The Wilton Sewer Commission has secured additional funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for a new project – repairing the switchboards at the city’s pumping stations that keep sewage from overflowing and potentially spilling into the Souhegan River.
During their meeting on Monday, Select board member Kermit Williams, who is also an elected member of the city’s water and sanitation committee, spoke about the need for emergency repairs to one of the pumping stations and also advocated replacing the same equipment at the city’s other train station, as the original infrastructure ages.
The city has two sewage pumping stations, one on Intervale Road and one on Mill Street. Williams explained that the stations work much like a septic tank in that they have large storage areas and when they reach a certain level the waste is pumped to the processing station in Milford. At the station on Intervale Road, however, the control panel needs to be repaired. This is the mechanism that notifies the station when this level is too high.
“The panels were installed when the sewer was built in the 1980s,” said Williams. “You’re failing.”
The Sewer Commission already had to hire a septic tank to pump out the tank at Intervale station and will likely have to do it again, Williams said.
“The concern is that there is very strong potential for these to fail to the point where they overflow,” said Williams. “It’s right next to the river so this is going to go in the river, and at that point the city has a big problem.”
Williams said the Sewer Commission will tender the project and does not yet have an exact price for the repairs, but said it is valued at around $ 60,000. He asked the Select Board to consider using American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project. The funds intended to serve as COVID-19 aid are limited to specific uses, including water and sanitation infrastructure. Wilton has received approximately $ 198,000 in ARPA funding this year and expects a similar amount to be granted next year.
Selected board members Matt Fish and Kellie-Sue Boissonnault voted to approve the $ 60,000 federal budget for the repairs, with Williams abstaining from his position as sewer commissioner. However, Fish raised concerns that the water and sanitation commissions are getting too big of the pie. Earlier this fall, the Select Board approved other water and sewage projects, using ARPA funds, including new manhole covers for Wilton Main Street and some engineering work for the eventual replacement of an aqueduct on Route 101.
“We’re talking about federal funding meant to affect everyone, and we’re talking about the majority of that funding going into two systems, water and sewage, that the minority benefits and the majority don’t,” Fish said, referring to the fact that not every address in the city is supplied with municipal water and sewage.
Fish asked if the Sewage Commission could cover some of the repair costs instead of using ARPA funds to cover the overall bill.
Canal Commissioner Joanna Eckstrom said the budget and reserves of the commission will be sufficient to cover the entire project if necessary, but large expenditures are expected. Wilton is responsible for 14 percent of the operating costs of the Milford wastewater treatment plant, which will be modernized significantly over the next few years due to changing standards.
The Sewer Commission has already proposed a tariff increase of $ 20 per quarter for their usage fee and expects another increase later this year, Eckstrom said.
“We have other expenses that we have to budget for that are unfortunately passed on to our users,” she said.
Eckstom also pointed out that the repair of the pumping stations in particular was of great benefit not only to the wastewater users – the protection of the Souhegan River.
Water Commissioner Tom Schultz also pointed out that a municipal water and sewage system helps create an economic base in the city by allowing further commercial development and that it is in the best interests of the city to keep a functioning municipal system.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 extension. 244 or [email protected] She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.