Sewer bond vote is Tuesday

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BENNINGTON — Voters on Tuesday will be asked to approve borrowing $9.85 million for upgrades to the town's sewer plant.

State environmental officials have ordered the town to address the aging wastewater treatment facility on Harrington Road.

An "assurance of discontinuance" from the state Department of Environmental Conservation requires the town fix 30-year-old rotating biological contactor (RBC) units. The legal order came after breakdowns last summer interrupted the treatment process and led to sewage not being aerated, leading to multiple wastewater discharge violations into the Walloomsac River, as well as foul odors.

Parts of the facility date back over 50 years: Headworks, tanks, and some buildings were constructed in 1962. The majority of the plant was built in 1985 when it was overhauled to include a secondary treatment process with RBCs. A compost facility was built in 1990.

The town's engineering consultants have been Aldrich & Elliott of Waterbury. A general contractor would carry out some $5.3 million in various upgrades across the plant. Staff with the town's public works department would replace 30 of the plant's 32 RBC units, along with 18 new drive motors, new fiberglass covers, and associated electrical upgrades, a $4.09 million project.

Bond repayments won't begin until a year after the project's substantial completion, meaning the project won't impact sewer fees until 2020. Officials have said the project would increase the quarterly flat sewer rates by $37.83. The current quarterly flat sewer rate is $95.44; Select Board members set that rate for fiscal 2018 in July.

A preliminary study presented in 2012 estimated it would cost about $17 million, a number later reduced to $13 million before officials put it on the back burner for several years. The latest proposal is $9.85 million, a number that calls for staff for the town working on part of the project.

The town is "undertaking the major upgrades necessary to operate this facility properly and meet or exceed our discharge permit limits," Town Manager Stu Hurd wrote in a memo to board members last month. "The savings generated by the town staff's willingness to undertake the RBC replacements is saving in excess of $2 million."

Demolition of the RBC units would begin by mid-April 2018. Final design of the upgrades would start in November and put out to bid in April 2018. Construction would begin in June with the goal of ending by next September.

Polls will be open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voting for Bennington residents will be held at the River Street fire facility. Residents who live in North Bennington will vote at the village trustees' office on Depot Street.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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