by Terry Duffy
Drainage woes, sewer rates and funding issues were discussion items at Monday's Town of Porter Board meeting.
Leading off, there were more complaints about a continuing drainage problem on a private property on Harrison Lane that impacts neighboring properties. David Patts, one of the affected residents, questioned the board on what could be done with a private driveway that also serves as a shared access to neighboring properties.
Apparently it involves a continuing problem with a deteriorating culvert that has become an aggravation with standing water, resulting in a difficult navigation route for vehicles. The owner of the property has conveyed his willingness to sell the property to enable repairs, but would not cover any expense.
The issue was brought up first at the board's March session, thus far it has resulted in the town's Highway Department clearing nearby ditches in an attempt at correction, but now the problem has worsened. Patts asked the board what recourse property owners would have to correct the drainage problem.
Town Attorney Mike Dowd responded that the town could correct it. But its cost would likely have to be absorbed by the affected property owners. "The town's hands are tied," Dowd told the resident. He suggested one option might be having the affected residents team up to create a district that would enable the town to proceed with drainage repairs, a project that would involve town bonding with a potential repair cost in the $500-$600,000 range passed on to property owners.
Dowd and board members suggested the residents organize and study an earlier similar problem that was corrected by the town in the Mallory Drive area. He said affected residents could pursue formation of a road improvement district via a petition process to the board. Once authorized, it would lead to town bonding, repairs made, and payback arrangements done via property owners' tax bills. "The cost of cleaning this is the landowners' responsibility," Town Councilman Joe Fleckenstein told the resident.
The matter was left with Dowd providing suggestions to the resident on how residents could organize to create an improvement district to correct the problem. More as news develops.
Another news item also involved water and money, but this one saw no discussion. The town held a public hearing to consider a sewer rate increase, up 40 cents per 1,000 gallons to $5.10 per 1,000 gallons, to cover town expenses related to improvements at the Town of Lewiston Water Pollution Control Center that services the town. Supervisor Mert Wiepert said the increase would amount to 10 cents per 1,000 gallons going to Lewiston improvements, and 30 cents per 1,000 going to the pay off the town's bond anticipation notes for town sewer financing on projects. Similar hikes would be expected in the future, Dowd told the board.
No comments were heard at the hearing, and the Town Board went on to pass the sewer fee rate hike unanimously.
In other news of note from the session:
•Town Highway Superintendent Scott Hillman reported the town would see a modest benefit by the $75 million in Consolidated Highway Improvement Program funding approved in the state budget. He said Porter's share would amount to $12,000 to cover road repairs and resurfacing.
Other highway topics involved discussion about a new roof at the Braley Road garage. Town Engineer Dave Brittain of CRA Associates told the board the current flat roof on the structure is 25 years old and is in need of replacement. He estimated a cost of $135,000 to replace the flat roof section, an extra $56,000 to replace shingles and an undetermined cost to cover asbestos concerns.
Wiepert instructed Brittain to prepare quotes for replacement, which would include different replacement options for the roof, either flat or with trusses built in.
•Town Assessor Sue Driscoll updated the board on assessments and changes from the state covering Basic STAR recipients.
First, Driscoll reported that the town's ratio of 100 percent assessed valuation of properties was at 93 percent, a figure all agreed was very favorable for Porter, considering those found in other communities, which is often much lower.
Driscoll then said the 2013-14 state budget, now passed, calls for all Basic STAR recipients to register with the state Tax Department in order to receive or continue receiving STAR. All recipients of Basic STAR, including taxpayers already receiving the exemption, will need to register with the state Tax Department. The program applies to 2014 STAR exemptions, said Driscoll; Enhanced STAR recipients would not be impacted.
For further information, she advised residents to visit the town website, www.townofporter.net, or call 518-457-2036.