Because of two important developments in December, the Planning Commission has concluded that at this time it is prudent to delay a bond vote on the proposed wastewater project. There will not be a bond vote on the wastewater project at March 2022 Town Meeting, for two reasons.
First, the State of Vermont has yet to make its formal commitment of funding to the Town of Westford. The State has dedicated ARPA and Village Wastewater funding in hand. In the fall, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources stated in its public presentation that Westford would be one of the two communities (along with Montgomery) receiving FY22 funds. Between the pandemic and other delays at the State, the full commitment has not been made. Without the specifics of this commitment, we cannot calculate the cost to taxpayers or system users.
Second, the Town has new – and unexpected - options for the design of the leach field at the Maple Shade Town Forest. In the course of the regular, planned engineering evaluation of soil conditions at the site last November, the engineering team found the soils are significantly better-suited for effective wastewater treatment than we anticipated. This has important implications for design, the need for pre-treatment, and costs. Our engineering team and the Town need time to fully understand and choose the best design option for the community.
The Planning Commission will be moving forward with the community wastewater project in a transparent way, continuing to keep the community informed and engaged as the new engineering options are evaluated. As financial information comes in from the State, we will work with the Selectboard on taxpayer implications and user rates. The public information meeting previously scheduled for February 8th will be rescheduled to a later date when a complete picture of the engineering and financial options can be presented. While we do not yet know when a bond vote will occur, we anticipate the vote will occur on or before election day in November 2022.
November and December have been busy months for the community wastewater project. Project information is always available at www.westfordsfuture.com. Here are some updates on specific aspects of the project:
Funding Commitments: The Town is still waiting to receive word from the State of Vermont on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be allocated to the Westford Community Wastewater Project. Things are looking very positive, but the pandemic and other factors have delayed hearing about a finalized award. As soon as we learn more, we will update residents on the results.
Engineering Progress: You may have seen the engineering team from Green Mountain Engineering (Alan Huizenga, Brad Washburn, and Alex Huizenga) visiting property owners in and around the Town Common. They have verified building plumbing and exits, which is essential information for final design engineering for those properties who would choose– voluntarily – to connect to a community system. Based on responses to the service area property owner survey and meetings with the engineering team, 19 of the 34 eligible parcels in the service area plan to connect to the system, and another 7 are considering whether to connect.
Maple Shade Town Forest Leach Field Evaluation: You also may have seen a drill rig on the Jackson Farm property during the week of November 7th. As a normal and required part of the engineering design process, a drill rig took soil borings and conducted large-scale hydraulic tests of the proposed leach field (wastewater disposal) area on the Maple Shade Town Forest property. This involves taking soil borings to establish the depth to clay layers and bedrock underneath the disposal field, pumping water into the ground, and taking readings at a monitoring well to assess how much wastewater can be applied safely. The testing found that the leach field area has very deep, well-drained soils, with 34’ depth to bedrock and no groundwater. This is excellent news for the, effectiveness, and safety of the site’s use as a wastewater disposal site. It means that the area can safely manage projected system effluent in a way that is protective of groundwater, and protective of nearby properties and wells and will have superior resiliency and longevity. It further establishes that securing the property of the Maple Shade Forest in which this site is located provides for many long-term benefits to the Town and its residents. Additional engineering evaluation and design will now be prepared and reviewed with State regulators to determine a final capacity number and site layout.
A public informational meeting on the community wastewater system is scheduled for Tuesday, February 8th, from 6:30-8:30pm at Westford School. Hybrid attendance options will be available. Full information about this event can be found at https://www.westfordsfuture.com/events.html.
During the week of November 14th, additional engineering investigations were conducted on the north-east section of Maple Shade Forest. Previous investigations used an excavator that can only reach approximately 14 feet deep. The new work included installing four new soil borings to further refine subsurface properties such as depth to bedrock and groundwater elevation. New monitoring wells were installed in the borings and further assessment of ground water will be conducted. This investigation work is 100% grant funded.
