|By Courtney Llewellyn|
Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM As the snow continues to pile up, projects and plans for towns throughout the Commonwealth are put on hold. It's not the weather that is holding up the start of the special sewer improvement project, though the committees involved have decided to delay action until Mayor-elect Susan Dawson takes office.
A joint sub-committee meeting took place on Dec. 17 prior to the City Council meeting to discuss the resolution to create a wastewater enterprise fund and to create an ordinance to amend the town's Water and Sewer Ordinances for the special sewer improvement district.
The sewer program would extend 18.2 miles of sewer lines into the Feeding Hills neighborhood. The project will cost an estimated $31.2 million.
"Both committees [the Finance Committee and the Ordinance Committee] approve of it," Department of Public Works (DPW)'s superintendent John Stone said. "The City Council has tabled it until the new mayor comes in."
Stone added the delay of another month on a project that has taken years to develop is not an issue.
"If the funding is approved, the project would be at least one year in design before it is put out for bids and will take two to three years of construction," he explained. "Waiting now does not really affect the project."
While the committees approve of the project, a decision won't be made until the Jan. 22 City Council meeting, according to Cecilia Calabrese, chair of the Finance Committee.
"The meeting [that took place Dec. 17] was a very informative meeting," Calabrese stated. "We wanted to get more input, and we did."
She continued that if the project and the enterprise fund are approved of by City Council, "it will be a good thing for the town."
"There will be a substantial financial impact with the project, but it will impact the whole community," she said.
Calabrese explained that the choice to delay the decision would give Dawson and the new city councilors an opportunity to look over the project. "We don't want to shove it down her [Dawson's] throat," Calabrese said.
The DPW will put together all the information and publish a preliminary assessment before any progress is made.
"The motion now is to break the project up into phases," Calabrese explained. "It's easier that way from both a financial and a physical standpoint."
The financial impact on the 900 homes in Feeding Hills will be approximately $19,000 per home, which can be paid for a period of 20 years.
The enterprise fund would allow the revenues the waterwater operation receives to be retained to meet expenses, particularly principal and interest payments on the debt, according to Stone.
"All the other big projects in recent history have happened on the other side of town," Calabrese said. "This is the first big improvement Feeding Hills has had in a while. We're taking our time and we want to do it right."
The City Council meeting that will decide the future of the project will take place Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Agawam Middle School, 68 Main St.