By LISA CAPOBIANCO
The town of Plainville is anticipating a 41 percent state reimbursement rate overall for its phosphorus upgrade project at the wastewater treatment plant.
Although the total cost of the project is estimated to be $15.76 million, said Town Manager Robert Lee, the State Department of Energy & Environmental Protection recently estimated that Plainville would receive $6.5 million in grant funds. This would leave a local cost $9 million to the town.
A state loan that carries an interest rate of 2 percent would finance the remaining local share of the project.
Town Council Chairperson Kathy Pugliese said the state reimbursement will be “an enormous help” for the town’s ratepayers, as the water pollution control fund is supported by user fees.
“The water pollution control plant has its own fund. That’s how it was set up many years ago,” said Pugliese. “We’re going to be increasing fees over the next many years in order to support this.”
Last year, the council approved a 4.8 percent increase in the new sewer user rate, which is in effect until Oct. 31. This decision stems from a sewer rate study conducted by Tighe and Bond in 2014. The goal of the study was to make recommendations on future sewer user charge increases in anticipation of the phosphorus upgrades as required by DEEP. One of the recommendations was to increase the user charges by 4.8 percent through Fiscal Year 2023.
Lee said these gradual increases were meant to minimize the initial impact on ratepayers.
“We’ve known this project has been coming for awhile,” said Lee. “It’s something we’re required to do.”
Although mandated by the state, Pugliese said the project presents a challenge to a small town like Plainville.
“We have a much smaller group of ratepayers than a larger city,” said Pugliese, adding how the town has no choice but to pursue the project.
The council hopes to send this project to referendum early next year, as there is limited time to include the project on the Nov. 7 election ballot. During the monthly Town Council meeting on Monday (Sept. 11), Lee presented a proposed schedule for the project, which involves sending information flyers to homeowners, a public information meeting and a public hearing. The proposed referendum date is Jan. 30, 2018.
Lee said the public information meeting proposed for Nov. 16 will give residents more details about the improvements needed at the water pollution control facility, the cost of the project, and the benefits of reducing phosphorus. The public also will have a chance to ask questions.
Note: This story went to press before the Town Council voted on the proposed project schedule.