KENT - The Sewer Commission may be on its way toward receiving the funds necessary to replace 290 feet of sewage pipe on Bridge Street. The 123-year old portion of the line is believed to be in imminent danger of failure.
Tuesday's Board of Selectmen meeting ended a long debate between the Board of Selectmen and the Sewer Commission over who should be responsible for paying for the project. The commission believes it is the town's responsibility, while the selectmen originally conveyed that it should be a shared cost between the commission and the users of the line.
At the meeting, the commission convinced First Selectman Ruth S. Epstein and Selectman Bruce K. Adams that the costs should be shared between the commission and the town. Epstein will recommend to the Board of Finance an appropriation from the town of up to $250,000 for replacement and repair of the line. The project is estimated to cost $330,000. If approved by the town, the commission will be responsible for paying $75,000.
"It's an absolutely, utterly complete change (from one month ago)," said Selectman Vincent D. LaFontan, who voted against the appropriation.
He said he was not convinced that replacing the line is considered a capital project and proposed a $25,000 per year capital infusion for 10 years from the town that the commission would be able to put toward this or any other project.
One alternative does exist. Relining the existing pipes rather than replacing them would cost about $50,000 to $75,000, but Sewer Commission Chairman William Gawel Jr. said this repair would be good for about 50 years. Replacing the existing 10- and 8-inch pipes with uniform 10-inch pipes and removing curves in the line would relieve problems for about 250 years, according to the commission.
"The Sewer Commission in office today wants to do it once and do it right," Gawel said. "If money was no object we could patch it up and then tear it down in a year and replace it."
Epstein said she was swayed by the immediacy of the issue and the possibility that the line could fail at any moment. Because the users did not want to pay for the entire project and the commission wants to replace rather than repair the line, she said she was left with no choice.
"I'm reversing because we have a real public health issue," Epstein said.
Adams, who has a septic system for his home and is therefore not a user, said he believed the project was important for the infrastructure of the town, despite the fact that his taxes would go up, as shops and restaurants crucial to the town's economy use the line.
"There's a school, town hall and town garage on this system," Adams said. "I think everyone should be responsible for that."
The Board of Finance will decide July 21 whether or not to bring the appropriation to a town meeting vote.
Originally appeared 7/9/2009 on page 2B of the Republican-American ©