ELODIE REED, St. Albans Messenger
ST. ALBANS CITY — On Tuesday, Sept. 15, voters here will decide whether to undertake $3.7 million in improvements to sidewalks, curbs, water, sewer and wastewater infrastructure along and under streets the state will pave next year.
Also on the ballot is a request for $700,000 to replace filters at the Fairfax Reservoir water treatment plant.
The proposed improvements were triggered by a Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) plan to spend $3.5 million next year paving the class 1 roads in the city — Fairfield, Lake, Main and Lower Newton streets.
The city is seeking voter approval to repair sidewalks and curbs along those streets before the paving takes place, with the exception of Lower Newton. Lower Newton is part of the Federal Street multi-modal connector project for which the city is seeking a federal grant.
The cost of the proposed water and wastewater improvements have already been included in the budgets for those funds, and are reflected in the 2.7 percent increase in water and sewer rates which went into effect in July.
If the proposed improvements pass, the resulting tax increase to pay for the sidewalks, curbs and a share of the stormwater improvements is estimated at 1.8 cents or $18 per assessed value. The tax increase would raise the approximately $90,000 annual bond payment. The bond would be for 30 years.
Of the $3.7 million, $2.5 million would be for Fairfield Street, which will see the greatest improvements. The project includes new sidewalks and curbs, as well as replacing water and sewer infrastructure.
In addition, the city will separate stormwater from sewer lines on Fairfield. Stormwater in the city has been partially separated from the sewage lines, but in the areas where it is not, large storms can cause a larger of volume of water than the system can process to flow into it, resulting in a sewage overflow.
Even when there are not overflows, stormwater in the sewer system adds to the costs of operating the wastewater facility.
Currently, ten catch basins on Fairfield Street empty into the sewer system. They would be removed from the sewage system and replaced with ten new basins and 1,800 feet of stormwater lines.
The costs for the stormwater portion of the project would be split between the general fund and the wastewater treatment fund.
The work on the water and sewer lines would be paid from the water and wastewater funds, with the sidewalk and curbs coming from the general fund.
On Lake and Main streets the city is proposing to replace those sidewalks and curbs not already replaced or slated to be replaced as part of the downtown streetscaping projects.
The easternmost sections of Lake Street next year will be improved to match the streetscaping now concluded on Main Street with a combination of tax increment financing and grants. With approval of the bond, the city also would replace the existing curbs and sidewalks – with ordinary sidewalks, not the brick decorated ones – from Cedar Street to the city line.
Similarly, on Main Street, curbs and sidewalks not improved by streetscaping would be replaced with ordinary sidewalks.
The west side of North Main would get a new sidewalk from Hoyt Street to the end of the existing sidewalk, while the east side would be replaced from Brainerd Street northward. Sidewalk on both sides of South Main would be replaced from Stebbins Street to the interstate access road.
The filters for the Fairfax Reservoir treatment plant, have reached the end of their useful life. According to city manager Dominic Cloud, the filters are a must-do project, and if the bond is rejected the city will have to come before voters again to ask for the money to replace them.
The council unanimously approved the warning for the bond vote.