and Fish Street. Option B would include areas south of the traffic light on Route 22, past the elementary school, along Elm Avenue. Option C would include areas north of the traffic light on Route 22, along North Elm Avenue, extending to the Wakeman Road vicinity, but not including Wakeman Road. The final sewer system could include the core, A, B and C or the core, A, B, C and the entire village.
In considering which option to choose, the committee is keeping in mind that more funding is available if 51 percent of those hooked up to the sewer system are residential users. To get 51 percent, the system would have to cover at least the core, A and B. The core plus A would result in only 47 percent of users being residential.
The median househould income in the village is $36,176, below the countyâ€™s median income, which could improve the villageâ€™s chances for financing from the State Revolving Local Program and the USDA Rural Development Program.
Flores told the group there is now a chance, however remote, that millions of dollars of funding could be available due to the presidentâ€™s stimulus package. If all goes according to plan, that could mean the village and town would see between $1 million and $10 million in aid to construct its sewer. Thatâ€™s clearly a big difference from the $500,000 maximum grant Rural Development has previously said it could contribute to the project.
â€œTypical funding agencies like the EFC [Environmental Facilities Corps] and Rural Development fund entire projects without the stimulus package, and those agencies fund $500,000,â€ Flores said.
â€œAnd thatâ€™s the maximum,â€ Trotta added.
Flores said if the town and village were to be so fortunate as to get millions of dollars worth of funding, whether that be through grants, low or zero interest loans, or a combination of both, they would use it to fund a large-scale project including the construction of the wastewater plant and the pumps.
â€œYouâ€™re going to need a grant of about $4 million to get this project going,â€ he said. â€œIf it was last year, you would have zero chance.â€
Panzer recommended everyone present form a political action group.
â€œWe should speak to our representatives,â€ he said. â€œI want to know what itâ€™s going to cost to engineer this project.â€
Flores responded it would take 20 percent of the capital cost, which he estimated would equate to roughly $1.6 million.
â€œTwenty percent? Thatâ€™s insane,â€ Panzer said. â€œSo this is not something thatâ€™s just going to happen. Is it a worthwhile project that people are going to commit to? Itâ€™s not economically viable for our tax base, but itâ€™s a viable project. Itâ€™s not a large sum of money. I think we can get the funding to make it happen.â€
â€œYouâ€™re not going to get people to back this up until you tell them whatâ€™s going to come out of their pockets, because thatâ€™s what people care about,â€ Veteran said. It was calculated that the most inclusive option, the core, A, B, C and the entire village, would cost sewer customers roughly $100 a month.
â€œBut thatâ€™s short-term vision,â€ Panzer said. â€œThe long-term vision is this is whatâ€™s going to be the foundation for future growth.â€
â€œSome people may not want growth,â€ Veteran replied. â€œThere are lots of places that have moratoriums and donâ€™t want to grow. We donâ€™t all want to be mini-cities, little Westchesters.â€
â€œI think we can all agree we need a sewer,â€ Scutieri said. â€œOne of the questions Iâ€™ve had is, what do you do first?â€
Flores said securing funds is one of the first steps, as is deciding on the sewer district itself. He said once the engineering report is finalized, it can be used to request a specific amount of funding. Another big decision to make is who will own the system. Currently the village owns the water system, although the town has ownership of its portion. A similar arrangement can be made with the sewer district. The county can also step in and take ownership of the sewer district, but that might rule out some funding options as the countyâ€™s median income is higher and therefore it would not be eligible for as many grants.
Although the expense will be great, even with financial aid, those present last week agreed the longer the two municipalities wait, the higher the costs will climb.
â€œIn 10 to 15 years, itâ€™s going to be mandatory that there be central sewers in populations like this,â€ Trotta said. â€œAnd then there are going to be very significant costs.â€
The matter may eventually have to go to a permissive referendum to get public approval if itâ€™s to come to fruition â€” a point that has to be checked on by the village attorney.
The next step, meanwhile, is to prepare a resolution for the JSC, which could not act last week because it didnâ€™t have a quorum to vote on any proposed motions. The draft report will have to be finalized and circulated to the town and village boards, as well as to members of the Joint Sewer Committee. Then applications will have to be filed among many agencies for grants and loans.