PORTSMOUTH — A number of concerned residents turned out Monday night to learn more about the city’s plans to install 103 new sewer service connections to homes and businesses in the area near Sagamore Creek.
Those affected by the sewer extension project expressed their frustrations during a public dialogue session prior to the city council meeting.
Joan Dickinson was in the crowd. She is building a house on Walker Bungalow Road. Dickinson blames city officials for not doing anything about the bacteria in the creek years ago and passing along a portion of the sewer project’s cost to people who live in the area.
Dickinson spoke to the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday morning about the public dialogue session.
“The general consensus was this is not a sewer project. This is the city’s responsibility to put in sewer lines based upon what the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has told them to do and now they are trying to get us to pay for a portion of it,” Dickinson said.
City officials say homeowners will have to pay for 20% of the project, with a $10,000 cap for single-family residences.
That doesn’t sit well with Dickinson and others.
“It should not be 80/20. It should be a city project. The whole city is part of it. The city should be paying for it,” Dickinson said.
City Engineer Terry Desmarais said on Tuesday that the project was incorporated as part of a consent decree second modification with the EPA that was signed on Sept. 28, 2016.
According to the decree, the planning, design and other pre-construction activities for the project must be finished before the substantial completion of the Peirce Island wastewater facility. Construction of the sewer extension must begin no later than June 30 of next year.
A handout distributed on Monday night says homeowners will not be required to pay anything until they tie into the public system or sell their property. They will be mandated to tie in once their septic system fails.
The handout says the city has extended public sewer lines to other areas where septic systems were historically used, including Brackett Road, Oxford Road, Pleasant Point and a portion of Islington Street. The tie-in costs have generally been in the $10,000 range, according to city officials.
During the city council meeting, City Manager John Bohenko accepted responsibility for any miscommunication with Sagamore Avenue area residents about what they would be financially responsible for, saying city officials simply wanted to get more information out there. At one point in time, the estimates for what residents might need to contribute were higher.
City Councilor Nancy Pearson said many people in the public dialogue session wanted more information and chances for public input on the project. She said not everyone had the opportunity to speak during the hourlong session.
City councilors voted to postpone any action on the cost apportionment of the Sagamore Avenue area’s low-pressure sewer system.
In addition to residents on Sagamore Avenue, homeowners on Shaw Road, Cliff Road, Sagamore Grove, Wentworth Road and part of Walker Bungalow Road will be affected by the sewer project.