Dennis Lutz

Public works director Dennis Lutz presents the water and sewer budget to the Essex selectboard April 18. 

ESSEX — In the next year, the Town of Essex plans to spend $388,500 on studies and designs for future water and sewer improvement projects. 

During its April 18 meeting, the Essex selectboard set May 2 as the date for a public hearing on the amount. Public works director Dennis Lutz said conducting these studies now will put the town in a position to move projects forward to construction during the next two to five years.

At that time, funds from the federal Infrastructure Act, in the form of loan forgiveness, should be available and at their peak, he said. 

At the start of fiscal year 2023, July 1, water rates are proposed to increase by 2.1%, from $5.78 per 1,000 gallons to $5.90 per 1,000 gallons. The yearly minimum public water charge is proposed to increase by $10. 

Lutz said these increases are mostly due to a rate increase of 4.6% imposed by the Champlain Water District, which is to where Essex pays about half of its water bill. 

Sewer rates are proposed to increase 3.4%, from $9.93 per 1,000 gallons to $10.27 per 1,000 gallons. 

Inflated chemical costs are driving up rates this year as well as administrative costs related to town and village separation, Lutz said. In addition, Essex shares sewer services with the village and the Town of Williston, and the three towns committed to setting aside more reserve funds each year. 

“The sewer and water fund is on a pretty stable financial basis,” Lutz said. “We haven’t borrowed money since 2015. We’ve been able to meet all our expenses, which tells me it's solvent.” 

The hearing at 6:35 p.m. on May 2 is not required by the town, Lutz said, but he feels it is important to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the projects and the proposed rate increases.

Between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023, Public Works will use the proposed $388,500 to finalize plans for the following projects: 

Town Center Water Line

A 12-inch waterline along the north side of VT 15 from Billie Butler Drive to the intersection of Essex Way. The project is 90% designed and $20,000 will be used this year to complete the plan. If the project is selected for federal funds, it will only cost the town $300,000 to build.  Construction could begin as early as summer 2023. 

Route 15/Sand Hill Water Line

This project replaces an older asbestos-cement waterline in the area of the intersection of Sand Hill Road and VT 15. This year, $20,000 will bring the design to completion. On schedule to be built in 2024, the project is estimated to cost $250,000. 

Leak Detection Survey

$35,000 will be used this year to check for leaks in Essex’s entire water distribution system. Approximately 25% of the assessment has already been completed and the remaining portion is estimated to take three weeks. Similar surveys should be repeated every three to four years. 

Fort Ethan Allen Asset Replacement

$75,000 will be spent this year on plans for replacing existing water infrastructure throughout Fort Ethan Allen including — but not limited to — water mains, water services, valves and relocation of water lines under structures. This project is a candidate for federal infrastructure funds. 

Pump Station Communications Upgrade

$25,000 this year will update the three of the remaining seven town-owned pump stations to a cloud-based monitoring system. 

Pump Station Control Upgrade

$30,000 will be spent in spring 2022 on upgrading two of the six remaining pump stations to a new control system. 

Painesville Gravity Sewer Project

This project is the extension of a gravity sewer up portions of Pinecrest Drive, Ira Allen and Pioneer Street. $45,000 will be spent on revising the plans to reflect a new construction permit. The project will be completed in 2022 or 2023. 

Fort Ethan Allen Sewer Allocation Capacity Study

$45,000 will be spent on a complete sewer capacity study of existing sewer infrastructure throughout the entire Fort, in both Colchester and Essex.

Lang Farm Pump Station

A new pump station to handle existing and future wastewater flows from the Town Center area. The entire project is estimated to cost $1 million, but only $75,000 will be spent this year on the design phase. 

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