A project in the works for years will be the lone item on the ballot for Swanton voters on November 17: an $8 million bond issue to upgrade the town’s failing wastewater treatment plant.
Built in 1972, the facility has been refurbished twice. But the last time was in 1995, nearly 30 years ago — a decade past the equipment’s standard life expectancy.
Jason Starr, chief operator of the Swanton Wastewater Treatment Facility, said workers are operating the plant at reduced capacity.
“We used to run this four days a week, and now we run it maybe twice a week, if that,” he said. “So, we’re letting it build up a little more than normal in there before we take it out to process it.”
One problem is the plant’s centrifuge, which separates solid and liquid waste. Its gearboxes have worn to the point where fixing it would cost roughly the same as replacing the entire machine.
On top of that, one of the baffle curtains that keeps the water moving beneath the waste lagoon has deteriorated; only pieces of it remain.
“You want to get a useful life out of it hopefully, and in this case we were fortunate,” said Swanton Village Manager Bill Sheets. “It outlived its life expectancy.”
Now, after four years of work the town has nearly completed its plan to upgrade the facility. Construction would start in May and finish by December.
While roughly $3 million of the $8 million price tag will be covered through grants and loans, Swanton will need to borrow the remaining $5 million from Vermont’s clean water revolving fund program.
If voters approve the 20-year bond, Swanton residents would see their water bills go up about $18 a month – to an average of $56 — starting in 2026.
Town officials say they hope voters will think it’s worth it.
“I think people have a general understanding that you have to take care of your wastewater needs,” said Bill Sheets. “This is, again, a critical need, and we think it’s a reasonable cost based on the scope of the project.”