Sewer accounts headed for a tax sale

Thu, 01/28/2021 - 6:30pm

The New Shoreham Sewer Commission has finalized its list of delinquent accounts that will be headed for a tax sale. Letters will be going out to customers whose accounts are seriously in arrears. As of the department’s joint meeting with the Water Department on Jan. 25, there were 14 customers on the list.

The letter is a 90-day notice, with the tax sale scheduled for April 30. As of now, the total of the past due accounts is $78,000, and the commissioners noted that many of the names are familiar.

“Everyone says ‘Covid,’ but it’s the same people every year and no one comes in to make a payment plan,” said Commissioner Sandra Finizia.

Attorney David Petrarca said the Sewer Company was not subject to state shutoff limits due to the pandemic, and Town Finance Director Amy Land jumped in to say that other communities were resuming tax sales.

Customers may contact the town Finance Office to make a payment plan, but the longer they wait, the worse it may get. As the 90-day window counts down, additional charges may accrue for interest, and fees associated with the tax sale process.

The Water Department will send out its own notices in a month.

Revenues for both departments have been higher than expected of late. On the sewer side, billings for December were 20 percent higher than for December 2019, although they did agree to credit one customer for 11,000 gallons of water that leaked into their basement when they were away and the bottom of their water heater tank rusted out.

“It does happen,” said Chair Brad Marthens. “We will abate what doesn’t go into the sewer line.”

The Water Department has also seen a jump in revenues recently. Those who are on the island have seen the lengths of fire hose stretching up Crescent Beach from the “Bump” sign on Corn Neck Road to the north. This was in order to provide fresh water for the cable reburial project.

Those hoses dispatched water for only a couple of days in order to prep the conduits that have both now been pulled through the tunnels running under the ocean floor. The first conduit was pulled back into place on Jan. 7, and the second, shorter one, on Jan. 25. But the hoses delivered enough water, on at least the first day, to rival water usage on a busy summer day. Water Superintendent John Breunig said the flow actually was as much as on the second busiest day this past summer.

Breunig also reported that there would be excess grant money available from the water main replacement project on Payne Road and High Street. He hopes to get permission to use the excess funds, expected to be in the $200,000 range, to replace an old pipe that runs roughly from Rebecca’s down to the Old Harbor Dock. “It’s a 1970s-vintage concrete pipe.” An advantage of this would also be the repaving of sections of road, which, especially below the Post Office, he said was crumbling.

Breunig and Sewer Department Superintendent Dylan Chase also floated a couple of ideas they would like to try in the future. They would like to explore redirecting clean water from a force main that is diverted to the outflow pipe below the Spring House to the sewer plant during the summer. The diverted water is rich in iron, and Breunig said that when it oxidizes there is a buildup in the outflow pipe that requires periodic and “risky and uncomfortable” maintenance. In the winter this water is sent to the sewer plant.

“I want to paint this as a larger decision,” said Breunig, “that will not be made tonight.”

“So, you’re talking about sending it to the wastewater facility and letting them handle it?” asked Marthens. “Is it a benefit to the wastewater plant?”

Chase said: “It would be a trial run to see how the process would take that. It’s worth going through the exercise.”

Breunig explained that chunks of iron break off randomly and clog the screen. “The clearing – it’s something Dylan and I don’t like to do.” He explained that it was a complex process, that once started, can’t be stopped. “The risk becomes: you’re holding all that waste back.”

“You only get one shot,” said Chase.

“It’s also very expensive,” said Breunig, referring to the special equipment and truck that must be utilized.

“Let’s see an analysis of it,” said Marthens.

“It’s clean water,” said Breunig. “We’d become the Sewer Company’s largest customer.”

Dylan added that “the dilution effect” would be useful at the plant – especially when concentrated waste from the Harbors Department pump-out boats offload.