$1.9M sewer extension could land before Town Meeting in March – Bennington Banner

MANCHESTER — A bond authorization for part of a planned sewer system expansion might join cannabis sales on the Town Meeting warning in March.

The Selectboard on Tuesday heard an overview of that proposal from Town Manager John O’Keefe, consulting engineer Christina Haskins and town water and sewer supervisor Eric Severance.

The full $1.9 million proposal, in three phases, would extend sewer service up Main Street from Cemetery Avenue to Hunter Park Road, the road leading to Riley Rink and an industrial park. Officials outlined where and how it would be built, and how connection fees would be used as an incentive to get property owners on the system sooner rather than later.

Connection fees, O’Keefe said, could start at $9 per gallon for small houses, mobile homes and senior housing, rising to $12 per gallon by 2026. Larger houses would start at $12 per gallon and rise to $15 by 2026. Commercial properties and hotels would start at $14 per gallon and rise to $17 per gallon by 2026. The town’s existing system charges $12 per gallon at present.

O’Keefe told the board he expects the first two phases, aided by houses presently under construction on Main Street, would produce about $450,000 in revenue. Those dollars, along with federal dollars distributed through the state clean water revolving fund, would make the $1.9 million project “a surprisingly easy lift,” he said.

How much would that cost property owners would greatly depend on each building, Severance said.

At the same time, the town plans to begin planning for an expansion of sewer service on Richville Road, O’Keefe said. Resident Brian Benson, attending on Zoom, asked why the Richville project doesn’t take precedence, given that it’s in the town aquifer zone. O’Keefe said potential legal hurdles involving the Green Mountain Road development — which has a privately owned sewer system and pumping station — could result in delays.

Haskins said the town would not need to approve a bond authorization for the entire $1.9 million. Rather, it could bond for the share of money it needs to finish the job — an estimated $750,000. Doing so would help the town’s position on the state priority list for clean water dollars, she explained.

“We won’t know until May what subsidy amounts will look like but need to get on the priority list in February,” she said. “Getting on the list doesn’t cost you anything.”

Bill Drunsic, who is building the new housing on Main Street and has two other projects, a housing development and a hotel waiting in the wings, said if the project were to move forward this year, it would save him the trouble and expense of building a septage system. “I’d rather support this infrastructure,” he said.

Greg Sukiennik covers government and politics for Vermont News & Media. Reach him at gsukiennik@benningtonbanner.com.