$16,200 per home: Portsmouth to hold meeting on Sagamore Avenue sewer project

·4 min read

PORTSMOUTH – City officials are hosting a pre-construction meeting Wednesday night to discuss and answer questions about the long-planned Sagamore Avenue sewer line extension project.

The goal of the project is to extend public sewer service in an area with existing septic systems.

“This will provide an outlet for failed septic systems or for property owners interested in connecting to a public sewer system,” according to the Department of Public Works project page on the sewer line extension. “This will reduce the bacterial load (in the case of failed septic systems) and reduce nitrogen discharged to Sagamore Creek, which discharges to the Great Bay Estuary.”

Sagamore Ave. Sewer Extension Project map
Sagamore Ave. Sewer Extension Project map

There were concerns expressed by residents about how much of the estimated $4.9 million project cost they would have to absorb during discussions about the sewer line extension in 2019.

Department of Public Works staff came up with a cost sharing proposal, which will be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.

The cost sharing proposal was reached following public meetings on the issue and discussions by the City Council from September 2019 to September 2020, according to Deputy City Attorney/Deputy City Manager Suzanne Woodland.

The agreement calls for all work on the project to be completed “under the city’s contract,” Woodland said in a March memo to the City Council.

“All costs would be paid for by the city with reimbursement from owners for the installation of the sewer service from the property line … to the sewage ejector pump. The private sewer lateral would be the responsibility of the property owner,” Woodland said. “Based on the bid prices and using the cost sharing proposal described above, we anticipate the average cost to the property owner would be $16,200.”

The city offered homeowners a 10-year zero interest loan for repayment of their portion of the work, which “would result in an additional $135 dollars per month for those properties that elect to connect.”

Reached Tuesday, Department of Public Works Director Peter Rice said some residents have already sent in questions in advance, and city staff will also address other inquiries about the project at Wednesday’s meeting.

“People have expressed some reservations about the project, but we think when it’s completed people are going to be very happy with the results,” Rice said. “It’s going to be disruptive, relative to construction, but in the end it’s going to be better for the environment and better for the homeowners.”

The city is required to complete the sewer line extension project as part of its Consent Decree Second Modification with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES), Woodland said.

Mayor Deaglan McEachern noted too that the city does not have the option not to do the work.

“If we continue to wait on it, I’m not optimistic the prices are going to come down anymore,” he said. “… And we do not have the opportunity to ignore the federal government.”

“I think in the longest time horizon that we can imagine this is a good project for Portsmouth, and I trust it’s going to be a good project for residents, but I understand it’s easier to see that looking back when it’s done than looking forward,” McEachern added.

Wednesday’s meeting is scheduled to be held at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall Conference Room A.

Residents can also participate remotely through Zoom by they must register in advance by visiting us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5MqqxrCcRF-8NfgI1PCveQ.

City Engineer Terry Desmarais stated that city staff will have cost estimates available for residents who reached out in advance to say they want their homes to be connected to the new sewer line.

“There’s roughly 90 houses in the two areas where the line is going to be extended. Our goal is to convince as many people as possible to participate,” he said Tuesday.

People with functioning septic systems do not have to hook up to the city’s sewer line, he said.

“The goal of extending sewer lines in any community is to prevent any kind of deteriorated septic system from allowing water leaching from the septic system to go into a nearby body of water,” he said. “There was some history of that at Sagamore Creek.”

Construction on extending the sewer line is slated to start in May.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Portsmouth NH to host meeting on costly Sagamore Ave. sewer project