Councilors Balk at $14 Million Sewer Price Tag

City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua voted against the sewer bill. Had his position won broad support, the city would have been in violation of consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Despite calls for financial relief from an unfunded federal mandate for sewer capacity upgrades, Haverhill city councilors authorized additional borrowing Tuesday to avoid financial penalties under a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The council approved, by an 8 to 1 vote, a supplemental $2 million loan order to complete design and construction of phase two in Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant in Bradford. It brings the city’s price tag for phase two to $14.1 million since 2014. Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua was the lone dissenting vote. He said without financial help from the federal government, residents facing incremental increases in water and sewer bills, as well as property taxes, could find the city unaffordable.

“There was a time when the federal government did help cities and towns build the water plants and build the wastewater plants and extend the infrastructure improvements and those days are gone. I think that cities and towns have to stand up and say, ‘We need your help and the reality is that without your help, our taxpayers are simply going to be overburdened with costs,’” Bevilacqua said.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Other councilors, including President John A. Michitson, conceded the city and other communities have been left with no other alternatives to meet the CSO mandate.

The mayor, especially, has been lobbying the federal and the state government for a long time in trying to avoid this cost. But, the bottom line is this – this cost is a requirement from the federal government. And so, that’s why I’m going to be supporting it tonight,” Michitson said.

Deputy Public Works Director Robert E. Ward said a previous loan order in November, 2014, based on estimates, came short of bids for construction costs, including retrofitting to existing structures at the wastewater facility.

When we actually got out and started looking, getting underneath things and behind things and peeling away layers, we actually had to take some twists and turns to be able to retrofit those existing structures. We also ran into some issues with flood plains and we wanted to get some control structures out of the flood plains, that actually added to the costs,” Ward said.

According to Michitson, a letter to members of the city’s congressional delegation on the mandate’s “costs and burdens being placed on local taxpayers,” which Bevilacqua requested during a previous CSO consent decree discussion in January, was sent earlier on Tuesday.

One thought on “Councilors Balk at $14 Million Sewer Price Tag

  1. Hysterical really. People need to realize that the Mayor has known about this for many years. Just think for a minute….if he decided to be a real leader and started this process back then, how much LESS would it be costing us ? The other “little secret” is that the EPA already has estimated what residents can afford in HIGHER water rates. Councilor Bevilaqua is correct about rising rates and they WILL be much higher than most think. Have you had enough yet ?

    Do you see a pattern here ? Everything is done AFTER it becomes a crisis. Fire trucks, fire stations, police station, Hunking School, roofs, city hall, ect. It’s called management by the blind. A total failure to understand how regular maintenance and planning saves money. High school kids know this stuff.