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PEPPERELL — Twelve residents were in attendance at the Board of Public Works meeting last week to learn the results of the 2010 sewer extension project bid openings and more importantly, the betterment fees they might be forced to pay in the coming years.

The state of the economy brought in a total of 14 bids, and angst among several residents who were hoping to influence the board to reduce the expected $5,000 per bedroom betterment fee.

“I was very pleased that we had 14 bidders,” said DPW Director Robert Lee.

The winning bid of $1,491,206 was received from Baltazar Contractors, Inc. of Ludlow.

“The town of Pepperell has made out like bandits,” said Lee, as he noted that the original engineer’s estimate was at a higher $2.1 million mark.

Factoring in all costs, including the pump station, police details, construction inspections, and a total of 320 bedrooms to be served by the extension, Lee provided the residents in attendance with an estimated betterment fee of $15,771 for a three-bedroom home. That figure was substantially higher than previous extension project betterment fees of $6,300 in 2006, $10,200 in 2007, and $11,100 in 2008.

Director Lee also made the surprise announcement that the Finance Committee was not planning to recommend moving ahead with the project at the upcoming Town Meeting.

“First of all, it has no impact on the tax rate, and it was my impression that is what FinCom was supposed to be doing their work for on the tax rate,” said Lee.

“Second of all, because a year ago, FinCom approved the money to design it. So we’re ending up in a situation where the design was approved but the construction was not,” He said.

Lee suggested that the board might want to consider a number of cost-reduction scenarios, including having the ratepayers pick up a modest portion of the cost, amounting to approximately $1 per year per ratepayer to get the betterment fee to below $15,000. By adding an additional 18 bedrooms that would be recovered over time with new construction, and having the Sewer Department pick up the cost of police details during construction and other associated costs, the betterment fee could be reduced to $14,382.

By adding the $262,000 cost of the pump station, the ratepayers would see an annual increase in their bills of $4.60, but would lower the betterment fee to $12,030.

“This is not something we have done for other projects. This is an effort to find ways to reduce costs for the current homeowners for this project,” said Chairman Greg Rice.

Karl Guild of Seminole Drive, who has a 12-year old septic system, said, “The costs just keep adding up. I just don’t see how it’s making my life better by taking that much out of my paycheck every week.”

A show of hands among the residents present indicated only three wanting to be connected.

Chairman Rice said, “If we don’t do this now and we put it off five years, we’ll have enough people who will have put in new systems. The price will be a good 30 percent higher and we’ll have a substantial fraction of people out there who now have brand new very expensive systems and they’re going to be against it.”

“This is the time that it either gets done, or that area will not be sewered,” he said.

The board agreed to reduce the betterment cost to approximately $12,030 by having the Sewer Department pick up the cost of the pump station, police details, and construction inspections, and adding 18 future bedrooms to the calculation.