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Second phase of sewer project hits speed bump

Date: 9/26/2012

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM — Mayor Richard Cohen declined to sponsor the resolution for phase two of the Southwest Area Sewer Extension Project, after he received a draft for a $10,469,500 authorization for bonding from City Councilor and chair of the Administrative Sub-Committee, Robert Rossi.

Cohen's main objection was to the financial obligation created by the project to residents. "As a community, we can only bond $10 million per year," Cohen said. "It's my job to be fiscally responsible and help people with problems. I will not — in this economic climate — put this burden on the taxpayers and businesses. I will not put any businesses out of business or taxpayers out of their homes."

The projected number of residential sewer hookups also troubled Cohen because doing so will not be a mandatory requirement. "If people have a good septic system, why would they hookup?" he said. "The estimate is for 128 potential hookups, but what if only four in 6000 [residents/businesses] hookup? It doesn't add up [to the cost projected cost]."

Rossi told Reminder Publications, "I am totally perplexed that at the eleventh hour, the mayor still had questions. We've been meeting for this phase two project for more than a year and the mayor was never there. We're all ready to go out to bid and the mayor now has questions?"

He continued, explaining the cost of the project. "This price of this phase is for construction of the sewers, for the building of two pumping stations and for capital improvements, as needed on Pine Street for example," Rossi said. "The cost of the betterments for each person is $3,000, which was already projected. To hookup it will cost [an additional] $3,000. We will offer a payment plan of up to 20 years [to repay the $6,000.] If a resident moves or transfers the title, the loan will have to be satisfied at that time."

In his letter in response to Rossi's proposal Cohen stated, "I believe there may be alternatives for those in the affected areas that could benefit them in a timelier manner without placing such a large financial burden on our community and taxpayers."

When asked for specific options, Cohen responded that he's currently looking into it.

"I can't offer any alternatives," Rossi said. "There are none. We were prudent and frugal [in designing] this project. It's very, very critical [for the needs of the community] that we get this done."