A study committee created to look at the issue of grinder pumps in town took its first steps toward a recommendation for the Selectmen and Town Meeting voters on Wednesday evening.
Although most of Chelmsford was hooked up to a sewer system in the 1990s, a few hundred homes throughout town for geographical and financial reasons were unable to be hooked up, instead devices known as grinder pumps, which have drawn criticism for not working during power outages as well as adding tens of thousands of dollars in costs to homeowners who have them.
Efforts to get non-Grinder Pump residents to help pay for potential costs by the Chelmsford Sewer Fairness Alliance (SFA) at the Fall Special Town Meeting in October was inconclusive after Town Meeting representatives had concerns over potential costs to taxpayers as well as possible liability issues to the town.
The issue of additional information was one of the main topics discussed among this new study committee, which aims to bring a report for Town Meeting in the spring to either support or oppose the SFA’s earlier proposal.
“We want to gather all the facts,” said Tom Gilroy, who was elected as chairman to the committee. “Everybody here gets a clean slate to see what the cost and liability will be for the town and if this something we can do with our tax rate.”
While the committee’s task is expected to be done for Town Meeting in April, Selectman liaison George Dixon said that time will not play a factor if more detailed work is needed.
“The most important thing is that it’s done correctly,” said Dixon. “Whether it takes two weeks or twenty weeks or a year, all that’s important that we get the solution that’s the most fair to taxpayers, grinder pump owners, to everyone.”
Gilroy also represents the Finance Committee on this committee, and is joined by Town Engineer Steven Jahnle, SFA member David Foley, Peggy Dunn, Edward Safran, Bob Chevalier, Glenn Kohl and Daniel Burke, who was elected as vice chair.
Chevalier, Foley and Safran are grinder pump owners.
While Foley said that it’s the SFA’s preference that the Selectmen take a policy on their own rather than sending the matter to Town Meeting, he hopes this committee can help clear up what might have been seen as a lack of information that delayed a vote in the fall.
“The most important thing here is to help provide information to the town, especially Town Meeting Representatives,” he said.
Over the next 12 weeks, excluding Christmas week, the board is aiming to meet on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. at Room 204 at Chelmsford's town hall.
There they will expect to gather data from the SFA, Sewer Commission consultants Weston and Sampson, grinder pump installation company F.R Mahoney and other groups, with a possible second hearing from SFA representatives if needed.
All meetings will also be televised.