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Council considers reworking costs of sewer, street work; Numbers crunched on betterments.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - With the cost of infrastructure improvements becoming prohibitive for many residents, the City Council is looking to provide some relief by making the repayment schedule for those betterments more palatable.

The council Tuesday night broached the idea of extending the time frame for repayment of resident assessments for new sewers from the 10-year schedule to 20 years, and reducing the annual interest the city charges on those assessments from 8 percent to at least 4 percent.

The council also asked for a report on what, if any, provisions exist that would allow certain elderly homeowners to defer their sewer assessment payments.

District 3 Councilor Paul P. Clancy Jr., chairman of the council's Public Works Committee, said an adjustment is needed for repayments of sewer assessments because the cost of constructing new sewers has risen so dramatically.

He pointed out that not long ago the betterment assessment for new sewers was 80 cents per square foot of a homeowner's lot size, but it has since increased to $1 per square foot.

As a result, some residents in the Granite Street area, where new sewer construction is planned, are facing betterment assessments of as much as $20,000, he said.

In addition to assessments for new sewers, the councilor said, the cost of rebuilding private streets and making them public has risen from $60 per linear foot of frontage to $150 per linear foot. Homeowners who live on private streets that are made public can spread out that betterment assessment over 20 years, at 5 percent interest.

"We have to do something because the cost of infrastructure (improvements) is now becoming prohibitive for a lot of people, especially those elderly residents living on fixed incomes," Mr. Clancy said. "It's overwhelming for a lot of those people. What we're beginning to see is that more and more people are reluctant to petition for or support infrastructure improvements on their street because of the cost that is involved.

"We should prepare special legislation as soon as possible that would allow a 20-year payback for sewer construction and also allow the lowest possible interest rate," he added. "I'd like to see us go as low as 2 percent (interest) if that is at all possible. Otherwise, we might see a screeching halt to private street conversions and new sewer construction, except in the wealthier neighborhoods."

Councilor-at-Large Frederick C. Rushton said the changes would be a "great economic development tool" for the city.

He said infrastructure improvements will increase the value of people's property which, in turn, would increase the amount of real estate taxes the city collects on them.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 11, 2010
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