Our opinion: Vote yes on sewer bond

Posted
On Oct. 10, voters will be asked to spend nearly $10 million on upgrades to the Bennington wastewater treatment facility. If the bond passes, sewer customers can expect to pay another $37 per quarter. If they opt not to bond for the upgrades, the town could face stiff penalties and fines from the state, which will also raise the sewer bill.

Given that, the rest is pretty simple, you should vote yes on the $9.85 million bond.

That the facility needs work isn't in question. While it's running well for its age, it's old. Parts of it were built in 1962, the same year as the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1985, the same year Coca-Cola Company rolled out "New Coke," the facility got an overhaul, adding 30 "rotating biological contactors." The devices became one of the final steps in the overall wastewater treatment process. It was an important step, too, as we learned last year when a few broke down, causing the area near the Walloomsac River to stink for a few weeks.

The breakdowns also led to the town getting fined $15,000 by the Department of Environmental Conservation, in case anyone thought these problems could be ignored.

Most people's reaction to the government spending money is that it's spending too much of it. In this situation, there's reason to think it might not be spending enough. In 2012, it was thought that this project would cost $17 million. That got lowered to $13 million. Using town staff to do some of the work is how we arrive at $9.85 million.

There will be a public hearing on the bond vote on Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. at the fire facility on River Street. We'd encourage anyone inclined to vote against the bond to go and ask questions so that they may better understand the need for the bond and the consequences of putting this off.

As we've pointed out before, maintenance costs tend to get more expensive as time goes on. As far back as 2012, the town was playing catch-up on deferred maintenance with the wastewater system. At a recent Select Board meeting, a few members wondered if Bennington isn't spending enough, given what other towns put into their facilities.

Town officials have said this bond will pay for enough upgrades to keep the state from levying fines, and any added work that might need doing can be built into the budget.

We urge anyone who pays a water bill to attend the Oct. 2 forum, then vote on Oct. 10.




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