Enfield agrees to collect fees for hookups to Lebanon’s sewer system

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/16/2021 11:12:22 PM
Modified: 2/16/2021 11:12:20 PM

ENFIELD — A yearlong dispute over whether Lebanon’s newest sewer fee applies to Enfield appears to have ended in a win for the city.

The Enfield Selectboard voted unanimously Tuesday night to institute a charge on new developments looking to hook up to the town’s sewer system.

Money collected would then go to Lebanon, which created its own “sewer development charge” in late 2019 and treats sewage from Enfield at its plant in West Lebanon.

The Enfield charge mirrors Lebanon’s by allocating a one-time fee based on how many gallons of waste a new building is expected to produce. Officials estimate that comes to roughly $3,000 for a three-bedroom house, and more than $12,000 for a 40-seat restaurant.

Enfield’s Selectboard initially protested the charge when it was first proposed by Lebanon in October 2019. At the time, Enfield argued that Lebanon didn’t have jurisdiction to bill its residents for a service that the town already pays for through an inter-municipal agreement that dates back to the 1980s.

“The town has exclusive control over the connections of properties to its sewer system, and the owners of those properties are its customers,” then-Enfield Town Manager Ryan Aylesworth wrote in a November 2019 letter to the Lebanon City Council.

Aylesworth would go on to lobby against the charge at City Council meetings, saying Enfield uses a fraction of the sewer capacity it’s allocated.

On Tuesday, Interim Town Manager Jack Wozmak framed Enfield’s stance differently, saying the town was at first “unsure if this was legal” and didn’t know how it could collect the fee.

“We spent a bit of time assessing the (charge) and easily found that it did not violate the earlier, pre-existing agreement,” he wrote in an email on Tuesday.

Wozmak, the former longtime Cheshire County administrator, went on to say that the charge will help offset Lebanon’s costs to maintain the “overall system,” adding, “we are all mindful of the costs of the sewer collection/treatment system.”

The Lebanon sewer charge was proposed as part of a package of changes aimed at alleviating sewer capacity issues that came to light more than three years ago. That’s when a study found a part of the sewer line that carries sewage from downtown Lebanon to the wastewater treatment plant in West Lebanon was nearing capacity.

Overall, city officials estimated that the system could accommodate about 40 more single-family homes east of the Terri Dudley Bridge, a major problem for a community with several large-scale developments in the pipeline.

To pay for improvements, city councilors looked to developers and others hoping to add to the sewer system, including those in neighboring Enfield.

Enfield Public Works Director Jim Taylor said he’s unsure how much money will be sent to Lebanon under the new charge, and a few homes along the Route 4A corridor are the only possible sewer hookups he’s heard of recently.

“At the moment, we don’t really have anything on the horizon,” he said.

Enfield isn’t the only Upper Valley community where new sewer customers are charged by another municipality. Hanover has similar fees that apply for some developments in Lebanon.

Hanover, which treats sewage from the Route 120 corridor, assesses a “recapture fee” that also charges based on the number of gallons of sewage a development could produce, according to Peter Kulbacki, the town’s public works director.

In 2020, the charge brought in more than $165,000 with 2019 revenue totaling almost $89,000. However, Kulbacki said, those fees include developments within Hanover and were likely driven by Dartmouth College products.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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