Consultant recommends wastewater collaboration

A consultant hired to look at the future of Shelburne’s wastewater treatment system has recommended to town officials that Shelburne seriously consider working with neighboring South Burlington on a combined system to serve both communities in the future.

The Shelburne Selectboard Tuesday night heard from Michael Schramm and John Reilly from the Burlington office of the engineering consulting firm Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc. Shelburne hired the firm to study the municipal wastewater treatment system. Shelburne’s two wastewater treatment plants are due for upgrades as they near the end of their 20-year lifespans.

Those upgrades are multimillion dollar projects that take years of planning.

Coincidentally, the city of South Burlington is preparing to upgrade its Bartlett Bay Wastewater Treatment Facility.

The engineers considered four scenarios for Shelburne’s system: upgrade both of Shelburne’s wastewater treatment facilities; upgrade one treatment facility and turn the other into a pumping station – looking at both combinations of that option; and turning both wastewater facilities into pumping stations while consolidating operations with South Burlington.

The consultants found that upgrading both plants would be most costly, and that working with South Burlington would be cheapest. Their presentation showed the difference in cost to be approximately 36 percent.

The consultants said that upgrades to Shelburne’s treatment facilities would range from $26 million to $38 million, depending on which treatment plant is used and how the plants will be used in the future.

If South Burlington upgraded its facilities alone, it would cost the city approximately $17 million, according to the consultants. If South Burlington upgrades to include Shelburne, it would add $22 million to the project.

This figure includes the costs of adding capacity to South Burlington’s system, adding additional piping to the facility, and transforming Shelburne’s plants into pumping stations.

The consultants said such a collaboration would likely result in even more savings long-term.
The consultants suggested to the Selectboard that talking with South Burlington about consolidating operations would be worthwhile. South Burlington and Shelburne officials have had conversations about the possibility.

“It’s very preliminary,” said South Burlington City Manager Kevin Dorn. “Generally speaking, we applaud communities trying to combine resources especially for something like wastewater, which is very expensive.”

Other business
• Transportation issues have been a significant topic of discussion for the past five Selectboard meetings. The main question is how to spend $7,500 that was budgeted to be used for a planning grant from the regional planning commission to conduct a downtown traffic study.

Shelburne has had a number of traffic studies already done in recent years, all with various recommendations that have not been acted upon. The Selectboard, town officials and members of the public have discussed asking the Traffic Safety Committee to review those suggestions and decide how to prioritize projects to possibly use the funds to conduct upgrades to town roads to increase safety.

Interim Town Manager Lee Krohn also offered to review the previous recommendations to help prioritize potential projects in lieu of creating another committee.

Town Planner Dean Pierce has suggested that the Planning Commission hold a special public meeting focused on transportation as part of its public outreach as it works on rewriting the town plan, which will begin soon.

The Selectboard has yet to decide how to use the funds.

• The Selectboard entered executive session to discuss ongoing contract negotiations with the AFSCME labor union that covers seven municipal employees in the water department, wastewater department, and building and grounds crew. No action was taken. The current contract expires on June 30 and the new one begins July 1.

• The Selectboard also said it was going to discuss the status of Vermont Railway litigation during its closed-door session at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. The town in January appealed a federal court ruling regarding the railroad’s salt storage and handling facility in Shelburne. The town has challenged the railroad’s construction of the facility and has attempted to regulate its operation, but the U.S. District Court in Burlington has ruled that federal law limits local control over the facility.

The case is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City.

Selectboard member Dr. Josh Dein did not participate in that portion of the executive session in compliance with an agreement with the board from 2017. The board took no action when it returned to public session before adjourning.

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