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'Phase II' of sewers prepare for bond, bids

Date: 3/13/2012

March 14, 2012

By Debbie Gardner

AGAWAM — Todd Brown, vice president of Tighe & Bond Consulting Engineers, told members of the Ad-Hoc Sewer Committee that design work on Phase II of the Feeding Hills Sewer Extension Project was "100 percent complete" and that the project was now waiting final permit approval from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Those permits were necessary, Brown added, because the pipeline crosses wetland areas and streams.

He gave a probable cost estimate for Phase II, which includes construction of pumping stations at Barry and Pine streets as well as the laying of sewer lines on Barry, Pine and South Westfield streets and Bradford Drive — and improvements to Pine Street — of $11, 224.

Brown said he was unsure if that figure included an approximately $1,700 carryover of funds from Phase I of the project, which City Councilor and Ad Hoc Committee Chair Robert Rossi confirmed had come in under budget.

"All we need now is to get funding [from the town] and we can go out to bid," Rossi said.

Resident Helen Chester asked if the division of the project into phases had any effect on the charge individuals were being asked to pay to hook up to the new system.

She said she recalled seeing one overall plan for the entire sewer project during earlier discussions, but now the project was being presented in pieces, with a cost attached to each phase.

"I'm looking at $3,200 for the hook up from the [street] pipe to the house, if the [distance] is 50 feet, that's $600 per foot," Chester's husband, Bill, said, adding that he had understood residents were "going to pay by the cost per foot and the size of the pipe, and also how much frontage" their property had.

Rossi explained that the $3,200 was the set hook-up fee the town established for sewers in the 1980s. Brown noted that the sewer extension was "an expensive project," and that everyone who lived in the recently completed Phase I area wishing to attach to the new sewer was being assessed that much.

Brown said the hook-up cost "is really one-tenth of what it costs to put the pipe in front of a 100-foot frontage."

Speaking as a resident, Ad Hoc committee member Ron LaRiviere indicated the discussion might be referring to three different betterment fees, "the cost of laying the pipe across a 110-foot frontage, the cost of the $3,200 betterment to bring the sewer pie to the home, and the final cost to have the pipe brought into the home and have it connected."

Last fall, Rossi provided information to Reminder Publications indicating residents in the Phase I area would be assessed $2,641 by the town for the cost of the construction project. Those wishing to hook up to the new sewer line would be assessed an additional $3,211 for the town's portion of the connection. Any additional costs for hooking up the home would be determined by the contractor hired by a homeowner.

Rossi said he was planning to contact Town Treasurer Laurel Placzek about bonding for the project, and then present the bond request to the City Council. He hoped construction on the project could begin by April.

* * *
A handful of residents attended the meeting hoping to discuss abatements for the betterment assessments on their properties.

Rossi said because all of the abatement requests had not be listed on the agenda, he could not discuss abatements except in general terms without violating open meeting laws.

He did discuss an abatement request for multiple lots brought by Joseph Czerpak of South Westfield Street, determining that the information used by Tighe & Bond to calculate the betterment costs was not complete.

Rossi told the audience that they must bring complete documentation to an abatement hearing to prove there should be a change in sewer assessment.

"If you feel as though your assessment is not fair, you have to show us what is not fair," Rossi said. "If you feel the lot [in question] is not serviceable, if there is a legal restriction [on it] or a physical restriction that would not allow the sewer to go into the lot, or if the lot is not buildable," individuals need to prove it.

Rossi said in some cases residents may need to provide deeds to show any potential alterations to their property, such as potential streets that could change the frontage of a lot.

One resident, who owns a parcel of vacant land that potentially could be used for a condominium development in the future, called his more than $400,000 sewer betterment assessment "crazy."

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