Communal septic system sought for one of county’s biggest trailer parks

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) is seeking funding for a communal sewage disposal system to serve the 67-unit Lindale Mobile Home Park off Route 116/Case Street in Middlebury.
This is a plan that advocates believe will cost-effectively remedy the increasing number of failing, individual septic systems within what is one of the county’s largest affordable housing developments.
The Middlebury selectboard earlier this month agreed to support ACCT’s bid to secure a planning grant of around $25,000 through the Vermont Community Development Program (VCDP) that would be used to hire an engineering firm to design a large septic system that would serve all of Lindale’s 67 homes.
ACCT owns and operates more than 600 units of permanently affordable housing, including 340 lots in nine mobile home parks throughout Addison County.
Elise Shanbacker, executive director of ACCT, explained the Lindale Mobile Home Park is approaching its 50th birthday. The park was developed in two phases, with 48 units installed in 1968 and another 19 put in in 1991. Each unit is currently served by its own septic system.
Lindale has provided a vital affordable housing source during its history, but its septic systems are now wearing out — particularly those introduced in 1968, Shanbacker stated in a Dec. 8 memo to the Middlebury selectboard.
“ACCT has been replacing systems at a rate of approximately three per year as they fail,” Shanbacker said. “This is putting major pressure on the park’s operating budget. We anticipate this problem to accelerate in the older portion of the park as the systems reach their 50th anniversaries.”
And the Lindale rents don’t generate enough funds to keep replacing the failing septic systems, according to Shanbacker.
Mary Blacklock Jackman, director of ownership programs for ACCT, said the most troublesome septic systems at the park are related to 11 units on Lindale Circle. She recently told selectboard members that ACCT has invested around $32,000 in repairs to those 11 systems since 2014.
To make matters worse, soils in a large portion of the park are made up of impermeable clay, and thus not ideal for accommodating septic systems. With that in mind, Community Trust officials will inquire about the availability of land immediately to the east and southeast of the mobile home park that has more suitable soils to host a communal septic system.
“We are looking to put the whole community on a septic system so we don’t have to deal with this situation going on down the line when the other ones start to fail,” Jackman said.
It’s a solution that won’t come cheap, and will require an infusion of state and federal funds, ACCT officials said. But first, the Community Trust needs an engineer to design and site a potential communal septic system.
Tim Ashe is a director of Housing Foundation Inc., a non-profit that manages hundreds of affordable housing units throughout Vermont. Ashe, also a state senator representing Chittenden County, is helping Addison County Community Trust apply for a VCDP planning grant to underwrite the engineering study.
“The planning grant will help to determine whether there is a project at all,” Ashe said.
The VCDP grant will require the Community Trust to put up a 25-percent match. Shanbacker said her non-profit organization is trying to scrape up the money. But she’s also asking the Middlebury selectboard if that sum could be provided through a municipal revolving loan fund. That fund currently contains $94,000, according to Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay.
Selectboard members on Dec. 12 voted unanimously to back ACCT’s effort to devise and install a communal septic system at Lindale. The board scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, Jan. 9, at 7:30 p.m. to further discuss ACCT’s proposal and potentially vote on tapping the revolving loan fund for some — or all — of the 25-percent local match for the planning grant.
“It would show the strongest possible support for those who are scoring the (grant) application, because it’s a competitive process,” Ashe said of the potential impact of Middlebury footing all of the local match.
Ashe said the VCDP will likely make its funding decisions in mid-February. That could lead to the hiring of an engineering firm in May or June, with a potential start to septic system work next summer.
“It seems like wise planning,” Selectwoman Laura Asermily said of ACCT’s plan for a communal septic system.
Selectman Nick Artim agreed.
“It seems like an honorable, cost-effective and logical approach,” he said. “I commend you for this effort.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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