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The ball’s in Colrain’s drain

State OK’s sewer project; now town’s turn

  • Barnhardt on Main Rd in Colrain. The two lagoons used by their waste water treatment plant that hold three million gallons in thier biological processing using activated sludge.  Colrain Center may tap into the system providing sewer service.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Barnhardt on Main Rd in Colrain. The two lagoons used by their waste water treatment plant that hold three million gallons in thier biological processing using activated sludge. Colrain Center may tap into the system providing sewer service. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Joel Lund, Plant Operations Manager at Barnhardt on Main Rd in Colrain near the two lagoons used by their waste water treatment plant that hold three million gallons in thier biological processing using activated sludge.  Colrain Center may tap into the system providing sewer service.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Joel Lund, Plant Operations Manager at Barnhardt on Main Rd in Colrain near the two lagoons used by their waste water treatment plant that hold three million gallons in thier biological processing using activated sludge. Colrain Center may tap into the system providing sewer service. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Barnhardt on Main Rd in Colrain. The two lagoons used by their waste water treatment plant that hold three million gallons in thier biological processing using activated sludge.  Colrain Center may tap into the system providing sewer service.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Joel Lund, Plant Operations Manager at Barnhardt on Main Rd in Colrain near the two lagoons used by their waste water treatment plant that hold three million gallons in thier biological processing using activated sludge.  Colrain Center may tap into the system providing sewer service.  Recorder/Paul Franz

COLRAIN — In giving the town a $2.5 million grant, the state is supporting a future town center sewer system. Now, it’s the town’s turn.

State Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, and state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, told selectmen this week that the town should take action as soon as possible, to make use of the state grant within the next two fiscal years.

“With any luck, there’s money to build it, with little or no debt,” said Rosenberg. “We can go to this governor now, because we know there’s support,” he said, referring to Gov. Deval Patrick, who signed a bill that authorized raising millions for environmental protection projects. But when a new governor takes office in January, he pointed out, continued support by the governor is uncertain.

If the town decides to build it and line up its financial plan, the sewer project would be “a work in progress” when the new governor arrives.

“Our job is to get you where you want to go,” Rosenberg said. “We have the money there, so we have to know what you want to do. The town has to make a set of decisions.”

One decision will be up to town meeting voters: Are they in favor of investing in a sewer system that may serve about 50 households in the beginning, but will open up the languishing town center to business development and reuse of historic buildings. Selectmen may put the question to voters on a fall special town meeting warrant so that, if townspeople want it, work on engineering could begin this year, possibly with some of the grant money.

The board was to have met Monday night to begin discussing what steps they’ll take.

The town may also apply for a U.S. Department of Agriculture “Water and Waste Revolving Loan Fund Grant,” which provides up to $100,000 in loan financing to help rural areas build water and wastewater systems. Grant recipients can use the money to establish a revolving loan fund, which can be repaid in 10 years or less.

Another consideration is whether River Street, off Jacksonville Road, could be added to the proposed sewer pipeline. River Street flooded during Tropical Storm Irene and is slated for repair.

Also, there are details to be worked out between the town and Barnhardt Manufacturing Co., which operates a wastewater treatment facility to which the town center wastewater would be pumped, about 21/ 2 miles down Main Road (Route 112). Town officials have just had preliminary talks with the cotton fiber processing company.

A resident asked: What happens to the town’s wastewater system if Barnhardt goes out of business?

Selectman Mark Thibodeau said the company recently made a major investment in the dam, so he didn’t think the company plans to leave.

“It’s an industrial, anaerobic system,” Thibodeau said. “That system wouldn’t just run on sewage from the town.” He said the company’s permit allows for processing 900,000 gallons per day.

The town’s preliminary engineering report, by Weston & Sampson Engineering, says the Barnhardt treatment plant is operating at about 50 percent capacity.

Another question was whether residents living within a small, independent Colrain Sewer District would want to become part of a new town system or remain separate. According to the sewer engineering report, in 1973 the Kendall Co. built a secondary wastewater treatment facility to serve the mill and nearby residents in that section of Colrain called “Griswold-ville.” But subsequent plant owners were unwilling to treat wastewater from residential homes, so the Griswold-ville residents formed the Colrain Sewer District in 1997, through an act of special legislation. “However, since the 1960s 21 of the 44 homes in the village of Griswoldville have been served by the industrial facility in the area,” the engineering report says.

“There are some issues that could blow this thing up, but I think we should get them out sooner, rather than later,” said Town Moderator Michael Slowinski. “I would love to see the shovels out by spring. It will make a big difference in the center of town — because there’s no place to build septic systems.” He said the land is wet, and if existing septic systems are not now faulty, “they will be.”

“Many times, businesses have contacted our office and said they would love to move here,” said Mary Vilbon, executive director of the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association. “But (lack of) septic systems is always the reason why they turn away.”

Currently there are no businesses in the town center. Last year, the crumbling Civil War Veterans’ Memorial Hall was demolished after being up for sale for many years. The lack of a viable septic system on the building site was believed to be a factor in why the building didn’t sell. Now, a group of residents are hoping to convert the historic Brick Meeting House into a business/office complex and cafe, but a suitable sewer system is needed.

Selectmen’s Chairwoman Eileen Sauvageau said, “We going to start educating people, in order to generate support. People need to know what’s involved, who’s going to pay for it, how it’s going to be maintained.”

“I don’t see the town going anywhere, without an oasis in the center,” she said.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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