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Work begins on upgrade to Wastewater Treatment Plant

BRATTLEBORO—The new Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade project is entering its construction phase, a representative from Hoyle Tanner and Associates, Inc. informed the Selectboard at its May 17 meeting.

Eugene Forbes, senior vice-president with Hoyle Tanner, told the Selectboard that after a winter of filling out permits, the project shifted into full gear in April.

“We’ve made a good start so far,” said Forbes.

The Selectboard also approved a budget of $40,000 for independent testing of the building’s foundation and surrounding soils by SW Cole Engineering and Geosciences Testing and Research, Inc.

SW Cole Engineering has offices throughout New England and specializes in pre-construction site evaluation and hydrology.

Geosciences Testing and Research Inc., of North Chelmsford, Mass., specializes in design and testing of deep foundations.

According to Town Manager Barbara Sondag, the request is part of the project’s “allowable budget.” The Selectboard needed to approve the request, however, because it didn’t follow the town’s normal purchasing policy.

Forbes said the $40,000 would go towards third-party testing at the site. Most of the funds would go to “dynamic pile testing.”

According to Forbes, contractors will install “friction piles” to support the wastewater treatment plant. The current plant uses the same kind of support system due to the soft soils in the area.

Friction piles get their strength not by sitting on top of bedrock but through transferring some of the pressure put on them to the surrounding soil.

Forbes said it’s important that the piles undergo dynamic testing to ensure they meet the required strength limits. If the piles don’t meet the limits, he said, the building could experience structural problems that manifest themselves in issues such as cracked floors.

Forbes also reported on the project’s progress. The contractor has installed permanent and temporary storm water facilities as well as temporary erosion control, said Forbes.

According to Forbes, a monitoring test well went in May 17 as part of the site’s ground water management plan. Construction and excavation “is moving along,” he said.

He invited people to come and see the site saying that 20 percent of the timeline was complete and about 3 percent of the project’s budget had been spent.

The difference between the schedule and budget, said Forbes, was due to the winter being devoted to administrative tasks.

The project will get busier as the “weather warms and dries up,” said Forbes.

Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray asked whether the town would see any money from the state’s revolving loan fund, money that had been earmarked toward projects that didn’t get off the ground.

According to DeGray, the state lowered the cap on its revolving loan fund. As a result, many of Brattleboro’s early figures for its “rate setting spreadsheet” had to be changed.

Fiscal 2011 revolving loan funds need to be expended or committed by end of a fiscal year, Forbes responded. If they go unspent, other communities like Brattleboro can claim them. Forbes said he’s keeping his eye on three such projects.

However, he cautioned, most of the projects tend toward the smaller end of the fiscal scale (around $100,000), so the town shouldn’t expect a big pot of money.

“I don’t think there’s that much on the table so to speak,” he said. “There’s not a lot of hope there will be significant dollars for Brattleboro.”

Forbes added that federal budget cuts could also cause the state to lower its loan fund cap, or take other action to respond fewer federal dollars.

Forbes estimated that 50 percent of the state’s revolving loan fund came from the federal government.

He didn’t anticipate that such budget cuts would effect Brattleboro next fiscal year. The wastewater treatment plant is an ongoing project, and therefore is given priority over new projects.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #102 (Wednesday, May 25, 2011).

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