Letter: Town manager urges a yes vote on sewer bond

To the editor:

I write today seeking voter support for the upcoming Oct. 10 bond vote. This $9.85 million bond will pay for major upgrades throughout the Waste Water Treatment Facility. What is it we're doing and why so costly?

One can't easily explain how the various processes work together to clean the waste stream, and therefore, pointing to one process or another as the key is difficult. This upgrade focuses on those necessary processes which, when completed, will allow the Plant to function at a high level while we plan how to complete all upgrades over the next several years.

One of the more important upgrades will be to replace 30 rotating biological contactors (RBC). These units are, in a sense, the last process to remove solids from the waste stream thereby protecting the Walloomsac River. You may recall the problems we faced in 2015 when a number of these units experienced problems with motor drives causing significant failures and, ultimately led the state to issue an assurance of discontinuance mandating replacement of the RBCs or face fines. The town's staff will undertake this portion of the project which carries an estimated cost of $4.5 million including engineering, design, and materials cost. By doing the work in-house, we will save approximately $2 million in construction cost. The other portion of the project will allow us to upgrade the screening system, the digestion systems, the electrical systems, the control systems, and add operations which will allow us to better manipulate the Plant and monitor its functions. This portion of the project carries a cost of $5.3 million including engineering and design costs.

These costs are high due mainly to the complexity of the units and the systems that must function together in order for the plant to do its job. We have operated at a high performance level over the last 30 years even with the old systems. Now we must upgrade. We must move into the 21st century. In comparison, other plants in the state have upgraded recently with costs ranging from $15.4 million to $30 million. We understand these upgrades were most likely for the entire facility. We've scaled back to keep this project focused on the highest priority needs while keeping costs as low as possible. Our sewer rates are projected to increase by just under $160 annually or about $0.44 daily. Our engineers tell us that our sewer rates are approximately $150 less annually then the average for Vermont.

I am asking for your vote. This project is essential to the continued vitality of the river and to the town's ability to grow and prosper. Please help us; please vote yes on Oct. 10. Thank you.

— Stuart A. Hurd, Bennington town manager



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