Council to consider facilities’ appraisals; last estimate, $17M

ST. ALBANS TOWN — Though he was absent from Monday’s discussion on water and sewer negotiations with St. Albans City, St. Albans Town Selectboard member Bruce Cheeseman had some input Tuesday.

Cheeseman, who was on a business trip to Niagara Falls, N.Y. early this week, called the Messenger yesterday morning to emphasize his commitment to the issue.

“To me and Stan [Dukas], this is very important,” said Cheeseman. “[We] stood back and said, ‘There’s nothing happening with the water and sewer deal.”

Cheeseman said that he and Dukas called St. Albans City Manager Dominic Cloud to set up a meeting recently. “We went over and we sat down with Dominic and we said, ‘Listen, let’s get this thing settled once and for all.’”

Cheeseman and Dukas asked whether the city would be open to the town potentially buying 50 percent of the water and wastewater facilities. This was the original proposal in front of the Joint Wastewater/Water Committee – made up of both city and town members – in 2008, for a total cost of $17 million to the town. At that point, with a different group of selectboard members, the town declined due to the high cost.

Cheeseman said he felt that choice was a mistake, which is why he and Dukas again brought the question to Cloud.

“[Dominic] says, ‘You know what, it’s not out of the question,’” said Cheeseman. He added that Cloud then took the question to the cityc.

Cheeseman said, “If I’m not mistaken, they unanimously said, ‘That might be something we’re interested in.’”

These conversations, said Cheeseman, were how the idea to negotiate with St. Albans City – of which few details were provided Monday by selectboard chair Brent Palmer — all began.

“Stan and I said, ‘Hey, listen, let’s get something done,’” said Cheeseman. “The mindset that the selectboard has, this ‘wait and see’ thing – well, nothing is happening. We have started the ball rolling.”

He added, “I would really like to see us have another successful partnership with the City.”

Cheeseman and selectboard member Sam Smith plan to attend the July 13, city council meeting, at which the 50 percent buyout and a potential appraisal of the city’s water and sewer plants and facility infrastructure will be discussed.

“On the 13th, the meeting that we go to is to see if they’re agreeing on doing the appraisal – and I’m sure they are,” said Cheeseman. “That’s the whole reason for us [to go]. There’s going to have to be a lot of discussion of what we’re appraising.”

These are the first steps the selectboard has taken since St. Albans City Mayor Liz Gamache announced in December 2014 that the city planned to lift the 2011 moratorium banning any new water or sewer hookups outside the city’s limits (except in the North End Sewer District by Interstate 89 Exit 20).

The city council is currently working to adopt an ordinance that would charge an annual affiliation fee on all new and existing properties outside the city that request water and sewer hookups.

In the meantime, Cheeseman and other selectboard members are assessing the options for new water and sewer hookups in St. Albans Town. They heard from PC Construction, a South Burlington company that specializes in building wastewater treatment plants, during a special meeting last Thursday.

On Monday, Palmer made the announcement that the town wished to negotiate the issue with the city after years of failed negotiations, two lawsuits and a nullified agreement.

“This is a giant step forward for us,” said Cheeseman. “This is something we’re doing that we’re not doing through courts, we’re not doing through threats.”