Berlin to Seek More Grants for Wastewater Expansion

BERLIN- After receiving millions in grants that reduced wastewater capacity fees substantially, the town of Berlin hopes to reduce those fees again by requesting more grant funds to bankroll spray irrigation infrastructure for the new spray disposal facility in Newark.

The town of Berlin was awarded $8 million in grants this fall, about half the money needed to construct the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant and make required improvements.

The wastewater project will also benefit from $6 million in low interest loans. Berlin will pay less than $2 million out of pocket. In total, the wastewater plant work will cost $15.7 million.

More money, in addition to the grants and loans already awarded, will be needed to handle spray irrigation infrastructure leading to the new spray land. Estimates of the cost reach as high as $8.7 million, including the purchase of the land and the construction of the infrastructure needed to transport treated wastewater to Newark for disposal.

“We’re going to ask for some more,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams Monday night. “We’re going to ask probably for another $3 million.”

More grants could mean more savings for wastewater capacity purchasers.

“The special connection charge may possibly be reduced,” said Williams. “We don’t know what that financing is yet.”

If the new special connection fee is reduced before the new fiscal year in July, the town will apply a credit to those who have reserved wastewater capacity already.

“It just seems only fair,” said Williams. “We don’t want to do anything to discourage people from making their commitment to EDUs.”

The Berlin Town Council agreed across the board with the Berlin Utilities Commission (BUC) recommendations on wastewater fees related to the system improvements and expansion at Monday night’s meeting.

The new special connection fees will be set at $12,261 for new EDU requests, and the grandfathered EDU requests will cost $8,338.

“Both figures are considerably lower than what we were being told almost two years ago,” said Williams.

The original estimate on the new special connection fees, as quoted two years ago by consultant engineers from URS, showed the new fee could reach $19,000 per EDU. That has been greatly reduced by the grant funding the town has already been awarded.

The new fees will be paid over 18 months, not 12, to reduce the impact of the fee, as recommended by the BUC, a suggestion that was seconded by the town council.

 “It’s taking the same amount of money that has to be recouped by the wastewater fund and spread it out over 18 months,” Williams said.

URS predicted in October that special connection fees could fall as low as $10,118 for the new special connection fee, and the grandfathered charge could fall as low as $6,195, if the town can get a large grant for the spray work.

Wastewater customers will see a 6.5 percent increase in their bills, beginning in on January 1, 2010, for 18 months.

The town council did not officially approve the new fees Monday night after realizing that wastewater fees must be set by a resolution. That resolution will be prepared for the next Berlin Town Council meeting.

All five town council members agreed on the new fees in concept, but one had further questions. Council member Paula Lynch said she has no problem with the fee changes for wastewater, but wondered where the rest of the equation is.

“I do have a problem with the fact we’re not addressing water,” said Lynch.

Williams said the town would address water and stormwater in fiscal year 2011.

“Water and stormwater will probably come to a head because all the issues with wastewater, we’ll have done what we can do,” said Williams.

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