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St. Armand residents ask for more info on water-sewer options

BLOOMINGDALE — At a town council meeting on Tuesday night, residents asked questions about water-sewer bill hikes and discussed other ways to pay for upgrades to the waste water treatment plant.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has mandated upgrades to St. Armand’s wastewater treatment plant. Currently there are 367 St. Armand residents on the water system and 309 on the sewer system.

“In (Essex) County, at least half the towns are under either water or sewer or both mandates,” town Supervisor Dean Montroy said. “It’s not unique to our town. But it’s our problem, and believe me, we care about it.”

Wastewater Superintendent Stan Ingison said the DEC has been working with plants throughout the state. He said it started with the largest plants three or four years ago, mandating upgrades to further purify wastewater in its end processes before returning it to the watershed.

“Saranac Lake and us got ours within a month of each other,” Ingison said.

While the village of Saranac Lake has opted for an ultraviolet disinfection system, St. Armand is going for chlorination. The DEC is requiring the system be in place by Jan. 1, 2022. The cost is around $740,000. While supplemented by a state grant, the town will still have to pay back 20 percent — around $148,000.

By more than doubling the water-sewer usage rate from $8.50 per 1,000 gallons to $18.15, Montroy said the town would raise around $42,000 annually to pay for its portion of the project.

“I would rather do it in three years and be done with it, rather than spread it over a length,” Montroy said. “We still already have two loans down there — one we’ve been paying since 1985.”

Of those two loans, one will be paid back in 2024, Montroy said.

“We paid $8,100 last year $7,800 this year,” Montroy said. “It goes down a little bit. Another five years on that one.”

The other loan, which will be due in 2045, goes up every year.

“Last year we paid $76,395, this year we’re $77,668, and then it goes up until 2045 to $110,000, so it’s gradually getting more and more expensive,” Montroy said.

Dean Everritt, who said his bill has increased by 130 percent, or an extra $1,000 a year, wanted to know more about the other option for repayment — a Bond Anticipation Note, a loan that the town could take out for the work.

“I would just say for myself, I don’t know what the rates would be for that loan,” Everritt said. “But three grand in three years is a lot tougher to handle than six grand over 30 years.”

Jeff Tedford, a landlord at a trailer park on the St. Armand water system, said he was at the meeting to represent his tenants.

“It’s difficult — the numbers that they’re looking at, they’re going to pay more water and sewer than they are lot rent,” Tedford said. “On behalf of them, I think it would be good to consider some other numbers. … There’s going to come a point where I’ll be evicting people because they won’t catch up.”

Town Historian Davina Winemiller said that it’s worth looking at past work the town has down with the Environmental Facilities Corporation, which is administering the grant, to see if that could change the amount the town is responsible for.

“The question that I have is our current sewer lines through EFC. Back in 2012 the town went through a process where we collected income surveys,” Winemiller said. “They determined that the town’s residents could pay back X amount. … Is there a way that we wouldn’t have to pay back the 20 percent because we’re already at the threshold?”

Montroy said that isn’t likely but that he would check with the county. In addition, he said that if the town were to take out a BAN for the project, it would have to do so for the entire amount to cover progress payments to the contractors building the chlorination system.

“Also, I don’t know how the board feels about it,” Montroy said. “We can work out a plan for next month’s meeting and get some input from the town. Not every single person is alone on this. We all pay water and sewer too. … We know it’s hard on people.”

Montroy said that if residents want to discuss the issue with him, they are welcome to come in and talk him at the town hall, or give him a call at 518-891-3189 ext. 1.

Montroy said he would collect information on BAN options for funding the chlorination system and bring them to the next meeting. The next town council meeting is Tuesday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Armand Town Hall in Bloomingdale.