The city isn’t letting a lawsuit hold up improvements to the sewer plant.

The Board of Aldermen voted Monday to authorize short-term borrowing to begin work on upgrades to the digestors at the city’s wastewater treatment facility. Public Works Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg said he hopes bond funds will become available soon enough that the borrowing proves unnecessary.

“We’re not going to see invoices until the middle of next year,” Wennberg said Tuesday. “I don’t think there’s an enormous risk we’ll be actually borrowing money.”

Voters at town meeting approved $7.4 million in bonds for sewer projects, including $3.5 million for the digesters. However, the city has been unable to access those funds due to a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the March vote due to the tardiness of the city report. A Rutland County civil court judge threw out the lawsuit in June, but an appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court is pending. The bond funds remain unavailable.

Last month, the city voted to begin work on a $1.5 million sewer line replacement covered by the bond, paying for it from the water fund and reimbursing that with the bond money once the lawsuit was resolved.

Wennberg said that two of the city’s five digestors, which process the solids from sewage, are offline and the project will bring them online. He said the three that are online cover the city’s daily needs, but leave the city without back-up capacity should any of them fail. Wennberg also said there was a risk — though he said it was remote — that the city could lose a $1.5 million state grant for the project if it were delayed.

“It sounds like we’re just weighing risk,” Alderwoman Rebecca Mattis said Monday. “To me the risk is greater — look at the change of the price of steel. That’s the greater risk. That’s where I’m at.”

The board unanimously approved the proposal.


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