As part of its exploration of wastewater options for Mallets Bay, the Planning Commission revisited the option of a sewer line.
The commission, charged by the selectboard with reporting on the town’s options following a failed sewer line vote in March, has narrowed its focus to three possibilities: land conservation, a community septic system, and a sewer line connecting to the town’s existing lines.
On July 30, the planning commission held a workshop to help educate folks about a possible sewer option.
Director of Public Works Bryan Osborne began the meeting by outlining what area the sewer line would cover.
According to Osborne, the proposed system would cover Inner Malletts Bay, West Lakeshore Drive, East Lakeshore Drive, and Goodsell Point with a transmission line connecting over to the Severance Corners area, tying into the town’s existing system. The proposal addresses all 289 properties identified by the planning commission as at risk, as well as any future development that would occur in the area.
“It would remove the largest source of documented human waste bacteria in Malletts Bay,” Osborne said, noting that construction of sewers in Malletts Bay does not contribute more or less to stormwater runoff, another issue under the water quality umbrella.
The estimated total construction cost, including engineering, permitting, and land acquisition, clocks in at $14.3 million – the same price tag of the initial sewer line proposal voters shot down – and carries the same 15 percent funding from local option taxes (LOT).
In the initial capital project, grants would cover 25 percent of the project, with the last 60 percent covered by a low-interest state loan. Annual operation and maintenance costs per year would be $104,982 per year, paid for by user fees.
“Effectively, in the end, user fees will have funded 75 percent of the project with a remaining 25 percent funded by grants,” said Osborne. “Ninety six percent of all properties in Colchester will pay no additional cost the project.”
As far as the timeline goes, if the Malletts Bay sewer project were to be approved, the final design would take about twelve months to complete and then an estimated two years to build.
“This plant could run 24/7, 365,” said Osborne, referring to its auxiliary power and continuous automated monitoring system. “If a problem occurs, real live people are notified and able to respond.”
The annual debt taken on by a low-interest state loan would be paid off in thirty years.
One of the complaints about the previous sewer proposal centered around the use of local option tax funds to help offset high costs. During a public forum at the beginning of the summer, many residents questioned why they should pay for a sewer line they’re not using, as LOT funding comes from an additional sales tax charged by Colchester businesses.
In public forums held before the March vote, some residents wondered whether using so much LOT funding was a good idea, and whether the funding could be better used to lower property taxes. However, LOT funds cannot be used to lower taxes, but are designated for capital improvement projects.
Osborne noted in his presentation that 87 percent of LOT funds come from out of town shoppers—not residents, and that the project would use no property taxes.
Since the failed sewer line vote last March, the selectboard has elected a new chair, Jeff Bartley, and filled a vacant seat, Pam Loranger, who currently serves as chair of the planning commission. Loranger will vacate her position as chair of the planning commission in August before assuming her seat on the town selectboard.
Throughout the summer, the commission has held workshops, public forums, surveys, and walk-and-talks to increase awareness and outreach among voters, and hopes to wrap up its research this month and present options to the selectboard in September.
Should the selectboard decide that a sewer line is the most sensible option, the town could be faced with a repeat of the March vote.