Hanover residents have change of heart on sewer plant

HANOVER – A year later, Hanover Sewer District residents seem to have had a change of heart regarding improvements to the wastewater treatment plant.

GHD Engineer Greg McCorkhill explained for the second time in two years Wednesday that the sewer plant is 34 years old and has experienced several catastrophic failures in the past few years.

“The plant has exceeded its useful life in almost all aspects, especially electrical and mechanical,” he said.

McCorkhill said the project has been changed to include five phases; 1: replace rotating biological contactors (RBCs) and influent pumps, 2: Sunset Bay pump station improvements, 3: install a bar screen and grit removal system, 4: replace clarifier rotating equipment and digestors, and 5: install a third digestor or a dewatering system.

The estimated cost for the project is $5,361,500 to be paid back over 30 years.

McCorkhill noted this price tag depends on the results of competitive bids for equipment and labor.

Town Budget Officer Elmar Kiefer explained the town has a plan to pay the estimated $216,000 annual principal and interest payment without raising sewer rates or taxes.

Before opening the public hearing for comments, Supervisor Todd Johnson reviewed the law, which states the board’s decision to bond for the project is not subject to permissive referendum.

Residents had questions and suggestions for the future, but seem resigned that the project must go forward.

Bob Perry emphasized the importance of preventative maintenance and the job the former water and sewer advisory committee did.

“What needs to be done, needs to be done – it is better than septic – but some control needs to be exercised,” he said.

Another resident asked about the financing of the project.

Kiefer explained the project is on the list to have its interest rate subsidized by 50 percent through the Environmental Facilities Corporation’s Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund.

John McGowan asked about the impact if Lake Shore Hospital closes.

Kiefer said a total closure will set the town back about $20,000 in revenues per year.

Johnson said this is one of the reasons the decision on the project was delayed, but he does not believe it will happen.

“There are still no guarantees that the hospital will stay open, but based on my meetings with hospital officials and our state and federal government officials, I believe Lake Shore is here for the long haul. It is my opinion that Lake Shore will be here and Brooks will not,” he said.

Mike Hall, who previously advocated for bidding out the for the project, once again asked the board if it had looked into a second engineering opinion.

Johnson said the town has done its due diligence and contacted municipalities that under took similar projects to ask about the commission for engineering. He said Fredonia and Brocton paid 19 and 25 percent respectively, where GHD is charging 14 percent. Johnson also noted that in the past year GHD’s rate increased 3 percent.

Resident Sean Smith pointed out, if the town looks for a different engineer and the interest rate goes up by 1 percent, that would equate to about a $25,000 increase per year, according to Kiefer’s estimates.

Linda Koerner complained about of the smell from the plant.

GHD Engineer Dave Rowlinson explained the smell is typical, but a dewatering system may help somewhat.

Another resident asked about a cover for the sludge drying beds. McCorkhill said this is an option, but it is not an insignificant cost. Johnson said the town has a wishlist a “mile long” for the plant, of which the cover is one.

Other residents spoke in favor of reinstating the water and sewer advisory committee, creating a benefit district and expanding the 814 customer district.

“We shouldn’t wait for development to come, we should expand now,” Frank Boniface said.

Johnson said the board is considering all of these options.

He also said all members of the town board care about the district and its residents. He thanked Councilman Kevin O’Connell for his research in recreating the plan for the plant.

The town board will meet July 2 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the results of the public hearing.