Savings help avoid Royalston sewer budget increase

Royalston's wastewater treatment plant, which serves approximately 60 customers in the South Village. Due to a number of cost savings, it seems the town’s sewer budget won’t see any large increases over last fiscal year.

Royalston's wastewater treatment plant, which serves approximately 60 customers in the South Village. Due to a number of cost savings, it seems the town’s sewer budget won’t see any large increases over last fiscal year. File Photo/Greg Vine

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 02-19-2024 3:50 PM

ROYALSTON – Due a number of cost reductions and savings, it appears that the town’s sewer spending won’t see any significant increases in next fiscal year’s budget.

Selectboard Chair Rick Martin – the board also acts as the town’s Sewer Commission – said a final spending plan will be ready by the end of April. The board met with plant operator Rob Sexton about two weeks ago to begin hammering out the proposed FY25 budget.

“The way it’s looking right now,” Martin told the Athol Daily News, “the budget (for sewer) will basically be the same as it was last year.”

The FY24 budget approved by voters at the Annual Town Meeting last June was approximately $100,200, according to information provided at the most recent Selectboard meeting. Martin pointed out that, under an inter-municipal agreement between the two communities, Royalston will pay Athol $64,614 in FY25 to oversee operation of the town’s treatment plant.

One good bit of news, he said, is that the electrical budget for plant operations should be about 25% less for this year “because Athol has been trying to run (the plant) more productively, with only one blower instead of two. It used to be they’d run two blowers all the time, but they’ve found that they don’t have to do that; it doesn’t compromise any of the readings of the water quality that they get coming out the other end. So, just running one blower represents a big decrease from the previous year.”

The FY24 budget for utilities – which includes electricity, water, and propane – was set at $24,000. The amount projected for FY25 is currently $20,000.

In addition, the amount being budgeted for chemicals is being cut in half from $2,000 to $1,000, and the cost for pumping and sludge removal is anticipated to drop from $2,900 to $1,500.

In FY24, a total of $5,000 was set aside for plant maintenance, pump station maintenance and repairs, and infiltration and inflow (I&I) repairs. Martin said the amount to be budgeted for those items for the upcoming fiscal year has yet to be determined.

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“Last summer,” he said, “we did an I&I test in the (South) Village, and that was covered by ARPA funds. So, we kind of have to figure out – we haven’t spent any money this year outside of ARPA, but next year we won’t have ARPA so we have try to figure out exactly what the maintenance and the I&I will be next year.

“We know there’s significant infiltration in the system because if we get a big rain, within the next week we get a significant increase in the amount of water that going through the (treatment) plant. That doesn’t mean every time it rains everybody’s flushing their toilets, that just means there’s infiltration in the system. Once we finally figure out where the infiltration is coming from, we’re going to have to fix it. We don’t know when that’s going to be or how much that’s going to cost.”

The town’s sewage treatment plant serves roughly 60 users in the South Village, which straddles the Millers River. Bills are based on how many toilets are tied into the system at any individual address. At present, sewer bills are just over $1,000 per toilet. Bills are mailed out twice a year, and seniors can apply for an abatement.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.