Hinesburg wastewater project gets fast-tracked

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 4:18 PM EDT
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HINESBURG, Vt. (WCAX) - The town of Hinesburg has some big projects in the pipeline. But because of state clean water requirements, town officials have to put a hold on two of those projects.

The Hinesburg Town Hall needs its roof repaired. They also need a new fire station. Those projects were approved on Town Meeting Day, as was the wastewater treatment facility project that has been in the works for five years. All three projects would be pulling funds from the same pool of money. But because the town’s current wastewater discharge doesn’t meet state standards, town officials have to prioritize the wastewater project, putting the others on hold.

“Realistically, you know, EPA standards require that we do something so our wastewater that is going into Champlain is appropriate and is clean enough. So, we had to do something about it in some way,” said Catherine Moller, a Hinesburg resident and business owner in the wastewater district.

Moller was one of many that voted on an $11 million bond for the wastewater project. But now, the three bids the town has received on that project are upwards of $15 million, which puts the town over bond capacity. Ratepayers in the water district would have seen an increase to their annual tax bill of $500, but with the new bond estimate, it could be even more -- which is what the town is trying to avoid.

“The original intent was that it would just be paid back by the users of the system. So, you are talking about eight million dollars being paid back by, you know, 650 accounts, not the whole population of the town. So, that really amplifies the concern about the amount the town borrows,” said Hinesburg Town Manager Todd Odit.

“I would love to see, from a municipality level, something done to be creative to be able to meet this. See if there’s grants or other funding that we can get help to cover a portion of that gap so it does not fall all on the taxpayers, because there is other spending that needs to happen in town, too,” Moller said.

The fire department has been in need of a new fire station for years. Officials say the building is too small and needs repairs. But although Fire Chief Nicholas Baker wants his team to have a new station, he agrees the wastewater project needs to come first. “It’s frustrating for sure, but as a taxpayer myself, I understand the need of the community is to take care of some other projects first,” he said.

The town has 60 days to respond to the bids and the select board will decide the next course of action on June 7.

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