We asked the Consulting Engineer, Amy Macrellis of Stone Environmental, what she finds interesting about working in this section of Westford. This was her response: “What I love about the Maple Shade site is that it was once lakeshore property! Unfortunately for the Westford Town Common, it was under the lake…~13,500 years ago. The departing glaciers first gave Westford Glacial Lake Vermont, then took it away in stages as the ice sheets retreated north.
The Lake Vermont shores were relatively high-energy - think about the waves you might see on the modern Lake Champlain shoreline on a blustery day. Today, where those shores were, we see sands, gravels, and lots of nice bedding structures, all found during last week’s boring. On the map below, I marked where Westford was relative to the full extents of Lake Vermont, so you can maybe get some sense of how big Lake Vermont was… and for a cool (to me) animation created by Vermont DEC of how the glacial lakes formed and retreated, check out https//www.facebook.com/watch/?v=492996508035516"
On Sunday, November 21st, Westford residents were able to visit an existing in-ground leach field near Hillside Lane, off of North Road in Westford. This system has a similar capacity as the one proposed on Maple Shade. We want to thank the residents of Hillside Lane for allowing us to visit. We also want to thank Marty Scanlon and Terry Bosworth for taking time to share their perspectives of their community system and especially R.J. Moore for providing technical background and expertise to help answer questions from those present. More information about their community system can be found at https://www.wfd1.org/.
In September 2021, the Town of Westford was awarded a $466,194 grant by the Northern Borders Regional Commission (NBRC) and Economic Development Administration to support the Community Wastewater Project. These are competitive grants, and the NBRC grant is particularly competitive as it includes applications from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. This grant is one piece of a funding stack being developed by the town in order to affordably move the community wastewater project to construction, if approved by the voters.
The town was also granted a Step 2 State Clean Water Revolving Fund loan for $250,351 with $125,000 forgiven upon issuance. The remaining $125,351 will not be spent until such time as additional funds become available, such as state or local ARPA funds, or a bond vote occurs. These funds will be used for final design and permitting, which will make Westford the only town in the state with a shovel-ready proposal to develop a new community wastewater system in a village setting.
We owe a lot of gratitude to all those that worked on the grant applications, and especially Liz Curry, our Grant Writer. Great work, Liz! Additional grants are being pursued and we will share information as it becomes available.
In early September, the outreach group sent a questionnaire to 31 households and potential system users and received responses. We are still in the process of receiving responses and, so far, have received responses from half of the potential users. Here are the results of the questionnaire thus far:
● 34 properties are in the proposed sewer service area (PSSA).
● 31 property owners own structures in the PSSA .
● 51.61% of the property owners in the PSSA responded to the survey.
● 62.5% of respondents said they are interested in connecting to the system during construction.
● 18.75% of respondents said they may be interested in connecting to the system during construction.
● 18.75% of respondents said they are not interested in connecting to the system during construction.
Based on received responses, over 80% of respondents are interested or possibly interested in connecting to the proposed community wastewater system.
In November, the Planning Commission will be working with our Consultant, J.B. Hinds, regarding potential bond vote language and to review example sewer ordinances. The goal will be to provide very preliminary bond vote language to share with the Selectboard and the Town's attorney, as well as beginning to frame the principles and policies around the governance of a community wastewater system. Also in November, the Step 2 work described above will ramp up and is expected to continue through the winter and early spring.
Finally, the Community Wastewater Public Engagement Working Group will be coordinating a field trip for all interested residents to at least one existing community wastewater system that is similar to the proposed system for Westford. Please stay tuned for more information on when and where!
Thanks to all who were able to attend the informational meeting on Tuesday evening either in person or via zoom. We had 100 folks attend in total, which was great to see. A big thank you to Westford School folks for setup and tech support, as well as Lake Champlain Access Television for helping us have our very first large public hybrid meeting in town!
If you weren't able to attend, you can watch a recording of the meeting here:
Stay tuned for more announcements regarding further meetings, and please reach out to the Planning Commission with any questions or comments: https://www.westfordsfuture.com/contact.html
In September 2021, the Town of Westford was awarded a $466,194 grant by the Northern Borders Regional Commission (NBRC) and Economic Development Administration. These are competitive grants, and the NBRC grant is particularly competitive as it includes applications from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. This grant is one piece of a funding stack being developed by the Town in order to affordably move the community wastewater project to construction, if approved by the voters.
