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Sewer decision, park permit delayed at Suburban Village

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PEPPERELL — Two weeks past the time by which the owner of Suburban Village Mobile Home Park expected to have opened bids to construct a pressurized sewer line to end six years of septic system failures at the site, Board of Health (BOH) members learned last week that nothing has been done.

Raymond Lyons, attorney for park owner Rene LaFleur, assured board members that the installation of either a gravity-fed sewer line or a smaller, force-fed line is what his client is working toward, and something would be in the ground in 2006.

He was non-committal, however, as to when that might take place although he estimated actual work might take two months once started.

The park is under a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) compliance order to fix the several failing septic systems in the 52-unit mobile home park. The BOH is monitoring development, but is not in charge of the project. Its monthly update meetings with Lyons and LaFleur have become a sounding board for consistent notices of delay to the project.

The BOH worked with LaFleur throughout 2005 with the installation of an emergency leach field to augment capacity of the main field. Several times board members needed to push activity forward when stated deadlines weren’t met.

Lyons said three or four bidders are under consideration, but some are not available in April. Others could do the sewer work in summer or early fall.

“We hope to finish by this time next year,” he said. “In a conversation with the DEP there was a decision to (have work done) by the end of December 2006.”

Lyons said he did not want to be boxed into a decision on a contractor and if LaFleur were to be, he would drop plans for the pressurized system, and return to the gravity fed sewer plan that has been stalled by escalating cost figures, according to Lyons. The town and LaFleur prefer the gravity option.

If a less expensive pressurized system were installed, gravity fed pipes in the park would terminate at a pumping station that would force waste through the narrower pressurized line to town sewer lines a half mile away. The pump would be the park’s responsibility.

“If I was asked for my goal this year, it would be to get this solved,” said BOH Chairman Robert Lambert.

“This was the day we thought we’d have answers. Who’s to blame for no decision?” asked United Homeowners of Suburban Village (UHSV) President Ronald Tremblay.

LaFleur has reportedly appeals a Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denial of a variance to allow 25 more homes to be placed in the park. The collateral provided by the homes would have been used to secure bank funding for the sewer project, according to Lyons.

“No one is to blame unless you’re pushing Mr. Wirtanen to push the DPW (to discuss the sewer issue) ,” Lyons said to Tremblay. “I know Mr. Wirtanen and I have been working hard on it,” he said, adding that he is not sure whether the DPW board is ready to make a decision at its Jan. 5 meeting.

According to the BOH, no DPW discussion of Suburban Village is set for that date.

“We’re at a point where we can’t tolerate any more uncertainty,” Tremblay said.

“I fully understand the need to make special allowances for hardships or to allow delayed responses to orders to comply when a situation is clearly difficult to remedy,” Tremblay wrote.

“I do understand the DEP’s actions or inactions are beyond your board’s control, but you must have some degree of influence,” he wrote.

“As we stated in the past, the general feeling at the park is one of confidence toward the Board of Health and their handling of the Title V matter,” the letter reads. “You have a meeting scheduled for Dec. 28 … We have high hopes that you folks will be using the information brought to you by Fairlane Homes to come to a final determination of their good intent or lack thereof.”

“My hat’s off to the board and the town for being so lenient,” said Suburban Park resident Robert Lindgren. “No business would have been so. God bless you all.

“Ray, you dance pretty well,” he said. “I hope this isn’t another one like I’ve heard in the past. If I upset you, my apologies, because I have a lot at stake. I hope you and Mr. LaFleur are sincere.”

“If Mr. LaFleur were not sincere we would have taken the action of another town, he’d throw up his hands and go into receivership. In that other town people are losing their homes. Mr. LaFleur continues to invest in Pepperell,” Lyons said.

“We understand, but for two years we’ve been waiting,” Lambert replied.

“Since 1999,” Lindgren corrected.

“I think we’re at the end of the line,” BOH member Holly Bradman said. “Things are evening out. Hold tight a little longer.

“Things are further than a year ago,” Lambert agreed. “The new (septic) system is in, and Mr. LaFleur is paying Mr. Lyons every time he is here. We’re out there fighting for you. If we can make it through the winter, I think we’re all set.”

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