The Montclair Town Council held a special meeting today at 8 am, officially blessing a project to improve sewer lines for Montclair State. But the odd timing of the meeting and the lack of a public input had some residents concerned.
Resident and MSU neighbor Cyd Caillerac told Baristanet after the meeting, “I’m not comfortable with this. It’s too rushed, and I’m not sure the public has all the information on the benefits and risks. There’s been no public hearing.”
This morning’s special 8 am council meeting was called to discuss Montclair township’s budget, which apparently is getting leaner and leaner. Last Friday, a discussion of Montclair State University’s proposal to improve a section of the municipal sewer system in the first ward was added as the first agenda item. Last week, MSU formally reached out for a confirmation that the work would be done, Mayor Fried said.
The project, which will replace 100-year-old pipes, described by town utility engineer Gary Obszarny as “leaking, root and groundwater infiltrated” is prompted by the university’s construction of campus residences that will house 2,000 students. The expanded on-campus population is anticipated to produce an extra 211,000 gallons per day of sewage waste.
Mayor Jerry Fried began by stating that the project is not under council jurisdiction. “The work itself is the purview of the head of the Montclair Sewer Utility, which responds to all requests for sewer hookups. It is essentially the same as if a new business or single family residence were to need new service,” said Mayor Fried. “I feel it’s important for residents to understand the position of the council on this.”
Council members unanimously passed a non-binding resolution which basically is a polite endorsement of the project which will generate an estimated $2.6 millioni connection fee to be charged to MSU and an estimated additional $350k/year in usage fees, based on capacity, plus improve some of the town’s old sewer pipes on MSU’s dime. Obszarny enthusiastically backed the project saying the old pipes would need to be repaired in any case on a case by case basis. The MSU project will replace an entire section all at once with no service interruption to residents, and save thousands of gallons of sewage seepage resulting from leaks in the current system. “It’s a win-win for the town and the environment,” he said. Recent floods provided an opportunity for excellent flow tests, providing current flow data. “There’s no guesswork here,” he stated referring to the proposed larger capacity pipes.
MSU spokesperson Paula Maliandi says, best case scenario, this project could start by April 15. It is projected to take about six months to completion. The new sewer would start at Valley Road and Normal, to Alexander Avenue, to Yanticaw Brook. Obszarny stated the construction would progress 20 feet at a time, through the street and backyard easements. “Maybe work would take a couple of weeks in front of people’s houses.”
Only one resident spoke during public comment. Joan Checca expressed her concern that the proper due diligence would be done, and questioned MSU’s compliance record on restrictions specified by the permits. Fearing potential back-ups, Checca raised the issue of retro-fitting 100-year-old residential “laterals” (pipes connecting from homes) into a new trunk line.
The council then went behind closed doors to discuss the town’s budget.
Here is a draft of the resolution passed today:
TOWNSHIP OF MONTCLAIR
RESOLUTION EXPRESSING SUPPORT FOR MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY’S PLANS TO CONSTRUCT NEW ON-CAMPUS STUDENT HOUSING AND RELATED IMPROVEMENTS TO THE TOWNSHIP’S SANITARY SEWER SYSTEM_________ __
March 31, 2010
WHEREAS, Montclair State University (“MSU”) has notified the Township of plans to construct new student housing on the University’s campus for approximately 2000 students; and
WHEREAS, MSU and the private developer that will contruct the new student housing have requested that the Township provide water and sewer service for this project and, in connection therewith, the developer has agreed to construct substantial improvements and upgrading to a portion of the Township’s sanitary sewer system at an estimated cost of approximately $4,000,000 to be paid by the developer; and
WHEREAS, in addition to the improvements to the Township sanitary sewer system, it is anticipated that the student housing project will generate substantial revenues for the Township in the form of sewer connection fees of approximately $2,600,000, annual sewer user fees, water connection fees and water user fees; and
WHEREAS, the Township and its residents will also receive additional benefits by virtue of the increased capacity and improvements to the sanitary sewer system; and
WHEREAS, the construction of on-campus student housing with additional parking facilities will have a positive impact on adjoining residential neighborhoods by reducing off-campus traffic and parking demands; now therefore
BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Township of Montclair, in the County of Essex, that the Township hereby expresses its support for MSU’s student housing project, including the proposed installation of improvements and upgrades to the Township sanitary sewer system, as depicted on the engineering plans prepared by Paulus, Sokolowski and Sartor Engineering, P.C., dated March 26, 2010, and any revised plans which shall be approved by the Township Manager and the Director of the Department of Utilities.