Lincoln Council votes to privatize operation of sewer system

Lincoln Council votes to privatize operation of sewer system

LINCOLN – The Lincoln Town Council voted unanimously in favor of privatizing the operation of the municipality’s sewer system, giving the go-ahead for a 3-year, $1.3 million contract.

Following a recommendation from the purchasing subcommittee, the council voted in favor Tuesday night of the bid from Veolia Water North America – Northeast LLC, which stood at $1,324,034.

Finance Director John Ward, Public Works Director Michael Gagnon and Town Administrator Joseph Almond had voiced their support for the move to the committee when the board initially looked over plans and the contract.

As previously reported by The Breeze, Almond explained this does not mean the town is selling its sewer system. Instead, Lincoln would contract out for the maintenance of the apparatus.

Now, Veolia will be responsible for maintaining the sewer system, preventative cleaning, inspections and tests as well as emergency/blockage response.

The town already has private contractors come in to do work for multiple services, and Almond said this move is expected to be more cost effective, as Veolia takes preventative measures and most of the tools used today are mainly computer-driven.

All three of the laborers that currently work in the sewer division, Almond said, will keep the same salary within the Public Works Department, where they can decide which role they prefer to take on based on seniority. He said that means bumping out other employees from their roles, if necessary.

“No town employees will lose their job,” Arthur Russo of the committee explained to those at the meeting.

The changes come after Almond explained to committee members that while he was not critical of town employees’ work in the department, the workers do not have the necessary training to operate an updated system.

“This makes a lot of sense,” Russo said, adding that the bid was before the committee for quite some time before the group made its decision.

Currently, half of Town Engineer Leslie Quish’s salary is dedicated to overseeing the sewer department and any development project proposed to the town. Under the new contract with Veolia, her role and salary will remain the same.

Sewer rates, which currently stand at $100 annually, were not yet determined after Tuesday night’s meeting, but Almond said he doesn’t anticipate the rates to shift drastically. In Lincoln, the Town Council sets those rates.