norton town hall building file photo

Norton Town Hall.

NORTON — The multi-million dollar sewer project that is intended to provide service to more than 100 homes and businesses off West Main Street (Route 123) as well as municipal buildings is estimated to cost nearly $1 million more than projected.

About $880,000 more is needed, Town Manager Michael Yunits informed selectmen Thursday night. There is a request for the additional funding at the May 14 town meeting.

Test borings have shown there is more ledge in the area than expected, Yunits said. Also, there is a possibility the sewer lines need to be installed below drain lines. “They would have to go down deeper,” he said.

Water and sewer officials figure about half the added cost will be covered by various revenue sources, but they need another approximately $400,000.

“Water and sewer are concerned there will be a portion of the project that will have to be borne by taxpayers,” Yunits said.

That is a route selectmen are frowning on. Finance committee members recommend borrowing the additional money — a decision selectmen have final say on.

Residents at last May’s town meeting near unanimously approved a request for $3.32 million for the work that has been slated to be paid for through state grants and the town’s sewer enterprise account that is funded by customers through one-time hook-up fees and quarterly sewer bills.

Selectmen want to see the hook-up fee increased from an estimated $15,000 to $17,000. The former is estimated to bring in $1.5 million, and the latter $1.8 million.

“We’re not supposed to be subsidizing,” selectmen Chairman Robert Kimball said. “I have a problem using town money. We don’t have the money to begin with.”

Kimball said he wouldn’t have such a problem if the town was repaid the money.

“It’s unfortunate users would have to pay the difference,” Kimball said, noting property values should increase when hooked up. “If the rates have to go up, so be it.”

“Water and sewer are looking at how much to charge private owners so we can alleviate what taxpayers would have to pay,” Yunits said.

Selectmen told the town manager to have water and sewer officials look at other options than tax dollars.

“The project will help the Housing Authority and schools and all the other businesses along that stretch,” in addition to homes, Yunits said. The sewer line is also expected to encourage economic development along Route 123.

Because the town’s senior housing, Woodland Meadows, needs a new waste disposal system, state money is contributing over $1 million on that end toward the sewer project. The schools also need new such service. The town is borrowing through a state-backed favorable loan program.

The sewer line would run from the housing authority to the Yelle and high schools, and then continue up West Main to reach a new pumping station on Wheaton College property. The project is expected to be completed next year.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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