MANCHESTER — The town is exploring the possibility of extending a municipal sewer main along Route 7A from its current endpoint near the Manchester Community Library up to Hunter Park Road, near Riley Rink at Hunter Park.
The project, if it were to proceed, would remove a constraint on development along a corridor that, as part of a town-wide zoning overhaul several years ago, was rezoned to accommodate a greater density of residential housing than what was previously allowed.
Town Manager John O’Keefe said Tuesday that a survey of the project area has been completed and that the Select Board may consider green-lighting a contract for design work as soon as this month.
O’Keefe said it seems increasingly clear that the new line will be able to achieve the minimum slope necessary to eliminate the need for a pumping station, an element that would add to construction costs and likely require securing the right to build it on private property.
At its March 23 meeting, following a presentation from project consultant Chrissy Haskins, the Select Board selected the route of the proposed northward sewer system expansion — from Cemetery Avenue to Route 7A, or Main Street, up to Hunter Park Road, where it would turn and head toward the Dailey gravel pit — over other routes anticipated to be more costly.
The project’s preliminary cost estimate, which includes a 25 percent contingency reserve and funding for the possibly unnecessary pumping station, is $2.01 million. Without the pumping station, the projected cost drops to $1.86 million.
At a meeting in April, acting as the Board of Sewer Commissioners, which has the same composition as the Select Board, town officials approved drawing $6,500 from the town’s sewer capital reserve fund to cover the cost of the survey.
The town is considering an array of funding sources for the project, including federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act, connection fees and assessment fees within the new or expanded sewer district, according to O’Keefe. A loan from the town’s sewer capital reserve fund is another option.
The town could consider imposing lower connection fees along the new line for projects it wants to encourage, like affordable and workforce housing, O’Keefe said during the April meeting. It could also consider raising connection fees over time as a way of incentivizing property owners to join the system early on.
Proceeding in phases could allow the project to advance more quickly, according to O’Keefe.
The first phase, which could begin as soon as this fall, would stretch from Cemetery Avenue to the vicinity of the Vermont Country Store, said O’Keefe. The second phase would bring the line to Manchester Town Hall, and the third phase would reach the gravel pit.
Businessman Bill Drunsic, who is developing multiple properties along the project corridor, encouraged the board during the April meeting to advance the project “as rapidly as possible.”
Drunsic said he has obtained approvals for septic systems for his projects, which include a 20-unit residential development with a community center, but that he’d prefer to spend money to support the sewer expansion.
Estimated average daily flows for the new stretch of sewer line would be 21,500 gallons per day, but that figure could rise to 75,000 to 80,000 gallons per day with future prospective development, according to information displayed during the March meeting. Recent daily flows at the town’s sewer plant have been between 200,000 and 250,000 gallons per day, well below its permitted capacity of 600,000 gallons per day.
O’Keefe suggested the new sewer line’s capacity could be capped at 100,000 gallons per day or lower.
Another area that is being considered for a sewer line expansion in the future is Richville Road, O’Keefe said at the board’s April meeting.