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Proposed Wethersfield Sewer Expansion Fails to Pass

Oct 30, 2017 07:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson

Special Town Meeting of Oct. 11, 2017

At Bellingham’s Oct. 11 Special Town Meeting, residents voted against moving forward with the proposed $7.5 million sewer expansion in the Wethersfield neighborhood.

This near-unanimous vote followed several meetings with residents and questionnaires sent to households that would be affected by the expansion, but a clear consensus was not able to be found. A $90,000 study approved by voters last October found the Wethersfield neighborhood to be an ideal candidate for sewer expansion and determined that it was feasible for Bellingham’s sewer system to support an increase of more than 400 homes.

With major construction looming on Taunton Street, town officials wanted to know, before moving forward, if a sewer system would be included in the plans.

“This is driven by a desire to reconstruct Taunton Street,” Department of Public Works Director Donald DiMartino said regarding the expansion.

“We’ve got to know whether a sewer project would be included in that or not.”

The plan proposed would have been a significant investment for those directly involved in the sewer expansion. Homeowners involved would have paid $4.5 million of the estimated $7.5 million cost in the form of a $14,000 betterment fee assessed to each household, even if they continued with their own septic system.
The betterment fee would have been paid over a 20-year period, with an estimated $260 assessed each quarter. If affected residents sold their home during that 20-year period, they would have been required to pay the outstanding balance of the betterment fee at that time.
The remaining $3 million would have been paid by the rest of the town, at an estimated $25 per household per year.

Residents who chose to opt into the town sewer system also would’ve had to pay to connect their pipes to the town system, in addition to the betterment fee. The cost would vary considerably for each household, depending on the layout of their system and whom they would hire.

Regarding the cost to connect, DiMartino said, “Even though the DPW would grant permits to put the pipe in, we have no idea what the cost would be; it’s a relationship between the property owner and a licensed drain layer, but they can vary widely.”

Ultimately, residents expressed skepticism regarding the potential cost and the disadvantage to those who wanted to keep their own septic system.

“The $14,000 is an estimate and can change upon construction, which indicates to me there’s a good possibility that $14,000 is going to be significantly higher than what’s being proposed tonight,”said resident Carole Pleau.

Approval from 2/3 of the voters was required. Not getting that—to the dismay of of some and the relief of others—the proposed sewerage expansion for the Wethersfield neighborhood failed to pass.

NOTE:  Several of the articles on the warrant were tabled, so the Special Town Meeting is slated to resume on November 29, at 7:30 pm, at the Bellingham High School auditorium, in order to vote on the remaining articles.





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