Ocean Ridge: Septic-to-sewer study funds take backseat to budget woes

By Rich Pollack

With the town’s budget still in flux, Ocean Ridge’s septic-to-sewer citizens advisory committee has agreed to hold off on requesting funds for a cost analysis from an outside firm.
Voting unanimously, the five-member committee, charged with studying the feasibility of replacing septic systems with a sewer system, agreed that it would be premature to request funding for a study to be conducted by Raftelis Financial Consultants.
The committee did, however, agree to seek $6,000 in the town’s upcoming budget for assistance on uncovering possible grant opportunities that could help cover some of the initial costs as well as $3,000 for engineering costs and $1,000 for legal fees.
In addition, the committee asked the Town Commission to allow funds coming to the community from the countywide 1-cent infrastructure sales tax to stay earmarked for the septic-to-sewer conversion, should the town decide to go forward with such a project.
That fund has close to $400,000, according to Town Manager Tracey Stevens, and it initially was expected to grow to about $1 million during its 10-year lifespan.
But that is likely to change.
“We have seen a sharp decrease in sales tax revenue due to COVID-19, so that number is expected now to be lower,” Stevens said.
An expected shortfall in the town’s overall revenue for the coming year was one of the factors behind the committee’s decision to delay going forward with a financial analysis, which would include a rate study and identifying funding sources.
In a memo to members of the committee, Stevens said that the town is likely facing an $800,000 budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year. She later told the committee that the cost for the financial study by Raftelis was estimated to be around $30,000.
Committee members, citing the shortfall, agreed that there was no need to rush for the financial study.
“I see little value in using money for Raftelis,” committee Chairman Neil Hennigan said. “I don’t think anything they’re going to give us would be urgent.”
The committee, which has not yet made a recommendation on whether to proceed with a septic-to-sewer conversion, agreed to wait for additional direction from the commission before meeting again in August.

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