STURBRIDGE — Standing in front of the town’s wastewater treatment plant, state Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, declared the Board of Selectmen will no longer have to turn away business because the plant’s capacity is full.
Mary M. Berry, manager of the Sturbridge Retirement Cooperative Corp., will believe it when she sees it.
Like several other property owners in the Route 15 Special Use District, Mrs. Berry has been butting heads with selectmen for years over connections to town sewer lines. Monday night, she will plead her case in front of selectmen again.
The Sturbridge Retirement Cooperative Corp., 1 Kelly Road, and neighboring Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp Resorts, 30 River Road, are facing administrative consent orders from the state Department of Environmental Protection to upgrade their septic systems because their daily flows exceed the Title 5 limit, which is 15,000 gallons per day.
“The consent order says that we’re noncompliant; therefore, we have two choices: our own treatment plant or a municipal tie-in,” Mrs. Berry explained.
She wants a municipal tie-in to the town sewer system for 32,700 gallons per day, but she said the actual flow on most days is about 20,000 gallons.
Back in September, Sean Finicane, owner of Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp, said he needs 31,500 gpd a few months a year.
Mrs. Berry said she has already spent about $500,000 and it would cost an estimated $1.2 million to finish an on-site treatment plant.
Mrs. Berry accuses some selectmen of stalling the issue by relying on delay tactics, including repeatedly citing the need for “another study,” the necessity to “recharge the aquifer,” and the existence of a “sewer moratorium” as fallback excuses.
“I have tried to take each concern of the board and address it and find the quickest and easiest way to get something accomplished,” Mrs. Berry said. “I someday want to strike the word sewer from my vocabulary. Let’s see if this time the rubber meets the road.”
Mr. Brewer’s visit Jan. 26 coincided with Gov. Deval L. Patrick’s announcement that $15.1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants and State Revolving Fund financing will be used to upgrade Sturbridge’s 40-year-old wastewater treatment plant from 750,000 gpd to 1.3 million gpd.
Mrs. Berry said selectmen should add Route 15 Special Use District to the comprehensive waste management plan and apply for a permit modification to add about 75,000 gpd to the existing plant to address the immediate concerns.
She said she wants to make them understand how simple this could be and that ultimately, the question being posed to the selectmen, who act as sewer commissioners, is simply, “Do you want to help?”
“How do they think these seniors feel when they are told the town’s got the capacity for us, but they have to hold it for somebody else that may need it down the line? What are we, chopped liver?” Mrs. Berry asked. “We’re not asking for something for nothing. Just give us what we need. It’s available, if you do it right.”
Mrs. Berry has repeatedly offered the town a check for sewer privilege fees totaling $450,000 with hopes of being connected by about 2.5 miles of pipe stretching from Route 131 to Kelly Road. The offer is still on the table, she said.
While Sturbridge Retirement Cooperative Corp. (67 acres) and Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp Resorts (at 75.5 acres) represented the need side of the equation, Gary E. Galonek represents the opportunity side. Owner of Kelly Farm Ltd., which includes three parcels at 17 Kelly and 26 Kelly Road and 90 River Road (74 acres combined), Mr. Galonek has been pushing for infrastructure for 15 years along Old Route 15 with no results.
“The special use district was put in place to be developed,” Mr. Galonek said. “Sturbridge has gotten into the land collection business. We have more land that we don’t tax, that we have no plans for.”
Selectmen Scott A. Garieri and Thomas R. Creamer both agree the town has an obligation to help provide a solution to the sewer woes along Old Route 15.
“This is a neighborhood, a district, however you want to look at it, that’s in need,” Mr. Garieri said. “And it’s our obligation to find out and do everything we can do, not just putting it off because certain factions in town don’t believe Route 15 should be developed.”
“I’m fully prepared to support any municipal solution down there on Route 15,” Mr. Creamer said. “Waiting is no longer an option. We need to do something and we need to do it now.”
Selectman Mary Blanchard, chairwoman of the board, said the board will be able to come to more educated and viable answers to these questions Monday.