By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM At last week's City Council meeting approximately 20 passionate Feeding Hills residents and over 200 others swayed the council to table an ordinance that would have furthered the development of the proposed Sewer Extension Project.
The ordinance, which called for the establishment of a "Special Sewer Improvement District," was one of two sewer ordinances proposed before the council this year. At the council's Jan. 22 meeting this ordinance moved to a second of three readings by a vote of nine to one City Councilor Robert Rossi voted in opposition and City Councilor Jill Simpson was absent.
The other ordinance, which established an "Enterprise Fund" for wastewater operation, was passed at the council's Jan. 22 meeting by a vote of 10 to zero.
John Stone, superintendent of Public Works, previously told Reminder Publications that the two ordinances were essential to establish funding mechanisms for the $31.2 million project.
City officials had called the proposed 18.2-mile sewer extension into approximately 900 Feeding Hills residences as a necessary endeavor because of health hazards due to some resident's failing septic systems.
However, each resident voiced his or her strong opposition for the project and their endorsement of septic systems at last week's meeting.
Many residents cited the cost of the sewer extension project $19,650 per household to be paid over 20 years as their main objective.
Melissa Gillis of 10 Middle Lane, said she was in favor of sewers but not at the city's proposed cost. "Neither is it a benefit to have a sewer system, nor is it a detriment to have a working septic system," she said.
Gillis asked the council if the projected cost per household included any additional fees such as the cost for hookups and additional piping from the main pipes into the residence.
Many residents in attendance of the council meeting had previously signed the "Petition to Prevent the Town of Agawam From Imposing Unfair Costs Associated with Sewer Improvement on Feeding Hills Residents," delivered to Town Hall late last month. Sixty-seven Feeding Hills residents signed the petition which states, "We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to either find a more fair and equitable means to implement this upgrade or to stop it entirely."
In an interview with Reminder Publications, Sandra Rescigno of 651 Barry St. said she signed the petition because she believes the financial obligations for residents are "unfair" and "too big a burden." She added that she endorsed the petition because she, like other residents, were not comfortable about the possibility of being forced into having a sewer system.
She said that now at the age of 72 she is a retired widow on a fixed income. "I don't know how people like me who are retired can afford anything like this."
Rescigno explained that having raised three children in her home on Barry Street she has never had a significant problem with her septic system. She said she pays approximately $180 per year to have the septic system cleaned.
"I'm not against sewers but I can't afford what they're asking," Rescigno said.
At the City Council meeting, Dennis Stempel of 85 Christopher Lane, urged the council to take no further action until the residents can be included in the decision making process. He asked that the council provide project information for all the residents prior to moving forward.
City Councilor Joseph Mineo and chair of the Ad Hoc Sewer Committee, said he was in favor of tabling the ordinance indefinitely until information can be sent to each resident and their input is received.
The council voted to table the ordinance indefinitely by a vote of 10 to one Rossi voted in opposition.