Village to fund additional sewer system improvements with no interest loan

The village is taking advantage of its interest-free state “hardship” loan and a project that has come in well under budget to make additional improvements to the municipal sewer system in hopes of preventing further problems down the road.

Trustee and Deputy Mayor John Basile has recommended further enhancements to the sewage treatment plant using the majority of what remains of a $3.75 million, 0 interest construction loan from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp (EFC). The loan was granted more than two years ago so the village could meet terms of a consent decree issued by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) mandating the capital improvements to reduce the infiltration of ground water into the village sewer collection system.

In the spring of 2012, the Village Board of Trustees awarded $1.8 million in contracts to the four lowest bidders to make upgrades and repairs to the sewer systems in the village and in the town’s Castle Cliffs Sewer District. Bids on the project, which now is about complete, came in much lower than expected. Since that time, the village applied for and has been granted a two-year extension on the EFC construction loan to take on other sewer improvements that are “sorely needed,” Basile said.

“The EFC loan has been very valuable for us” in that it saves the village thousands of dollars in interest payments, said Basile, who presented several new repair options to Village Trustees at the Feb. 18 monthly meeting. “This may be the only time we have (no interest) money like this available to do what we need to do.”

The new enhancements, Basile proposed, “will provide immediate relief for problems that have been ongoing at the sewer treatment plant since it was built.”

Several layers to the sewage improvement project

The village sewage improvement project has come in several layers. The original sewer system repairs awarded in May, 2012 called for replacing older sewer pipeline where needed village-wide and at Castle Cliffs, repairing older pipes with an epoxy-coated liner, rehabilitating and sealing various manholes, and making upgrades to some of the village’s eight pump stations, including installing backup pumps in some locations. The older pipes where epoxy-coated and the replacements are expected to add another 30-40 years of life to the collection system.

As that work was proceeding, some 11 inches of rain fell last June causing a manhole to overflow with sewage on Bunce Lane on three separate occasions. The Village Engineer spent several weeks investigating the problem and what corrective action to take ultimately recommending corrections for the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to approve.

In the end, the Board has approved the replacement of the 1930s 6-inch main with an 8-inch pipe from the Bunce Lane pump station to the sewer plant. In addition, the old leaking clay tile sewer line connecting Colonial and Major Dickenson streets, which was shown to cause significant ground water infiltration, will be replaced.

Village Trustees passed a resolution last fall to put out bids for this new round of work, not to exceed $400,000. The pipe will be laid using a “directional boring” method so the excavation of property owners’ lawns would not be necessary. The village has been securing easements to begin the work which will start in the spring.

The new enhancements, approved by the Village Board Feb. 18, will cause more lining of sewer pipes, improve the removal of debris from the collection system and redistribute flow at the sewer plant plus the addition of variable speed drives for the pumps at the main two pump stations. This action raises the price of the overall sewer project to about $3,419,000 – still nearly $300,000 below the $3,746,000 EFC loan allocation.

This means a village property owner with a home assessed at $140,000 will pay about $40 more per year to fund all of the sewer improvements. That increase, however, would not become effective for several years.

“No one likes to pay more taxes, but this is a chance to modernize your antiquated sewer system at a no interest rate,” said Mayor Ernest Martin. “It’s better than waiting and having to go back five or 10 years down the road when it’s going to cost more, much more. Let’s get everything done, get it right and get it over.”

Trustee Ellen Vomacka agreed with the Mayor’s assessment. “I don’t like the tax implications but I feel we have to do what’s necessary,” she said. “Our infrastructure is very old and it has to be repaired or we’re going to keep having problems. It has to be addressed now because it’s dire. We’re doing only what is necessary and that’s the bottom line.”