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Pembroke development suffers setback after Supreme Court sides with Allenstown

  • The Suncook Wastewater Treatment Facility is shown in Allenstown in winter 2018. Monitor file



Monitor staff
Wednesday, August 01, 2018

The state Supreme Court has sided with Allenstown in a decadelong dispute with Pembroke over how to pay for more sewer connections, creating a new wrinkle for future development in Pembroke.

“We’re advising people that want to do developments to check in with the Sewer Department as a first step, to make sure to get the capacity they need before they start to design a project,” said Carolyn Cronin, town planner for Pembroke. “There’s certainly a demand for it. We have projects coming in ... a few projects in town basically in queue to receive sewer,” both commercial and residential along Routes 3 and 106, and in the village.

Jeff Backman, superintendent of sewer in Allenstown, where the Suncook Wastewater Treatment Facility is located, said negotiations are going on but declined to be more specific.

“We have had a discussion with Pembroke. Both boards are looking toward the future and we’re hoping to find a way to work together to find sewage treatment for both communities,” Backman said.

At issue is the Suncook Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is owned by and located in Allenstown but has been used and paid for by both towns since it was built in 1977.

In 2005, the facility reached capacity, limiting new sewer connections. That led the two towns to sign a new agreement over operations in 2006, followed by long debate over how to pay for enlarging the facility. Allenstown rejected several warrants to bond a major expansion, proposals that were not put before Pembroke voters, according to the Supreme Court’s summary of the history.

Allenstown finally settled on a smaller, 1,200-connection expansion called the BioMag Project. In 2009, Allenstown voters agreed to pay for half of it with money from the federal stimulus package after the Great Recession, and the rest from a BioMag-related increase in fees paid by commercial haulers, who pay to bring septage from septic systems to the treatment plant.

Pembroke objected, saying the new agreement signed in 2006 meant they should get a portion of those increased septage fees linked to the BioMag expansion. Allenstown refused that request because Pembroke had not helped pay for and did not participate in the BioMag Project, and the issue went to court.

After a four-day bench trial last year, a superior court judge sided with Allenstown, saying Pembroke had breached the 2006 agreement. The state Supreme Court upheld that ruling in a unanimous decision handed down June 22.

“Although Pembroke’s frustration is understandable given its contributions to the facility’s operation and maintenance costs over the past four decades we conclude, as did the trial court, that it is not entitled to a share of the increased capacity under the arguments advanced,” the court wrote.

In Pembroke, three proposed projects include a total of more than 200 new housing units.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)