Shared septic could serve Addison buildings

ADDISON — On Monday at Addison Central School members of the Addison’s town hall committee and selectboard and a few residents heard that building a shared septic system to serve all town-owned buildings at the intersections of Routes 17 and 22A could probably be done.
But at a price: That system — which could resolve ownership of and allow renovation of Addison’s historic town hall — might cost up to $500,000, said Jon Ashley of Phelps Engineering Inc. of Middlebury.
That price tag would not include buying the land proposed as a septic site, a parcel on level ground several hundred feet west of the central school. But Ashley said grants might also pay for up to half the cost.
“We have helped towns in finding the best funding options,” Ashley said, adding, “There are some grants and loan programs that towns and property owners qualify for.”
John Spencer, chairman of the town hall committee that was formed three years ago to work on the issue, said he would present the sewer study findings at next month’s town meeting. He will also ask residents to consider funding a study on how Addison could use its former town hall, which needs rehabilitation after decades of disuse.
“The next step here is to do a study of the building itself,” Spencer said at Monday’s meeting. “There is money for all these things (building restoration), but we have to know what the needs are first.”
Even though Addison has not held meetings in the building for more than 30 years, Spencer said its structure remains essentially sound.
“The building is not falling down. It’s in pretty good shape considering the neglect,” he said.
The town hall, which has no septic system of its own, sits on Route 22A on land owned by the Addison Community Baptist Church. The site lies across the parking lot from the town clerk’s office and the elementary school, and across Route 17 from the town’s nearby fire station.
The deed to the town hall states that its ownership reverts from Addison to the church if the town does not use the building. At the same time, many in Addison agree that the current office building is too small, especially for meetings, and some believe the former town hall could provide a solution.
Spencer said on Monday, for example, he thinks an addition could be built onto the town hall to house office space and a vault, while the town hall could provide space for town meetings and community functions “much like what Ferrisburgh has” in its replica Grange Hall. Like that project, he said, grants could also help fund restoration of the prominent, more than 130-year-old building.
The sewer feasibility study grew out of conversations among church officials, selectmen and the town hall committee about a year ago. Spencer said the church agreed to cede its rights to the building to Addison if the town could solve the church’s septic problems.
That deal quickly led to a wider look at the area’s widely known disposal problems. The town hall committee obtained a $10,000 grant from the Agency of Natural Resources to help fund the $14,000 feasibility study. Voters at Addison’s 2009 town meeting also approved spending $10,000 to study the town hall question, and the remaining $4,000 came from those funds.
The Phelps feasibility study confirmed the issues: The town clerk’s office and fire station are among the 13 properties in the village area studied that sooner or later will have “a need for off-site disposal capacity.” Of course, officials said without septic town hall cannot be subdivided from the church, nor does it make sense to invest in the building, unless it has a septic system.
On the solution side, Ashley said after studying soil maps and doing some hand digging, Phelps Inc. concluded the best site lies to the south and west of the village area at Addison Four Corners.
It is not certain that it has enough capacity for the three town buildings, the church, and the nearby general store (which Spencer and Ashley said cannot expand without a better septic solution). But Ashley said Phelps engineers are optimistic the capacity is there for town and church purposes, plus “a couple homes and the store.”
The recommended design calls for each property to have its own septic tank, and then share a main flow pipe down to the site, which would serve as a leach field. Ashley said the system would be relatively cheap and easy to maintain compared to other design alternatives.
“It’s pretty similar to what people have on their lots already,” he said.
Spencer said the cost does not include land acquisition and he could not comment on a potential purchase price, but that the landowner is willing to discuss a sale.
At the high-end price of $500,000 — not figuring in either the cost of the land or the possible 50 percent grant support — Ashley estimated that the project could cost Addison $30,000 a year for 20 years and add $30 a year in taxes on a $200,000 home.
The system Ashley described on Monday would require a “curtain drain” uphill from the leach field to prevent groundwater from flooding the leach field. And designing that element requires monitoring groundwater with test pits between March 1 and May 31 in any given year, he said.
Spencer said it would be unlikely to have all the grants and research lined up to start digging test pits there even a year from now, but said the town should press forward with the effort.
“Nothing will happen quickly,” Spencer said. “But we need to continue to make progress. We need space in the town.”
In fact, he saw the completion of the sewer study as a step forward because without septic Addison cannot move forward on restoring its town hall or improving its fire department or clerk’s office.
“It was the elephant in the front hall,” Spencer said. “Now we know what it will take.”

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