S'bury surveys its town sewer options


Wednesday, December 13
SHAFTSBURY — As a follow-up to the Sewer Feasibility Study conducted in town earlier this year, property owners received a survey regarding septic systems in the mail last week.

$3 million sewer

The septic system survey issue comes directly from the feasibility study, which recommended looking into installing a $3 million sewer infrastructure in the village of Shaftsbury, despite the fact that the study concluded there's no immediate need for a town system.

"Part of doing the municipal planning grant was asking residents in Shaftsbury what they wanted our community to be," said Cinda Morse, a member of the Shaftsbury Economic Development Committee and the Select Board. "One of the things that came up is that, if they didn't see themselves as a bedroom community to Bennington, they wanted to see some economic development in the village."

Morse said people suggested they'd like to have a restaurant, Laundromat and a country store, but none of these establishments can be brought to the hamlet of South Shaftsbury before a septic system is installed.

While Morse agreed there is no immediate need for the new town system, she said economic development will be difficult without it. That said, there are no plans in the works to actually install a new septic system — the town is simply investigating the possibility.

"None of those things, given the current septic function in town, have allowed for that kind of development," Morse said. "We're trying to find out all the information we need to effectively look at long-term planning for the community."

Shaftsbury resident John Tiffany, who received his survey in the mail, said he had a hard time digesting what it had to say — especially when it came down to dollars and cents.

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"How are those just 'skating by' now going to afford to pay the $3,000 hook-up fee?" Tiffany asked in a letter to the Banner. "Or the '$600 annual usage fee,' which is on top of the water fee?"

Tiffany said Shaftsbury is a bedroom community and is pretty much empty during the day. He doesn't understand how economic development will benefit the community, considering a few businesses have come and gone over the years because of a lack of customers.

"They're trying to turn Shaftsbury into something it's never been," Tiffany said. "And it's going to be very difficult and expensive."

The survey is being conducted through the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont, and was mailed to all property owners of Shaftsbury. Once filled out, the surveys will be compiled at UVM and the results given back to the Economic Development Committee in Shaftsbury.

Some of the questions on the survey include how much people would be willing to pay in order to upgrade the town system, how current systems are holding up and whether current systems are regularly serviced.

"It's really designed to explore where people are in relation to this issue," Morse said. "And to further clarify it."

In addition to economic development, Morse said new septic guidelines are going in to effect in July, and people need to be made aware of the changes.

"Some of this is recognizing that some of the rules are changing, and it's a heads-up for residents," Morse said. "If people run into problems with septic systems after July, traditional fixes may not be acceptable."


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