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Septic tank pumpers could share sewage plant’s burden


Frenchtown, N.J., has sewage-treatment capacity to die for, but it’s expensive. The plant, which was completed in 2015, was sized for a complete build-out of the borough. But at the moment, Frenchtown has fewer sewer customers, not more.

In reaction, Sewer Commissioner Liz Johnson has a plan.

She reported at the March 6 borough council meeting that the plant had 880 customers a couple of years ago, but now has only 827. “That’s a $53,000 cut,” she said. Personnel changes have compensated for that, but “this is maybe the darkest hour of the sewer plant. But I can also say the darkest hour is just before dawn. And I can see dawn.”

That glow comes from her bright idea of accepting the septic-tank pumpings at the sewer plant from private haulers, who would pay for the treatment. She noted that the trucks would bring the same stuff that flows down through the sewer pipes.

The councilwoman is still working out the details, but she hopes that by late summer or early fall, four or five sewage haulers will be patronizing the borough sewage-treatment plant in a pilot program. The modest beginning would enable the borough to “work out our kinks” before launching something grander next year.

She expects this effort will stabilize sewer rates, and dares to hope that it might even reduce them eventually. Currently a homeowner pays $1,050 a year for sewage treatment.

Recent losses of sewer ratepayers have resulted from last summer’s fire that destroyed two restaurants and four apartments, the closing of the Homestead House boarding house, and the ending of sewer service to the old porcelain factory.

But many new customers are pending. The stalled River Mills development has a new owner, who has the borough’s okay to add 10 apartments, two storefronts and four condo buildings. A portable toilet has arrived on-site, an earthy harbinger of sewer users to come. Three duplexes have been okayed for Upper Eighth Street. The site of the new ArtYard theater/gallery is being prepared.

The environmental remediation of the old porcelain factory is soon to begin, preparing the ground for about 100 housing units.

Reconstruction is well under way on the Frenchtown Cafe building on Bridge Street.

At the March 6 meeting, council accepted ownership of several streets in the old Hilltop development on the northeast side of town. The knotty issue of who owns those streets has been untangled, and efforts can advance to install sewage pipes up there to replace that area’s failing septic systems. Mayor Brad Myhre has expressed hope that a federal grant will help pay for it.

So there is every reason to expect a brighter day for sewer ratepayers.

In other business, the borough swore in Patrolman Michael Cristadoro.

He joins Erik Eccles, who joined the force Dec. 31. This brings the department up to its full complement of three cops, including Chief Al Kurylka. Because the chief has been temporarily sidelined by knee-replacement surgery, the training of the two new cops is being handled by the High Bridge Police Department. With the chief retiring in September, council’s next task is to find his successor.

The mayor also read a proclamation praising the borough library and urging everyone to attend its centennial tea party, which will take place on 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 31, on the ground floor of Borough Hall on Second Street.