WILTON — The Selectboard has suggested holding a public hearing to discuss a possible town contribution to debt payments on loans funding the upgrade of the town’s wastewater treatment plant in order to keep sewer rates from increasing steeply.

Tuesday night’s discussion of including at least $30,000 in the 2016-2017 budget to go toward sewer debt payments was the board’s first on the topic.

Board members asked Town Manager Rhonda Irish to prepare more information on the number of residents who use the town’s sewer system and on holding a public hearing so residents can voice their opinions on town money going toward the debt payments.

“Usually a user fee is a user fee,” Selectman Jeffrey Adams said. “There are a lot of people in town who (don’t use) the water and sewer.”

Irish said that of Wilton’s 4,116 residents, about 1,000 households are on the town’s sewer system. Irish also said the figure includes businesses.

In 2009, Wilton began a $10.8 million upgrade of the town’s sewer system and wastewater treatment plant. The project has been divided into two phases. With phase one of the project complete, focus and funding is now being shifted to phase two, the overhaul of the town’s wastewater treatment plant on Davis Court, which hasn’t been upgraded since it was built in 1978.

In October, residents approved accepting a $2.75 million loan and a $1.35 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Former Water District Superintendent Clay Putnam, who retired in December, said at a Dec. 16 Selectboard meeting that he had envisioned staggering the federal loans with the grants to make repayment easier, but it was discovered that in order to spend any of the grant money, the town must use all of the loans first.

In September, the grace period of a year on the phase one loan ended, and the town made the first $198,049 debt payment, which it is required to make annually for the next 29 years.

With the project expected to move fast come spring, Irish said the town could close on the phase 2A loan as soon as September. The first $140,000 debt payment on that loan would then be due in September 2017. It is not certain when the town will close on the phase 2B loan, but Irish said that could occur in September 2017, meaning that the first $141,075 debt payment on that loan will be due in September 2018.

At the Dec. 16 meeting, Putnam said the debt payments could amount to rate increases of $40 to $50 per customer to close out the debt payment on the phase one loan, and another $30 per quarter on the phase 2A loan.

Irish said the town three years ago approved $30,000 to go toward debt payments on early phase one loans. Irish said it was the intent to keep this $30,000 on the town warrant going forward, but it was pulled back because “the project did not move as quickly.”

But now, Irish said, “the project is going fast.”

At the Selectboard’s next meeting, Irish will provide the board with the exact number of households and businesses that use the town’s sewer system. Details about a possible public hearing on the topic also will be discussed.

“We will be working on this quite a bit in the upcoming weeks,” Irish said.

Any inclusion of town funding to go toward the debt payments would be subject to voters’ approval at Wilton’s Town Meeting on June 20.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

 


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