Riverhead Town set to bond $9M for big sewer upgrades

02/05/2014 1:45 PM |
Paul Squire file photo  |  When the Riverhead Sewer District is able to upgrade its facility off Riverside Drive, the water being currently treated at the plant would then be pumped through a new, high-tech filtration system before reaching Peconic Bay.

Paul Squire file photo | When the Riverhead Sewer District is able to upgrade its facility off Riverside Drive, the water being currently treated at the plant would then be pumped through a new, high-tech filtration system before reaching Peconic Bay.

The Riverhead Town Board is planning to authorize the bonding of almost $9 million to cover part of a federally mandated $23.5 million upgrade to the Riverhead Sewer Plant at a special meeting Thursday morning.

The meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. in Town Hall, and will be followed by a regular Town Board work session.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the bonding needs to be authorized now in order to meet the stringent guidelines of the state Environmental Facilities Corps — through which the town is bonding the project — which provides low-cost financing for environmental projects in the state.

According to the town’s State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit, the town was supposed to have this project up and running by Jan 21, 2014, which was a few weeks ago.

So says Frank Russo, an engineer for H2M, who is representing the town on the matter and who spoke at a public hearing at Tuesday Town Board meeting.

The town last upgraded the facility to state-of-the-art standards in 1999, at a cost of about $9 million.

However, this new upgrade is required because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 revised its numbers for allowable nitrogen discharge in the Peconic River, making those standards more stringent, and requiring that the town plant remove a higher percentage of nitrogen from treated effluent that it pumps into the bay, Mr. Russo said.

The town won’t be on the hook for the whole $23.5 million though.

It has received an $8 million grant from the county, and $2 million from the state for the project, and it also has about $4 million in sewer district reserves for this project, Mr. Russo said.

The amount the town will have to bond is $8.96 million, he said.

But Mr. Russo said Suffolk County has a sewer rate stabilization fund just for instances like this. That fund will cap the tax rate increase at 3 percent, with the county picking up the difference., though Riverhead still must apply for that program.

The three percent increase amounts to an additional $23 for someone whose property is assessed at $50,000, he said.

The sewer district covers downtown and parts of Route 58.

The upgrade is expected to increase the electrical costs at the plant by $350,000 per year, Mr. Russo said. Those costs are paid through the sewer usage rates, and not through property taxes, he said. He estimates that between the tax rate and the sewer use costs, the increase will be 18.24 percent, or $113 more per year for someone with property assessed at $50,000.

Check back Thursday for live coverage from the meeting and work session.

tgannon@timesreview.com

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