WILTON — Selectmen unanimously supported accepting an approved loan/grant of $4.69 million Tuesday for the first phase of renovating the wastewater treatment plant.

The loan of 75 percent and grant of 25 percent from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development means the town will make a payment of $201,000 a year for 29 years, Clayton Putnam, water/wastewater superintendent, said.

A letter will be sent to Washington for final approval and Wilton voters will need to approve the funding at the June 6 town meeting.

The treatment plant upgrade application ranked high for this first phase. Competing nationally for funding, the Wilton plant was the only one in the state approved for loan/grant funds this time, Putnam said.

For Wilton sewer customers, that means a ballpark increase of about $57 per quarter for minimum users. This would be the first rate increase since 1987 for the approximate 900 users.

During the first phase of the project, the collection system, including 30 pumps and the front end of the treatment plant face renovation. Construction is expected to begin in late spring of 2012.

An application for $4,915,000 in funding for the second phase for 55 percent loan and 45 percent grant has already been submitted. It will cover renovation of the rest of the plant.

The nearly 33-year-old plant is well beyond its 20-year design.

“We held off as long as we could,” he said. “The treatment plant is getting old and is just worn out.”

While Wilton customers have seen lower sewer rates for many years, the rate hike is needed, he said. There are less state and federal funds available.

A family of four using 1,600 cubic feet now pays about $70 a quarter for sewer service. This would increase to about $127 a quarter. Water and sewer customers receive both bills together. Those with a $127 sewer bill and a water bill of approximately $61 would pay about $180 a quarter instead of the $130 they pay for both now.

The ratepayers would bear the burden of the renovation. No tax dollars are used, although taxpayers initially approved $30,000 a year toward the debt obligation on the new plant. When the plant was built in 1977 taxpayers thought it enhanced the attractiveness and economic viability of the town and endorsed using tax dollars to help pay for the debt. A similar act this time would lower the rate for users by about $34 a year, he said.

The rate increase for users is expected to begin in January 2012.

In other business, the board approved changes in the Water Department’s terms and conditions. There had been no changes since 1985.

The main update will allow the department to shut water off for nonpayment of a sewer bill.

Currently, the sewer department’s last resort for payment is a lien process on the property. At the end of last year, $110,000 was owed to the sewer department. By April, that number was reduced to about $100,000 with $44,000 already in the lien process, he said.

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