[This article was amended at 10:20 a.m. Nov. 5.]
The latest proposal to bring sewers into Wickford would extend a line going from Tower Hill Road down Boone Street with a pump station at Wickford Elementary, at an estimated cost of $3.5 million, according to sewer consultant Jim Geremia told the Town Council. But with very few houses on that line, the cost to homeowners would be "prohibitive," he said.
Still, there's some benefit to simply building that part of the line.
"While it's a small project and it doesn't service in a lot of units, it creates that main artery that's necessary to tie in the whole system," Geremia said. It would allow to the town to bring low pressure and more affordable sewers to Brown Street, the neighborhood behind Brown Street (Elam Street) and Phillips Street.
The Boone Street proposal is a stark contrast to the $10 million proposal unveiled in July that would have the line stretch the length of West Main Street, cross at Brown Street and travel up Phillips Street to Tower Hill Road. While the cost of the newer proposal is considerably less, it would also achieve a lot less.
The proposal would provide sewer service for the hotel for Wickford Elementary proposed by developer and NK resident Stanley Weiss. If no sewer is built, Weiss would need to build a septic system that would cost nearly $1 million.
"A sewer with a pump station's going to benefit the village, not something just for Wickford Elementary," said Town Council President Liz Dolan. Geremia agreed, noting a pump station at Wickford Elementary was always part of the plan, regardless of what happens to the building.
"'What's the cheapest way to do this? The least expensive way is the more people you can service, obviously the lower the per person cost," said Geremia in an interview Thursday. "The main artery has to go in, if there are five people tying in, or 500 people." So, the more users, the lower the per-user cost.
He's referring to the cost to build the overall system, which will be borne by everyone who ties into it. (Caveat: Each building that attaches to the system will also have an individual tie-in cost, negotiated between the property owner and the contractor after the main line is in.)
The facility plan estimates the sewer assessment cost per house in Wickford to be $35,000 if the whole of Wickford is sewered. That's double the estimated per-house cost for the Post Road corridor sewer lines, but nothing near the cost of tying in if only a small number of houses are on the sewer line.
Geremia acknowledged Monday the $35,000 number wasn't cost effective for those people who have recently installed an "innovative alternative" (I/A) septic system but said the cost was reasonable if not.
"If they don't have one of those new I/A systems yet, then it's cheap, the $35,000," because the costs are amortized over 20 years through a low-interest loan, and if a homeowner sells the house before the 20 years is up, the assessment stays with the house.
Councilor Kerry McKay pushed Geremia for more specific per-property-owner costs for the Boone Street proposal.
"At some point we as a council have to make a bunch of decisions about who's going to be hooked up and who's not going to be hooked up and I don't think they're going to be easy decisions from what I hear about Shore Acres so far," said McKay. He was referring to the survey of residents of the Sauga Point/Shore Acres neighborhood north of Wickford, which asked them if they wanted sewers. The results were announced Monday night: 53 percent of respondents said no to sewers, 47 percent said yes.
Geremia said he would count up the number of houses and businesses on Boone, Phillips, Elam and Brown streets and calculate what their assessment would be under the Boone Street proposal.