SOUTHWICK – Town Meeting voters approved an article to spend $2.2 million on a parallel sewer interceptor last night, of which $621,000 would be paid via a land grant and the rest would be financed through a low-interest loan.
Residents questioned how the loan would be repaid.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Arthur Pinell said the funds would come from “future betterments” that would come once the interceptor was installed, allowing for expansion of the town’s sewer system.
Pinell also told residents that the town is required to install the pipe.
“This is not a glamorous consideration, but it’s necessary,” said Pinell. “Currently, the town uses a pipe in Westfield that is not owned or controlled by the town.”
When Southwick first installed Phase I of its sewer system, it contracted with the City of Westfield to use a pipe to connect to the city’s wastewater treatment facility that was owned, but not used, by the city. Per contract, Westfield allowed for use of the pipe, but required Southwick to eventually install a parallel pipe and vacate Westfield’s pipe.
Westfield City Engineer Mark Cressotti has said the city now needs its pipe back.
Resident Gary Hoover asked why funding for the pipe was not included in the original agreement, which cost Southwick more than $5 million.
“I suspect it was purely an economic decision,” said Pinell. “and would have driven the cost of Phase I even higher.”
Resident Freda Brown implored Town Meeting to vote in favor of the article.
“By voting yes tonight we will be honoring our commitment,” she said. “By voting yes tonight we will not be wasting $5.4 million we’ve already invested. By voting yes tonight, we will not be flushing down the toilet the best deal we will ever get for this project.”
The majority of voters also approved an article to purchase land owned by Seth Kellogg to be used as passive recreation and conservation land for $540,000. Of that, the town would use $185,000 of Community Preservation funds and the state would pay the rest.
A trust for the 134 acres of land would be held by the Winding River Land Conservancy and would include conservation restrictions.
A neighbor of the land expressed concern because he said he owns property within Kellogg’s property and he wants to make sure he has right of way to access it.
Town Counsel Benjamin Coyle said as long as the right of way was valid, he could.
“Any valid right of way would be in the deed,” said Coyle. “If it’s not valid and legal, you’ll have to look at your options.”
The neighbor also said he believes $4,000 an acre for the land was too much.
Another neighbor, Dan Oleksak, who lives in Granville, said he did have right of way in his deed and planned to use it.
“And I think $4,000 is a good price. In fact, I’d sign a purchase and sale agreement on my property tonight,” he said.
Some residents asked if the property could be sold and generate taxes for the town.
The response was that Kellogg could sell it to anyone he wanted, but he did not want the land developed. Another resident asked why the town continues to purchase land for conservation.
“Many years ago we got the Community Preservation Commission together to receive funds to preserve the rural character of the town and provide passive recreation – and this does both,” said Conservation Commission Chairman Christopher Pratt.
The town also approved funding a new water tank, among other items.