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Nashua;54.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nskc.png;2014-10-26 01:51:46
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  • STAFF PHOTO BY BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Leo Gaudette picks up a handful of compost made with sawdust and solid waste during a tour Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at the Merrimack Wastewater Treatment plant. Residents will be asked to vote on a warrant article to upgrade the aging facilities. Go to www.nashuatelegraph.com to watch a video from the tour.


  • STAFF PHOTO BY BOB HAMMERSTROM


    A large blender stirs up a pool of waste Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at the Merrimack Wastewater Treatment plant. Residents will be asked to vote on a warrant article to upgrade the aging facilities. Go to www.nashuatelegraph.com to watch a video from the tour.


  • STAFF PHOTO BY BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Filtered and cleaned, wastewater flows out of the facility and in to the Merrimack River Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at the Merrimack Wastewater Treatment plant. Residents will be asked to vote on a warrant article to upgrade the aging facilities. Go to www.nashuatelegraph.com to watch a video from the tour.


  • STAFF PHOTO BY BOB HAMMERSTROM


    leo Gaudette checks a control panel in the pump house Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at the Merrimack Wastewater Treatment plant. Residents will be asked to vote on a warrant article to upgrade the aging facilities. The pumphouse control panels were upgraded in the first phase recently. Go to www.nashuatelegraph.com to watch a video from the tour.


  • STAFF PHOTO BY BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Water is aeriated in big lagoons Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at the Merrimack Wastewater Treatment plant. Residents will be asked to vote on a warrant article to upgrade the aging facilities. Go to www.nashuatelegraph.com to watch a video from the tour.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Wastewater plant upgrade among issues facing Merrimack voters Tuesday

MERRIMACK – The pumps at the Merrimack Wastewater Treatment Plant are set to celebrate their 42nd birthday next month. But instead of a birthday bash, plant administrators are hoping to hold a retirement party.

For the second year in a row, plant administrators are seeking to replace and upgrade the pumps, among other equipment through a pair of spending proposals to go before town voters at next week’s election.

Voting takes place Tuesday, April 10, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at James Mastricola Upper Elementary School.

The first article, a $4.2 million request, proposes to upgrade the plant’s 40-year-old pumping and electronic systems, among others, before they succumb. The second would provide about $2.9 million worth of improvements to the plant’s compost facility.

Many of the pumps have been operating since the facility opened May 5, 1970, and if the equipment fails, it could leave the town facing sewage backups and steep fines from federal environmental officers, said Jim Taylor, the town’s assistant public works director.

“Some of these things have been running nearly nonstop for four decades,” he said last week. “It’s the time to do it. It’s the right thing to do, and the (Environmental Protection Agency)’s got the hammer.”

Federal authorities could issue fines as high as six figures should the plant experience a pump failure, and they could order administrators to replace the pumps, Taylor said.

That would only be the beginning of trouble for town residents and sewer users.

Backup pumps lie waiting in reserve should the system stall, but that equipment is just as old and outdated as the primary pumps, Taylor said. Should both equipment fail, it could result in sewage backing up and overflowing into the streets through sewer covers, Taylor said.

“That would be really bad,” he said.

The project’s $4.2 million price tag wouldn’t cause any increases in the town tax rate, but would instead be funded through sewer user fees.

The sewer treatment plant serves about 20 percent of the town’s 28,000 homes and businesses, and its annual $187 charge ranks among the state’s lowest, according to state records.

The expense would not be reflected in the coming year’s sewer fees, but the rates would likely rise somewhat in the years to come. Still, due in part to the plant’s compost service, they will likely remain lower than most in the state, administrators said.

To dispose of the sludge extracted during the treatment process, plant workers produce a compost mix that is sold and distributed across the region.

The plant takes in nearly $250,000 a year through its compost sales, as well as tipping fees from neighboring towns, which contract with the town for its compost facilities, and that money is used to offset maintenance and operations cost.

Like the sewage pumps, however, the compost equipment is reaching the end of its useful life. The $2.9 million spending proposal, to go to voters at Tuesday’s election, would cover new ventilation and aeration blowers and a new electrical system, among other components. Both the compost and plant upgrades require two-thirds majority votes to pass.

“If we lose this (service), it would be hard to bring back,” said Leo Gaudette, the plant operator. “We’ve come to know what we’re doing.”

Among other matters to go to voters Tuesday is the town’s $30.1 million operating budget proposal.

As it stands now, the town’s budget proposal is about $3 million, or 11 percent, higher than the $27.1 million default budget enacted last year by voters. But the proposed spending plan is less than 1 percent higher than actual town spending, which includes a series of capital projects not included in the default budget that were funded over the past year.

The budget proposal includes a pair of position cuts from the Fire Department roster. To save costs, the Town Council has proposed to cut two firefighter positions. But Fire Chief Michael Currier says the reductions could limit the department’s ability to respond to multiple calls at once.

“We’re getting more calls that are back to back, or double calls at once. That’s a struggle for us,” he said last month.

If it passes, the budget proposal would maintain the town’s current tax rate of $5.24 per $1,000 of assessed value.

If voters deny the budget, however, the $27.5 million default budget would increase the tax rate 10 cents, according to town officials.

The only other two articles included on the town ballot both involve police union contracts.

If passed, the contracts would provide the department patrolmen, dispatchers and secretaries with a 1 percent raise over the next year.

The patrolmen agreement would run through 2013 at a cost of $32,000. The second contract, covering the dispatchers and secretaries, will cost about $2,900.

In the contested races on the ballot, incumbent Town Councilors Tom Koenig and Tom Mahon are among six candidates competing for three spots on the town’s governing board. Former Selectmen Nancy Harrington and Mike Malzone are also running for the positions, along with Kevin Shea and Lon Woods.

Martin Carrier and Bruce Moreau are competing for the town treasurer position, and six candidates are in the running for two spots on the Merrimack Public Library’s board of trustees.

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com.