Bennington OKs $9.9M sewer bond

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BENNINGTON — A majority of town voters have approved a $9.85 million bond for upgrades to the town sewer plant.

A single ballot question, asking voters whether to approve borrowing funds for the project, passed Tuesday with 520 voting in favor and 209 voting against.

State environmental officials had ordered the town to address issues with the aging wastewater treatment facility on Harrington Road.

Of the 729 total votes, 130 were absentee votes, according to Town Clerk Cassandra Barbeau, who announced the results Tuesday evening at the fire facility on River Street. The announcement was filmed by Catamount Access Television.

Of the 8,998 registered voters in Bennington and the village of North Bennington, some 8 percent of them cast ballots.

An "assurance of discontinuance" from the state Department of Environmental Conservation requires the town fix 30-year-old rotating biological contactor (RBC) units. The legal order came after breakdowns last summer interrupted the treatment process and led to sewage not being aerated, leading to multiple wastewater discharge violations into the Walloomsac River, as well as foul odors.

Parts of the facility date back over 50 years: Headworks, tanks, and some buildings were constructed in 1962. The majority of the plant was built in 1985 when it was overhauled to include a secondary treatment process with RBCs. A compost facility was built in 1990.

A general contractor would carry out some $5.3 million in various upgrades across the plant. Staff with the town's public works department would replace 30 of the plant's 32 RBC units, along with 18 new drive motors, new fiberglass covers, and associated electrical upgrades, a $4.092 million project.

Bond repayments won't begin until a year after the project's substantial completion, meaning the project won't impact sewer fees until 2020, officials have said. The project is expected to increase the quarterly flat sewer rates by $37.83 — from the $95.44 fiscal 2018 rate that Select Board members set in July, to $133.27. The annual cost to ratepayers would increase from $382 to $533.

Demolition of the RBC units would begin by mid-April 2018. Final design of the upgrades would start in November and put out to bid in April 2018. Construction would begin in June with the goal of ending by next September.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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