Call it what it was – a mistake that will cost taxpayers $475,000 and still leave local residents along West Street, Williamsburg Drive, Annelise Avenue, Skyline Drive, Cedar Drive and Reusnner Road with higher bills than they ever anticipated.
Simply put, no one left Monday’s meeting happy.
The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a motion that will leave the town absorbing $475,000 in excess costs associated with Sewer Assessment #34. The approved change will lead to costs of $96 per linear foot for those on West Street, $89 per linear foot for those on Williamsburg Drive and $81.75 for those in the third part of the project.
In addition, the approved assessment will also allow residents to pay the $750 connection fee proposed during public hearings in 2004 through 2006 rather than the $1,500 fee suggested when the final figures were brought to the sewer committee late last year.
“It’s still not where it needs to be. I would have liked to see them return costs to the $70 (per square foot) range that residents were originally quoted,” said Claudia Mauro, who attended the meeting on Monday behalf of her mother. “It’s also unfair to leave costs on elderly residents who are being forced to tie into the lines within a 10 year period. That should be waved.”
Members of all three neighborhoods were in attendance again Monday as the council approved a final assessment, although only a few took to the podium before a decision was made. Helen Henne, who was at the meeting on behalf of her mother, and West Street resident Edmund Sterniak again spoke out against the increases and asked the council to consider the mistakes made along the way.
Henne said as she has continued to research the project, she has continued to find areas where false information was given along the way that could have swayed the town’s decision to approve a referendum. The final referendum was approved by a 2-1 margin, with around just 200 people voting.
Residents in these areas were given estimates that there costs would be in the range of $65 to $80 per square foot with a one-time fee of $750 to connect to the town’s sewer lines.
By the time they received their bills late last year, however, residents on West Street were assessed a cost of $131.20 per linear foot, those in the second part of the project on Williamsburg Drive were assessed at $126.15 per linear foot and the remaining residents in the third section of the sewer installation were assessed at $97.62 per linear foot.
Sterniak’s speech drew applause from the audience as he encouraged council members to do the right thing.
“There were four projects bailed out by town in recent years and certainly we are part of town and should be considered as well,” Sterniak told council members. “I would hope that you would never have to be put in our position, to feel what we are experiencing.”
“You should consider one flat rate for all sewer lines. They are the same,” he said, just prior to the vote.
The final assessment is far from that originally proposed, where the town council discussed taking on $238,000. That would have left residents with costs to $116.99 per linear foot for West Street residents, $103.48 for Williamsburg Drive residents and $81.79 for everyone else.
“Everyone will feel this one,” Council Chairman Edward Pocock III said. “This is a large cost, $475,000, for the town to absorb in deferments.”
Due to recent sewer issues, including costs associated with problems in the Misery Brook area that particularly affected those along Stonegate Road, the town has already had to dip into the sewer fund to absorb unexpected costs. The $475,000 for Sewer Assessment #34 costs will instead come from the town’s general reserve known as the rainy day fund.
For more information on the , click on the link provided. Also be sure to look back at details of that took place on Feb. 14.