In September, we were also granted a Step 2 State Clean Water Revolving Fund loan for $250,351 with $125,000 forgiven upon issuance. The remaining $125,351 will not be spent until such time as additional funds become available, such as state or local ARPA funds, or a bond vote occurs. These funds will be used for final design and permitting, which will make Westford the only town in the state with a shovel-ready proposal to develop a new community wastewater system in a village setting.
-Melissa Manka, Westford Town Planner
As you may know, the Planning Commission has been working on studies, plans, projects and funding sources since 2007 to support the vitality of the Town Center and the future potential of the common area. One of the foundational ways to support Westford's future is to create a modern and functional wastewater system that allows continued use and thoughtful development within the Town Center. A lot of forward movement has happened this year on the project, and we want to make sure everyone is up to date on the Community Wastewater Project. Here’s what we’ve been up to:
-We formed a public engagement working group this summer, composed of Westford residents who are committed to help get the word out about the project. Those group members include Pat Haller, Heather Armata and Eric Ford, in addition to Gordon Gebauer and Seth Jensen from the Planning Commission, Melissa Manka, the Town Planner, and project consultant Juli Beth Hinds, Principal of Birchline Planning LLC, a planner specializing in water infrastructure, financing & community engagement, and Amy Macrellis, Senior Water Quality Specialist, with Stone Environmental, who has been involved in the technical studies, project development, and outreach for the project since 2007.
-In addition to the Planning Commission's work identifying soils, engineering designs and applying for state/federal grants to support this project, work has been focused on creating an outreach plan to the community, beginning with the potential wastewater system users in the common area. To that end, the task force hosted an informational meeting at the Westford Common Hall on August 17th to hear questions and concerns from residents. Paper surveys have also been distributed to potential users to get more feedback and help understand questions about the project.
-A website has been created to support information and communication about the project (You're looking at it! :)) - Here you will find all the basic project information, regularly updated questions and answers about the project, as well as supporting documents, blog posts and events related to the project. If you are on Facebook, make sure to like and follow Westford’s Future for info and updates.
-The task force hosted a site visit with potential system users and designers on September 26th on the common in order to help visualize the potential system’s layout and components, and to answer questions. The task force will also join the Westford senior lunch planned for October to introduce the project to attendees and enjoy some dessert together.
-We are very excited to announce the first town-wide public meeting about the Community Wastewater Project, scheduled for Tuesday, October 19th from 6:30-8:30pm at Westford School. This meeting will be the first opportunity to present the project to the town as a whole, and we look forward to sharing details and hearing your questions and concerns. This will be a hybrid virtual/in-person meeting, with more details to come for those that wish to participate remotely. All Covid-safe precautions will be made for those who want to attend in person.
As always, please feel free to reach out to Melissa Manka, Town Planner with questions and concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org, (802) 878-4587
Planning Commissioners: Koi Boynton (Vice-Chair), George Lamphere (Chair), Gordon Gebauer, Seth Jensen, Mark Letorney: Westford Planning Commission: email@example.com
Community Wastewater Public Engagement Working Group: Heather Armata, Eric Ford, Gordon Gebauer, Pat Haller, Seth Jensen
Wastewater Consultants: Brad Washburn (Project Engineer) , Green Mountain Engineering, Juli Beth Hinds, Principal, Birchline Planning LLC & Amy Macrellis (Senior Water Quality Specialist), Stone Environmental.
Recently, an updated conceptual drawing was provided by the engineering team working on the wastewater design. This drawing shows the general service area, conceptual design, and step tanks including pre-treatment components for the wastewater system. There may be changes that effect the final design as plans evolve, but this design does give a good overall sense of the design plans. This design also illustrates step tank locations for houses without state approved systems. CLICK HERE to see the full design, or visit the RESOURCES page to see this file and many other important documents related to the project.
-Eric Ford, Outreach Team Member