HARWICH — Officials are considering altering the town's participation in the Dennis-Harwich-Yarmouth Clean Waters Community Partnership to reduce its initial financial contribution by shifting the focus to Harwich Center.
Wastewater costs have been a thorn in the financial side of the community. The town’s initial sewering projects in East Harwich were expected to service 600 homes at $18.5 million, but the low bids for the projects came in close to $18 million for only 400 homes. A projected $8.4 million would be necessary to provide sewers to the remaining 200 homes.
In March, the three towns were working on finishing touches on the operating agreement for the partnership, with plans to bring the document to town meetings in Dennis, Harwich and Yarmouth in May. But the pandemic derailed presentations of the operating agreement, and the plan now is to present the DHY agreement to voters at 2021 annual town meetings.
“The pandemic gave us a cover to hold off on the DHY project agreement that was on a fast track to town meeting,” said Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers. “Whether it would have passed is a different topic.”
Harwich staff went back to the drawing board to examine alternatives that might reduce the town's initial town wastewater costs. Water and Wastewater Superintendent Daniel Pelletier and Town Engineer Griffin Ryder started doing calculations on a sewer project for Harwich Center, and in July, the town entered into a $15,000 contract with GHD, Inc, a Hyannis-based engineering firm, to prepare a computer aided design (CAD) modeling project for a sewer system for the neighborhood. The CAD model was presented to selectmen last week. It reached very similar findings to the work of Pelletier and Ryder in projecting sewer flow of about 200,000 gallons per day. GHD’s projection was 214,000 gpd.
The original plan the town provided for the wastewater contribution in the DHY Partnership called for sewering the Herring River watershed and projected a 600,000 gpd contribution, giving Harwich a 15 percent buy-in to the DHY treatment plant, said Selectmen chairman Larry Ballantine. He questioned whether the town wants the 15 percent buy-in at this point, suggesting 300,000 gpd would be a much better financially for the town and allow the 26 percent growth projection in the wastewater plan, Ballantine said.
“We’re not doing this to spend money. We’re doing it because of a lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation,” Ballantine said. “We need to move ahead with the CWMP, but we have to do it as cost effective as possible. We need the best data available to make the DHY decision and this starts us down that road.”
The Harwich Center model is divided into four sections. The north section starts along Pleasant Lake Avenue and runs to Old Colony Road, east to Oak Street and west just beyond South Street. The central section branches out off Sisson Road to Gilbert Lane, and the southeast and southwest sections extend from Gilbert Lane south to almost Nantucket Sound and run along Route 28 in each direction.
The wastewater plan was based on water use calculations 15 to 18 years old, GHD engineer Russ Kleekamp said. The calculations in the GHD model are based on 2016 water use as provided by the water department. The model provides parcel-by-parcel analysis illustrating where gravity pressure, low pressure and force main sewer pipes would be placed under the roads. The model identifies where the 287 manholes and the four pump stations would be located.
Fleekamp said extensive research is done to develop costs estimates, including looking at recent bid results and talking with companies about bids. They reach out to material vendors to determine if there are conditions that impact material prices. They also look at mobilization costs and paving requirements and associated costs.
Kleekamp presented selectmen with a probable cost estimate for the Harwich Center work of $62 million in 2020 dollars. He also broke it into a four-phase project doing one section each year in 2025, 2027, 2029, and 2031. Using a 3 percent inflation rate per year, the project was projected to cost $86 million.
By doing the modeling, the town will have a road map for its future wastewater endeavors, complete with design information and cost estimates, the consultant said. In addition, once the town has a sewer CAD model of its collection system, it can convert from a design tool to a management tool and updated it over time using as-built data. Then the information can be used to model new inputs into the system and changes in flow over time.
Ryder said he is happy with the model as it validates the analysis he and Pelletier did last March. But he also said the model serves as a 25 percent design stage tool for sewering. He called it a good tool for the town moving forward, helping to move forward in a cost effective way.
Selectman Donald Howell said this was the best money the town has spent on sewering because it provides a confidence in how the money will be spent. Selectman Michael MacAskill said the board might want to have a conversation about doing a model for the remainder of the East Harwich project.