Sewer department finances on March 5 Town Meeting warrant

  • The Montague Water Pollution Control Facility. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 2/27/2020 6:03:10 PM

MONTAGUE — An abandoned attempt to build solar panels on the Water Pollution Control Facility may be retired once and for all in a vote at the March 5 Town Meeting, which seeks to rescind the sewer department’s authority to borrow money for the project.

Of the 12 articles on the March 5 warrant, four are related to sewer department finances. None of the articles amount to any major changes in the department, but are either continuations of ongoing work, or budget adjustments for unexpected expenses, said Consulting Superintendent Bob Trombley.

Town Meeting is set for March 5, at 6:30 p.m. at Turners Falls High School.

The solar panel project was conceived as an attempt to reduce energy costs at the sewer plant, Trombley said. In 2018, Town Meeting authorized the department to borrow up to $521,000 to fund the solar panel installation. But the project was also dependent on a competitive state funding program, and Montague ended up not qualifying.

“That money gets taken up very quickly, as you can imagine,” Trombley said. “Montague didn’t get in soon enough to access it. That’s the reason why it didn’t become economically viable to put the solar in.”

The solar panel project is no longer being pursued in any capacity, Trombley said. The article to rescind borrowing authority will officially take it off the town’s books.

Yet, the sewer department is pursuing alternative methods of reducing its energy consumption. Trombley specifically mentioned a system that would in effect reduce the amount of oxygen needed to run the water treatment equipment, which in turn would reduce the amount of electricity needed. The department is currently reviewing cost estimates on that equipment, he said.

The sewer department is also seeking to increase its budget for the current year by $236,348, spread across three separately votable articles:

■$130,000 of this is to pay for unexpected expenses in the operation of the treatment facility. The greatest portion of that money is to cover the cost of hiring a specialist to deal with an excess of solid waste after the sewer department shut down the Montague Process, an experimental sludge disposal program. The process was shut down in 2017 due to concerns from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

■$75,000 is to pay for the disposal and replacement of an oil tank at the department’s offices that leaks.

■The last $1,348 is to pay some bills from last year that came in late.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-930-4231.

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