AGAWAM, and Joanne Circle, with Bradford Drive being in

Mass., – A sewer system development that originally began in the late 1970s to
extend sewer systems to Feeding Hills residences is finally making its way back
to the City Council agenda once again.

            In Feeding Hills, several “‘high’
need” areas are still without access to sewer systems that could save them
thousands in septic repair costs, property damage, and increase their home
resale values. Feeding Hills is a section of the city of Agawam and is home to
a quarter of its nearly 29,000 residents. It has its own separate zip code and
is comprised largely of farmland and some rural and suburban residences.

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            Some residents of those areas
designated as “high” need areas have been approaching the City Council for
years citing issues with water build-up in their basements, septic systems
backing up, and septic system failures – even after repairing or replacing them.
In a 2004 Southwest Area Wastewater Disposal Evaluation conducted by Tighe and
Bond, the company concluded that “poor soil conditions, seasonal high
groundwater levels, and small lot sizes contribute to the septic system
failures reported in each of these sub-areas.” These sub-areas include Bradford
Drive, White Fox Road, Tobacco Farm Road, North West Street, and Joanne Circle,
with Bradford Drive being in “the most significant need for wastewater disposal

According to the 2004 Southwest Area Wastewater
Disposal Evaluation, an engineering company stationed out of Westfield
Massachusetts, over 750 homes were included in the “high” need area. At the
time, the project was estimated to cost between $29-30 million, depending on a
few different plan options. Those figures today would run around $37-38

            In a petition championed by Feeding
Hills resident William Clark and City Counsellor Richard M. Theroux, a hearing
to once again discuss the sewer system has been proposed and accepted by the
Agawam City Council.

            The sewer system proposal was tabled
in 2012 and again in 2013, this time indefinitely, after both years being
included in the town’s Capital Improvement Plan my Mayor Cohen. The reason
behind the indefinite tabling of the sewer system, as explained by several
Councilors, was that there the expectations put on the City Council were
“unrealistic,” and that the Capital Improvement Plan was “a wish list.”
According to then-Councilor Dennis J. Perry, “We really have to look at this seriously,
and…prioritize reality.”

Clark owns a Yoga Studio in Agawam and is in frequent
attendance at the City Council meetings, addressing town issues such as tax
increases and infrastructure issues with sidewalks and roads.

With the promises of Mr. Theroux to pursue the
continuation of the sewer system and documentation and newspaper clippings from
the 1980s in hand, Clark took to the podium during the citizen speak portion of
the November 8 meeting. After citing the dated papers and some interactions he
had with residents, he addressed the council directly: “You started a project,
and then you stopped it. Why’d you stop it?” Clark continued his heated
commentary, calling on the Council to take action on the record. “We don’t a
public hearing at a workshop, we don’t want a public hearing outside this hall.
We want it on this hot mic, with the cameras rolling.”

When the issue was broached again during the November
20th meeting, Counsellor Gina M. Letellier expressed her
apprehension about the hearing. “The petition asks for a discussion about the
sewers,” said Letellier, “I don’t know how we can have a public hearing without
having a specific item in front of us.” She argued that without specifics, she
wasn’t sure how anything could end up on the agenda.

Counsellor Richard M. Theroux responded, saying “This
petition was set up and certified by the Town Clerk…under the section of our
charter, it can’t be changed. And it was requesting a public hearing so, with
all due respect, that’s what we have to do.” When it comes to specifics,
Theroux explained, “It behooves us to get the reports…the potential costs, what
streets are going to be affected, what problems they have incurred in those
particular areas, all that information.”

The Council approved the item to be tabled until the
December 18, 2017 City Council Meeting.

has also taken to Facebook, specifically the Agawam Political Forum, to post
about the petition, the upcoming hearing, and attempting to mobilize others to
his cause. On the forum, he has added over a dozen posts relating the sewer
system, including EPA reports, City Council meeting transcripts and videos
dating back as far as 2006, and even a flyer he created for the upcoming
hearing, set to take place on December 18, 2017.

            Sheila Sacco, Agawam, voiced her
frustration commenting on a William Clark post that outlined some details of a
2003 City Council meeting that discussed Phase 2 of the sewage plan. “We pay
taxes just like everyone else who have benefitted from other monies spent on
parks, tracks, etc…which are far less necessary than helping taxpayers with
septic issues.”

             Andy Halley, of Feeding Hills, expressed his
concerns on continuing to put the sewer system as well. “The longer it waits,
the more expensive it becomes just in dollars adjusted for inflation alone.”

            On the Agawam Political Forum, the
consensus is that those who want sewers should be able to get them, the crux of
the argument is whether or not they should have to pay for it out of their
pockets to connect. Many feel that it should be covered by the taxes residents
already pay, while some, like William Clark, think that the town should use a
portion of the free cash in the town’s budget to help pay for it.

            The Southwest Area Sewer Project, as
it has come to be known over the years, so-called for the area of Feeding Hills
it would cover, has had a rocky foundation since the late 1970s when it was
first started and quickly brought to a halt.

            In a news article
from The Republican dated October 25,
2001, the sewer expansion seemed to back on track to the point where Tighe and
Bond Inc., an infrastructure engineering company, conducted a survey to “help
determine the needs of the community and how it will go about connecting around
1,600 homes to the city’s sewer system.”

            In 2008, the sewer plan was back in
the news. In a February 19 article
from that year, the expansion was voted down by the City Council, to the
appeasement of most of the nearly 200 residents present. The plan stumbled as a
result of proposed method of funding.

            The next year, on April 29, 2009, The Republican wrote another article
detailing that plans for the sewer extension were again advancing. The proposal
set in motion the work that would be known as Phase One of a planned five-phase
plan, with each phase extending the system further into the Southwest Feeding
Hills region. The construction for Phase One was completed in 2011.

            In 2012, as noted by this article found in the MassLive archives, the town was geared up to begin Phase 2 of the
extension, but as of 2017 construction has yet to begin.

            For now, it is unclear what the
outcome will be. The issue isn’t scheduled to be discussed until the December
18 City Council Meeting later this month.