Joint Sewer Committee takes first look at its options

MILLERTON - The first meeting of the Joint Sewer Committee took place last Thursday evening, to help the village and the town assess whether they need to work toward creating a central sewer district.

The committee is made up of members from both the town and village, and even some businessmen from Connecticut, all of whom have a stake in whether the area gets a wastewater treatment plant in the future. At the meeting were Leo Flood, Jay Reynolds, Marty Markonic, Dan Briggs and Chairman Bob Trotta. Robert Quinlan, Albert Franke, Carl Stahovec and John Panzer are also on the committee but could not attend.

Trotta said that in the 1970s pollution went directly into the Webutuck Creek, as many septics fed directly into storm drains that led into the waterway. The county corrected that problem with hefty fines, according to Trotta.

"Many businesses on Main Street were limited in space as to what they could do," he said. "Some properties, like Saperstein’s and me, put a system in [on shared property]. But you need a tank, good drainage fields for it to work properly, and there’s little doubt in my mind that many do work properly with that kind of thing. You don’t know if there’s a problem until there’s a problem."

One big question, according to the chairman, is whether the village and the town can afford a sewer system.

Part of that depends on what area the sewer would service: the village core, the core plus the remainder of the village, the corridor along routes 22 and 44, etc.

"Preliminarily, we would like to identify the problem areas," Trotta said. "I would also like to identify … what funding may be available through grants and loans."

On hand at Thursday’s meeting were both an engineer and a project manager from C.T. Male Associates, PC, a firm in Latham, N.Y., which has overseen many sewer projects. The company has also some familiarity with the town of North East, as it worked on one of its water projects in the past. Trotta stressed that the two men were there as volunteers, and have not been hired. There was also a contractor, Paul Davidson, from the Albany firm BW Marks.

"The way I understand it, the greatest need is obviously in the village, because that’s where the density is," said project manager James Edwards. "You have to have it if you want to develop anything more. You have areas that the town appears to be in need of the sewer system in terms of numbers, though it appears the village has greater numbers."

"There were 925 people in the village’s last census," said former Millerton Mayor Jake Shoifet.

According to Trotta there are approximately 2,000 people in the township. The median household income is roughly $36,000.

"That gives us the best opportunity for grants and funding, because it puts us on the low end of the scale," Trotta said.

"Median household income is the key that opens the door to all of the funding that is available," Flores said.

There are two main sources of funding available for sewer projects: rural development and the state revolving fund.

"There’s also the governor’s office for small cities," Davidson said, adding that the municipality does not need to be an incorporated city to qualify.

One of the first things to do, according to Trotta, is to find out who has problems with their septics, and who thinks the idea of a sewer system is a good and practical one.

As far as the system’s location, there’s a 6- to 7-acre parcel on South Center Street that Trotta described as a "good, appropriate place" for it.

"These plants to handle septic are big, round tubs, outside, and they can smell. Where can we possibly put that so people won’t object?" Trotta asked. "We can go into metal buildings with no smells and no noise. It might be a good fit in the land the village already has. That’s for the town and village boards to decide."

The Joint Sewer Committee will continue its work and meet on the third Thursday of every month at the American Legion hall, at 7 p.m. (the next meeting date will be Feb. 21). In the near future a feasibility study will have to be done by engineers hired for the project.

Such a study usually takes around 45 days, and it should sketch out a rough cost estimate of the proposed project. Although there was no concrete talk of the price of a feasibility study, neighboring Amenia’s feasibility study cost $24,000, according to Amenia Planning Board member Bill Flood, who added Dutchess County picked up half the tab on the study.

One of the main issues, the committee and the audience members alike agreed, boils down to cost.

"There’s no doubt there’s the need, I don’t think anybody will argue that," resident James Clark said. "What I’m driving at is that if polling the populace in Millerton they’re going to want to know what it’s going to cost them. There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered."

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