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Attorney proposes options to move forward with sewer extension

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

PEPPERELL — The proposed sewer line extension to the Suburban Village Mobile Home Park took center stage at the Board of Public Works meeting.

Although it was not advertised as a public hearing, a dozen area residents were in attendance.

Attorney Ray Lyons, representing the owner of the park, Renee LaFleur, and Fairlane Mobile Homes Realty Trust, was there to propose two motions to enable his client to move forward with a gravity line extension. LaFleur was also in attendance.

Construction estimates for a gravity system the board preferred came in at $875,000, said Lyons, while a pressure system was $397,000.

A pressure system, although cheaper to install, would be a private system, so deemed by the Department of Environment Protection, he said. Such a private line would prevent any connection by residents along its nearly mile long route.

Fourteen of the 33 homeowners along the proposed route, who were recently contacted by Lyons, have expressed interest in connecting to a new sewer line. Some have even agreed to put a down payment on a connection.

Lyons suggested that a modest investment by the board today totaling $149,770 in application and benefits fees reinvested into the project, could result in approximately $700,000 saved in future sewer construction costs. Another $150,000 investment by LaFleur, and additional savings of $80,000 proposed by the Department of Public Works relating to the depth of the pipe and changes in infrastructure could bring a gravity line closer to reality.

Lyons also asked the board to give permission to public works Director Robert Lee to work with the engineers over the next several weeks to further reduce the cost of the project.

”I don’t believe it should come close to a $477,000 difference,” said Lee.

With some quick calculations from Commissioner Paul Tierney, an experienced contractor, Lee explained his rationale citing the rate of installation as one of the primary cost drivers. Lee estimated the difference between a gravity line and a pressure line should be in the range of $125,000 to $175,000, not the $477,835 reported by Lyons.

Lee’s reluctance to accept Lyons’ figures also factored into Lee’s concerns that the construction bids did not include proper pricing comparisons.

”I don’t believe the request for waived fees being made tonight makes any sense,” said Lee. “The request is not justified. DPW cannot afford it.”

If the engineers working on the sewer design revised the pressure system design to accommodate town regulations, it would likely increase the cost of the pressure line, said Sewer Division Superintendent Mark Richardson.

Reiterating the board’s position, Commissioner Lou Shattuck said, “Putting a system in that (residents) couldn’t connect to, I couldn’t be in favor of. I have to see better numbers.”

Tierney added some optimism to the discussion when he said, “I think we can close the gap here.”

”I think this is all about everyone biting some bullets,” said Lyons.

”I’d like to see it work, too,” said Chairman George Clark.

Lee said he discussed the fees with town counsel, who said they could be waived if value was being received in return.

”It’s a decision that the board can make,” said Lee.

A decision would have to be made on Lyons’ request for reinvestment of the fees, said Clark. Board members agreed to table any decision until the Feb. 16 meeting.

In other business, Lee said the department was looking at reconstructing High Street to extend it to the intersection with Canal Street. High Street is a dead-end that stops about 800 feet from Canal Street.

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