I first ran this column in April 2011, so some of the numbers have changed a bit and the financing split was eliminated but it makes more sense than ever. We need to address this problem, yet at last council we heard that there are still no clear plans or timelines to install sewers in the Birch Hill area. We’re about to have an infrastructure leaning Federal budget and we really need to get a plan moving forward.
Original column starts here:
Hudson should quickly install sanitary and storm sewers in the Birch Hill area as well as any other area of equally dismal environmental condition. The cost of the required new debt to service required installations should be averaged into the debt service costs of all areas currently serviced with sewers.
I don’t own or have interest in any property in any of the affected areas, so I stand to gain nothing by proposing this vision of fairness. In fact I’d lose money. Our property’s sewer debt costs would rise by some amount, perhaps even double in the interest of fairness and correcting longstanding mistakes of past councils. But, I’d sleep better knowing that my neighbor citizens were being treated fairly and that their problems were being taken seriously and solved.
The current council mentality is that I’m among six hundred plus lucky homeowners who benefit from the grants. Our sewers were installed at publicly subsidized cost and anyone else who needs connecting will have to pay the whole cost themselves, only if they can all agree to the associated debt for the system they need.This grant and debt averaging idea came to me one day when I pondered the ethics of confining the benefits of government grants to select groups of property owners and then refusing to support owners in equally compromised areas because the government grant well has been pumped dry fixing our part of the problem. What right do I have to this exclusive benefit funded by everyone’s
taxes? What right do I have to insist that others pay the full costs for the same benefits our
collective tax dollars have granted me?
Go way back and one might easily say that the development of the Birch Hill area should probably never have been allowed, but we knew far less of geotechnical issues back then and had far less regulation and oversight from higher levels of government. All past mistakes of town leaders become common property in a community, we own them together and we should fix them together. The councils that finally packaged the sewer project and grants were reluctant to think bigger and confined their thinking to the most visible areas, or areas where sewers would allow new developments like a senior’s assisted care, a new medical center and expansions of schools.
Birch Hill’s dirty smelly problem is tucked conveniently out of sight and out of mind and despite petitions and demands for action over decades they never stood a chance of inclusion in the project. They have been offered various bad deals and half measures, but council mentality has never been to accept these problems as a failing of management of development in an entire community deserving a solution by an entire community.
My total annual cost for sanitary sewers is under $400, a combination of grant subsidized debt and annual operating costs. I don’t know the exact current cost of a proper modern septic system for Birch Hill but I’ve heard cost close to $20K installed, plus regular pumping and servicing. Based on a twenty year life span, average out the capital, personal debt and the operating costs of septic on Birch Hill are well in excess of $1,500 per year. It’s pretty simple why you need to pay four times what I do: I’ve got a grant from our government, you don’t, good for me, bad for you. I think that attitude is completely wrong.
It’s wrong to wait for every Birch Hill owner to replace older septic systems with new more
efficient septic. That will take decades, unless we’re willing to compel owners to replace existing septic systems that our town permitted and approved the installation of with more efficient expensive ones, which would also be wrong. Even that drastic measure wouldn’t fix the problem.
Our town engineer has publicly stated that the only way to solve the entire problem is to install storm sewers too. The only way to actually solve the environmental issues in the Birch Hill area quickly would be to connect every property to sanitary sewers, and to add storm sewers at the same time. The only condition I’d attach is a reasonable deadline to get connected to the newly installed system so the pollution stops quickly.
Hudson needs to aggressively seek government grants for future work expanding on our sewer system.
Hudson should be aggressively planning to expand the sewer system to those areas that so
obviously need sewers because of past development errors. Hudson shouldn’t hold back simply because we think grants aren’t available and we shouldn’t expect present owners to bear the entire cost of fixing those past errors in development. Past administrations have simply set high expensive bars for those areas to jump over and then ignored the real environmental needs of the community.
For the sake of a better community, and to average the costs downward for an area in need, I’m willing to share the grant money I’ve benefited from. We need to fairly reduce the costs of others in similar need of the same solutions our governments helped buy for me. I’d like to see known and acknowledged past errors in development being quickly cleaned up and fixed, not be ignored for yet another decade.