Hanover sewer district residents skeptical of cost to them

HANOVER – Hanover sewer district residents seem skeptical of no rate increases for a $5.3 million project.

District residents attended a public hearing Wednesday night in the town hall which focused on the proposed sewer improvement project.

GHD Engineer Greg McCorkhill explained how the system works and then what the project would entail.

He said the plant and equipment are now 33 years old, and despite preventative maintenance, need to be upgraded.

“I like to use the example of a car. You don’t usually keep a car for 30 years. A car won’t last forever, despite preventative maintenance, eventually you will have to replace it,” McCorkhill said.

He said wastewater enters the plant and goes through a grinder to a clarifier which removes solids. It then goes from a rotating biological contactor where waste is treated, to a secondary clarifier where chlorine is added. Then discharge is released into Cattaraugus Creek. Separated solids are put through digestors and put on drying beds to separate water before waste is taken to the landfill.

The project will be split into phases with the first phase replacing the most critical equipment. Phase one will replace the RBCs which broke down and were repaired last year, install a new dewatering press so sludge can be processed year round and create a sludge off-loading station which has the potential to bring in added revenue. This phase will cost an estimated $1,748,500.

Phase two will encompass improvements to the Sunset Bay pump station including replacement of pumps and a new generator at a cost of $340,000. Phase three will include a new bar screen to separate “stringy” materials, a new grit removal system, replacement of the influent pumps and pipes, new clarifier equipment and replacement of the digestor and blower(s) for $3,188,500.

Residents were repeatedly told the town has no intention of increasing taxes or rates as a result of the project, pending unforeseen circumstances.

Town Budget Officer Elmar Kiefer said the town will finance the project using a 30-year serial bond for up to $5,277,000. He said the annual debt service is estimated at 4 percent interest which would equate to a $282,000 yearly payment.

He said the town will use new anticipated sewer revenues, reserves, annual excess revenue and the amount set aside for the previous debt service once it is paid off in 2017 equating to $285,000. He said these are conservative figures.

District residents seemed skeptical there would be no rate increases for the costly project and questioned the cost of equipment, engineering, if in-house work could decrease the cost and whether all the equipment has to be replaced, or if it can be repaired.

“You are telling me it will be trouble-free for 30 years? I am concerned there will be an increase,” Mike Hall, of the Hanford Bay Association, said.

The town board was questioned why it decided to have GHD as the engineers for the project without getting three prices beforehand. The town had previously worked with the firm under the name Stearns and Wheeler and the state does not require bids for professional services like engineering.

Residents also asked if there were measures being taken in the project to decrease the smell from the plant. McCorkhill said there weren’t, but he could discuss options with the town.

Residents also called for the reinstatement of the sewer/water advisory board because only one town board member (Kevin O’Connell) lives in the district.

Supervisor Todd Johnson said the town is trying to be proactive with the project.

“If you say no to this $5 million project and we do nothing and then a few years down the road we get in a bad situation and it costs $10 million, then (the district residents will still have to pay),” he said.

No action was taken by the town board. The regular town board meeting will be held Monday at 7:30 p.m. with the workshop at 6:30 p.m.