As Sewer Connection Deadline Looms, Town Offering Deferrals

by Ryan Bray
Downtown customers have until March 16 to tie into the town sewer. But those who can’t make their connections by the deadline must apply for a six-month deferral from the town.  FILE PHOTO Downtown customers have until March 16 to tie into the town sewer. But those who can’t make their connections by the deadline must apply for a six-month deferral from the town. FILE PHOTO

ORLEANS – David Currier wants to be in compliance.

Like other property owners in the downtown sewer area, Currier, who owns both The Alley Bowling and BBQ on Route 6A and the neighboring laundromat, has until March 16 to connect his properties to town sewer, or otherwise risk the potential for daily fines.

Speaking before the board of water and sewer commissioners Feb. 14, Currier said he’s tried to line up an engineer to design his connections to meet the March deadline. But the process has been difficult, he said. Demand for engineers and contractors is high as property owners work to tie into the system, and Currier said two local firms told him it would take months before they could work on his connections.

He eventually settled on another engineer, but their timetable still wouldn’t put him in line for a March connection.

“He said best case scenario, August,” Currier told the commissioners.

Currier is one of many property owners in the downtown sewer area that is unlikely to meet the March 16 deadline. In response, the sewer commissioners and the board of health earlier this month both voted in favor of instituting a deferral process that would give property owners an additional six months to connect, provided they can show they’re working toward making their connections.

The town website has a link to a form that property owners can fill out to apply for a deferral, which if approved would extend their connection deadline to Sept. 16. In addition to the property owner’s address, name and contact information, they must also submit supporting materials, such as a signed contract with an engineer, as proof that they are in the process of connecting.

Commissioner Alan McClennen said that the run on engineers and contractors for sewer work is not “a unique problem to Orleans.”

“That’s a region-wide problem,” he said. “And it’s only going to get worse, not better.”

But those that have yet to connect fall into two different categories. There are those who are in the process of making their connections but may not meet the March deadline. Then there are those who have not been in contact with the town at all about their connections.

Fitch said three letters, including one certified mailing, have gone out to downtown property owners since last March informing them of their need to tie into sewer. McClennen said those that have not been in touch with the town despite those notifications need a “firm reminder” about their need to connect or apply for a deferral.

“For this system to work, everyone in the downtown area, and ultimately Meetinghouse and ultimately three ponds, must connect,” he said. “And those that do not and disregard our requests to connect are costing every taxpayer in this town something that they should not have to pay for.”

The board of water and sewer commissioners voted Feb. 14 to issue two letters. The first would go to those property owners who have not been in contact with the town reminding them that they need to apply for a deferral, otherwise they could be met with a daily fine of $250 for everyday they are not in compliance after March 16.

Voters at special town meeting in October voted to adopt the $250 fine, but the town’s health agent, Alex Fitch, said she’s hopeful that property owners will get their deferral requests in.

“For us, the number one priority is hearing from all of these properties. We do not want to start fining people on March 16. That is not the point, and we are trying to avoid that.”

Fitch estimated that there are about 133 property owners, possibly more, who have not been in contact with the town about their connections. But there are many other property owners whose connections are in various stages of completion, but may not be done by next month.

“They’re ready to go, it’s just not possible to actually hook up yet, which would put them in the category of non-compliant come March 16,” she said.

The second letter will be sent to those property owners actively working on their connections alerting them that they now have until Sept. 16 to tie into the sewer. Those property owners do not need to fill out a deferral form.

“The key for me is that someone had reached back to us in response to one of those letters and said, ‘I’m working on it and I have a contract with an engineer to design it,’” McClennen said.

But what about those property owners who may need more time than September? Currier asked that he be able to schedule his connections after the summer season, when he stands to make the most money at the bowling alley.

“I would rather close for me and my best situation,” he said. “The best situation is when I make the least amount of money, and that’s when I would like to close.”

Assistant Water Superintendent Susan Brown said the commissioners would need to vote specifically on that request at a later date.

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