Big-ticket decision ahead on wastewater

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

Town officials have an important decision to make soon regarding how Shelburne handles its wastewater into the future.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the selectboard got a refresher from Water Quality Superintendent Chris Robinson on the options and potential costs of each. The discussion comes as South Burlington is beginning to plan for improvements to its Bartlett Bay wastewater system which could handle Shelburne’s wastewater in the future if Shelburne chooses to contract with the city.

“Tying into South Burlington’s wastewater treatment system would require a decision sooner (rather than) later,” Town Manager Lee Krohn said. “They’re about to launch their own engineering analysis for their own upgrade … so by June latest they need to know from us whether that’s an option we wish to pursue with them. If not, we’ll go back to the drawing board and decide which of the other three alternatives suits us best.” 

Shelburne has two aging wastewater treatment plants, both soon in need of upgrades or replacement. Robinson said options are to update and continue using both, switching to just using one for treatment and one as a pump station, or building a connection to hook into the system in South Burlington.

Construction and engineering cost estimates range from about $36 million for the first option, about $27 million for the single treatment plant option and about $23 million to contract with South Burlington, Robinson noted in a presentation.

Cooperating with neighboring municipalities for wastewater services is not uncommon. South Burlington presently handles wastewater from Colchester, while Williston contracts with Essex for wastewater, Robinson said.

The key cost estimates Robinson shared look well into the future. The Burlington engineering firm Hoyle, Tanner & Associates has figured what it will cost overall for both the immediate next step and potential upgrade following that.

In the big-picture cost analysis, keeping the current two-plant system in place jumps to more than $63 million compared with $38 million for the South Burlington option. Relying on one Shelburne plant for treatment falls in between at about $46 million, Robinson said.

The South Burlington option would take about eight years to complete with design, permitting and construction needed to connect the systems and upgrade South Burlington’s capacity, according to a timeline from Hoyle engineer John Reilly.

For the board’s next meeting, Krohn said town officials would work on estimating the short-term cost should Shelburne reject the South Burlington option. The board would need to decide before the end of May whether to move ahead with drafting an agreement with its neighbor.

In other construction news, Pierson Library Trustee Ruth Hagerman offered an update on the new library and historic Town Hall renovation project. Site work is ongoing this week on storm drains and sewer connections and soil testing to check for oil contamination has come back clear, she said.

Exterior work is happening with brick, slate and wood materials being installed. Inside, Hagerman said that Town Hall renovations are nearing completion with painting and floor works. Hagerman said the opening is anticipated by late summer.

Solar projects

The selectboard also heard from Shelburne Museum Director Tom Denenberg about two solar arrays the museum is looking to construct this year. The museum has filed applications with the state and the town planning commission for approvals for a 500-kilowatt array west of the railroad tracks and a smaller 150-watt array east of the tracks and south of the concert field.

“We basically own a small village-worth of electrical infrastructure,” Denenberg said explaining that the museum is working with Green Mountain Power and the Burlington firm Encore Renewable Energy on the project. “We’re in the process of modernizing that.”

The selectboard tabled an executive session to discuss plans for its own solar project.

The selectboard approved a number of other items including:

  • Support for the $12.6 million fiscal 2019-20 budget for the Chittenden Solid Waste District budget. Executive Director Sarah Reeves presented the board with an overview of district plans for the coming year.  Items include preparing to handle food scraps when state law bans them from landfills in 2020, as well as siting and building a new recycling facility. Legislative bodies in the district’s 18 communities review the annual budget; Shelburne was the fifth community to approve.
  • Appointments to town committees through April 2022. Megan McBride to the Planning Commission; Ted Grozier to the Bike and Pedestrian Paths Committee; Anne Powell as an alternate to the Ethics Committee; Karen Medsker to the Dog Park Committee. Tim Loucks was reappointed to represent Shelburne at the solid waste district; Krohn was renamed as alternate. Those positions are for two years. 
  • Authorization of a $100,000 five-year loan to purchase a new bucket loader for the Highway Department; $35,000 from selling the old equipment will also be used.
  • An application by the Shelburne Volunteer Fire Department for a $262,500 to federal grant to help purchase a new fire/rescue boat to replace the current Marine One, a 1990 vessel purchased in 2012. The grant would cover 75 percent of the cost; the town’s share would be $87,500.
  • A proclamation announcing this Saturday, May 18, as Arbor Day for the town. The Tree Advisory Committee plans a celebration for 11 a.m. at the Shelburne town beach. Committee member Gail Henderson-King said tree work there is planned for this month to replace dead and dying trees.

School bus safety

At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, selectboard member Dr. Colleen Parker made an appeal regarding vehicle safety around school buses.

“I witnessed it myself: Two cars in one day passed the bus while my children were getting on,” she said.

Parker said she wants to remind community members of the rules before there is a serious accident: “When the red lights are flashing, you have to stop,” she said.

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