Committee approves new sewer plan

SOUTHWICK – The Sewer Implementation Committee hopes its new plan to connect the school campus to sewers will be approved at a Special Fall Town Meeting.
The group unanimously approved plan “Alternate 1,” which includes running a gravity pipe from the schools to Powder Mill Road and the building of a new pump station at the bottom of the hill from the schools, as its preferred option.
The town has been given a deadline of December, 2018, to connect the schools to the sewer. A plan presented at the Spring Town Meeting failed, mainly because of a betterment fee that taxpayers would be assessed.
The Alternate 1 plan eliminates the betterment fee, but does include a connection fee.
“The connection fee doesn’t come into play until somebody connects,” said Art Pinnell, committee member.
The cost of Alternate 1 is $2.4 million. The school department would pay $1M of that and the town would have to pay the rest.
Town Engineer Richard Grannells said there is a grant available from the state that would pay about 25-percent of that and the rest would be up to the town to pay.
Department of Public Works Director Randy Brown said the funds would come from the town’s general fund. When a resident connects, they would be assessed a connection fee – which could be paid over a long term – which would go back to the general fund. The Committee does not have exact costs of what the connection fee would be, but Grannells said it could be in the range of $15,000.
The betterment fee that came with the previous plan was in the range of $25,000 and would have to be paid at once.
Residents at last night’s meeting were assured that they would not be charged unless they connected to the sewer. They were also reminded that if their septic system fails and there is a sewer line available, they are required by law to connect to it.
The Committee also approved a fallback option, which is required by the Department of Environmental Protection. The “Plan B” would be that the school department connect to the sewer using a low pressure pipe and have a pump station on its property. This plan would not allow for Powder Mill Road residents to connect. This plan would also mean the town would have to spend about $500,000 to improve the existing pump station on Powder Mill Road that currently serves about 85-percent of sewer users.
The next step for Alternate 1 is to go to the Southwick Board of Selectman, which also serve as the town’s sewer commission, and then to the Special Fall Town Meeting, which has not yet been set.

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