Rutland City voters will decide two infrastructure bond questions at town meeting on March 5. Bond Article 1 seeks $7.4 million for critically needed improvements at the wastewater treatment plant and sewer projects on Meadow Street and the streets near Rutland Intermediate School to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs). A CSO occurs when rainfall or snowmelt overwhelms the sewer system forcing untreated stormwater and wastewater into East Creek and Otter Creek.
Grants and other state aid are expected to reduce the amount to be repaid by about $3.4 million. The cost to the typical homeowner on their water/sewer bill would be about $4.43 per billing quarter. However, a large water bond will be paid off at the same time this bond would impact rates. If the mayor and aldermen choose to do so, this cost would be offset by the savings and there would be no increase in the combined water and sewer rates.
At the treatment plant, two “digesters” and related equipment need to be upgraded, some of which has been in service since 1961. Currently, we are operating with only 60 percent of our solids-handling capacity due to worn out equipment. Approval of the bond would bring us back to 100 percent.
Last year, it was discovered that a critical 1972 sewer main connecting the River Street pump station and the wastewater treatment plant is failing. If it is not replaced, its failure will result in more CSOs. Approval of the bond will allow a replacement main to be installed without extended delay.
The Agency of Natural Resources has issued an enforcement order requiring the city to address CSOs. The city has made substantial progress addressing CSOs over the years but more needs to be done. Two CSO projects are included in the Article 1 bond.
The first is the next phase of the northwest neighborhood sewer separation project that was completed recently in the lower Library Avenue area. This new project would install separated stormwater sewers from Grove Street to Main Street between Crescent and Library/Kendall. The project will install 4,700 feet of new storm sewers, replace 800 feet of 1889 vintage combined sewers, rehabilitate 475 feet of 1923 vintage sewers, replace 1,400 feet of undersized water mains, replace 3,000 feet of failed sidewalks and install 2,000 feet of new curbing. When completed, the project will relieve stormwater eruptions on West Street, reduce street flooding and sewer backups in the neighborhood and reduce combined sewer overflows throughout the system.
The second project removes Meadow Street stormwater from the combined sewer system. A total of 14 catch basins on Meadow Street, Traverse Place and West Street are to be disconnected from the sewer and will discharge into a new stormwater system. This project will reduce CSOs at the Meadow Street (East Creek) outfall and make major improvements to the street itself.
Bond Article 2 seeks $3 million for bridge and culvert work around the city. This is a continuation of the bridge bond that was approved in 2012 that funded the local cost of replacing Dorr, Ripley and Forest Street bridges, and the Killington Avenue culvert. The failing culverts to be replaced under Bond Article 2 are on Park Street, Grove Street, Lincoln Avenue, Allen Street and Church Street. In addition, repairs will be made to the piers of the bridge on Grove Street near the Country Club.
The cost to retire a $3 million bond is approximately $100,000 per year, or one cent on the tax rate, or $15 per year for a typical house assessed for $150,000. However, the 1999 police station bond, which requires higher payments, is scheduled to be retired at the same time as the proposed bond would impact taxes, so there would be no net increase in debt payments if Bond Article 2 is approved.
There will be a public informational meeting on both Bond Articles on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the Intermediate School cafeteria on Library Avenue.
Jeff Wennberg is the commissioner of the Rutland City Department of Public Works.