Waitsfield Village has been the center of community life for over 100 years. Nearly forty years ago, the need for business expansion and new services prompted Waitsfield voters to designate Irasville as the Town's second village center. Many municipal policies - including zoning standards, sidewalk and road improvements, and efforts to provide more housing options (e.g., Evergreen Place Senior Housing) - have supported the vitality of both Irasville and Waitsfield Village as centers for housing, commerce and civic engagement. At the same time, the Town has worked to protect open space and maintain the rural character of the surrounding landscape.
The land use and infrastructure decisions made since the late 1960s and 1970s have generally served the Town well, as Waitsfield has managed to accommodate inevitable growth while maintaining much of our rural character. This year, Waitsfield voters will once again have an opportunity to reinforce the longstanding policy of investing in our villages when asked to support the creation of a municipal wastewater system for Irasville.
The greatest challenge facing Irasville resulted in development patterns that are not pedestrian friendly, as well as an overlapping system of septic fields and water supplies which pose a threat to public health, limit new housing opportunities, and limit the ability of local businesses to expand. Following more than 10 years of intensive study, the Town is proposin is the current reliance on on-site septic disposal and private wells. This hg to construct a municipal wastewater system to serve the Irasville village area (see map, page 3). There are many reasons the Town is pursuing this new infrastructure. These include:
- New Vermont wastewater disposal rules, which took effect in July 2007, extend state jurisdiction over all private wastewater systems and have made it much more difficult for property owners needing to upgrade or expand their systems to find viable wastewater solutions. This situation will only get worse as existing systems continue to age, and as properties change hands.
- A municipal wastewater system will provide property owners in the service area with an economically-viable option for wastewater disposal. This will allow greater flexibility for potential uses of property and allow for the continued development of a vibrant "downtown" for the Mad River Valley.
- As state and federal assistance becomes more limited, Waitsfield has a window of opportunity to take advantage of up to $6 million in grant funds for these efforts, $3 million of which has already been committed. This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity that - in 20, 50, or 100 years - will be viewed as either a farsighted decision of the town, or one of its greatest missed opportunities.
Proposed Service Area
Although Waitsfield Village and Irasville are the primary areas to be served by the municipal water, hookups will be possible all along the transmission line, from Tremblay Road and along Route 100.
- Balance conservation of rural resources with pedestrian-friendly village centers.
- Allow for mixed, planned growth, including affordable housing.
- Protection of Mad River and the nearby groundwater quality.
- Improved drinking water quality for those retaining on-site water supplies.
- Expanded tax base, business retention, and potential for residential and commercial growth in the Village areas.
- Costs will be substantially borne by the connected users of the system.
- Infrastructure needed to support Village Growth Center; reduces pressure to grow in a "sprawl" fashion.
- Provide a suitable alternative for failed systems that would not otherwise meet permitting standards.
- Conformance with the Town Plan and vision.
The wastewater system is currently proposed to serve the Irasville area only and is proposed to be constructed in two phases.
Phase 1 will begin in 2009 and include a centralized collection system consisting of sewers, large capacity septic tanks, pump stations, and force mains to carry wastewater from properties to the "Munn" site, a property purchased by the Town in 2000 for its in-ground disposal capacity.
Using only septic tanks and in-ground disposal in this phase, the "rated capacity" of the Munn site is 18,000 gallons per day (gpd), or the equivalent of serving approximately 1/3 of the properties in the Irasville area. Phase 1 will also include "stubouts" for service connections to all properties within the service area, even those that will not receive service at this time.
Phase 2: When additional funding becomes available, or if voters approve bonding for the entire system at town meeting, or when additional grant funding, and/or the Town's plan for a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District is approved and the development pressure is evident, a tertiary treatment facility will be built on the Munn site, which will allow the site to quadruple its potential disposal capacity, thereby allowing all properties within the Irasville service area to connect and still have reserve capacity for infill growth.
Why the Project is Phased
The project is proposed to be phased for several reasons:
The Town is concurrently planning a sidewalk improvement project from Bragg Hill Road to the Elementary School. After 10 years in the planning and design phases, this project is nearly complete, funding is in place, and is expected to be ready for construction in 2009. The alignment of the sidewalk and locations of the proposed water and sewer lines are in the same area and it is prudent - and much more cost effective - to put the water and sewer lines in the ground before the sidewalk is constructed.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) has been very cooperative in delaying plans for major reconstruction and repaving of Route 100 from the Waitsfield Elementary School south to Warren, but if the water, wastewater, and sidewalk projects are not complete by 2010, the funding may be reallocated and/or VTrans will simply resurface the road. In that case, the repairs needed for Route 100 may not be scheduled again for another eight to 10 years.
The Town, its consultants, and state representative have been vigilant in seeking grant funds for the wastewater project, which is necessary for it to be a financially viable system. Unfortunately, federal grant funding for wastewater infrastructure has been reduced in recent years, and State grant funding has been over-allocated for the next several years. Consequently, not enough grant money has been secured to construct a full-scale wastewater treatment facility to provide wastewater service to all properties in Irasville without overburdening property owners inside and outside of the service area.
Phase 1 is not a stand alone option. It is the logical first step to provide a wastewater system with the funding currently available, and it will allow the pipes to go in the ground before the sidewalk and paving projects are completed, thus avoiding costly re-work and other complications if the project waited until a more attractive funding package was in place.
Important Schedule Items
Citizens are encouraged to be aware of and/or participate in the following activities:
January 31, 2008, Thurs.
- Deadline to return wastewater commitment letters and qualify for discounted hook-up fee.
February 6, 2008, Weds., 7:30 p.m.
- Call-in program on MRVTV, 583-4488.
- Review Bulletin #3, which will focus on detailed cost information and respond to questions that are raised.
February 20, 2008, Weds., 7:30 p.m.
- Attend a pre-bond vote public information meeting at the Big Picture Theater.
February 25, 2008, Mon., 7:00 p.m.
- Attend a pre-bond vote public information meeting at the Elementary School.
February 27, 2008, Weds., 7:30 p.m.
- Call-in program on MRVTV, 583-4488.
March 4, 2008
- Vote on Water and Wastewater Bond at Town Meeting.
2008 - 2009
- Secure bond financing.
- Secure state and local permits.
- Put project out to bid; select contractor(s).
Why Waitsfield Village is Not Currently Included
The decision not to extend the centralized wastewater service to Waitsfield Village now was largely financial and reduced the project cost by more than $2 million. Physical constraints, such as ledge, elevation, and existing below-ground infrastructure, contributed significantly to the cost. Although much of the Village is already built-out and has limited potential for new development or infill, its soils are generally better able to accommodate in-ground wastewater systems than in Irasville.
With Phase 1 only providing wastewater treatment for 18,000 gpd, only a relatively small number of connections in a larger service area would be possible. In addition, public health concerns and State permitting requirements related to existing inadequate systems may be alleviated for some properties (such as the Elementary School) when the municipal water service becomes available.
Finally, property at the north end of the Village was recently offered to the Town that may provide a more appropriate and cost-effective long-term wastewater management option for the historic Village in the near future.
There Are Still So Many Questions -- Why Now?
The Town has been working publicly on studies, plans, designs, and funding sources for a municipal wastewater system for the past 10 or more years. The different parts have now come together into a viable wastewater disposal project. There are many reasons why this is the time to take the next step forward:
- In 2004, 2005, and 2006, $3 million in three separate federal earmarks were secured through the Environmental Protection Agency's State and Tribal Assistance Grant (STAG) program. They agreed then and agree now that it is a worthwhile investment. However, nearly 4 years later, we have been put on notice that if the project is not scheduled to go forward, the federal government will take the money back and reallocate it to other initiatives. This is understandable and good policy.
- As explained in why this project is being phased, we have a window of opportunity to get the pipes in the ground before the sidewalk is constructed and before Route 100 is reconstructed. This window is closing.
- Vermont is enjoying its highest bond rating ever, which means now is a very good time to secure bond financing at favorable rates. This is not likely to last and money will be more expensive in future years.
- There has been a sharp decline in the number of large public works projects in Vermont. This is the best opportunity in recent years to obtain competitive pricing from area contractors for construction of the project, while still taking advantage of low interest rates and a strong state bond rating.
- If not now-when?
How Will It Be Paid For?
Funding for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the wastewater project is proposed to come from a variety of sources. Altought the Town has been fortunate to receive three federal earmarks, and we continue to seek additional grant funds, there will not be enough in grant revenues to pay for the entire cost. Voters will be asked to support a 20 or 30 year bond to pay for a portion of the project. The bonded debt will be repaid by user fees, and the Selectboard is asking taxpayers to support a portion of the cost with a town-wide tax of 1.5 cents per $100 assessed value.
The rationale for such a request is that - just as citizens without children contribute to, and benefit from, public education - the community as a whole will benefit from an investment in infrastructure that supports the Town's economic base, protects water quality, grows the property tax base, and allows the town to continue balancing village development with the protection natural resources and our rural character.
More detailed information about the project's costs, funding sources, and options can be found at Costs.