"I said back then that I would be insane if I let that plan go," Sacco said.
The plan that was approved by the former advisory board of the township's Municipal Utilities Authority called for the construction of a new $54 million plant to replace the faltering one that was built in the 1970s. The MUA also spent nearly $5 million in studies, models, and engineering designs for the project.
"I saw that number and I knew that there would be tremendous increases," Sacco said. "The cost would have been astronomical over time. We extended the life of that plant for as long it could possibly go."
Sacco then said that there were thoughts of upgrading the existing plant to meet the EPA and Department of Environmental Protection standards.
"Retrofitting the plant wasn't going to work," Sacco said. "Building a new plant would have been really expensive, and the cost of running the new plant would have been an additional $3 million year."
So township officials came up with a better solution, having some other municipality handle the sewage responsibility.
After nearly a year's worth of negotiations and discussions, the township reached an agreement with the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority to have approximately 70 percent of North Bergen's and part of Union City's sewage and wastewater pumped to Jersey City's lines and then out to the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission's plant in Newark, which is one of the largest treatment plants in the country.
The two sides announced the 25-year agreement during a press conference Tuesday afternoon at North Bergen's Town Hall.
The terms The terms of the agreement includes an $8 million operation start up fee to the Jersey City MUA, payable June 30, 2006, and approximately $20 million in construction fees to build the pipelines from North Bergen to the existing Jersey City lines, as well as building a pumping station that will be located on the site of the existing treatment plant.
So instead of spending upwards of $70 million to build a new facility, the township will spend $28 million while systematically getting out of the sewage treatment business in the process.
North Bergen will receive low-interest loans from the state's Infrastructure Trust Fund to foot the bill for the startup costs.
"This is the plan that made the most amount of sense," Sacco said. "But we needed the cooperation of Jersey City to do so. Jersey City went through a series of administrative changes over the last few years. Although all of the mayors were supportive, we were getting different numbers. I thought the program would be a win-win no matter where we went. It was just a matter of getting the right numbers."
Daniel Becht, the executive director of the Jersey City MUA, applauded the deal.
"It's truly a cooperative effort from both communities," Becht said. "It's a historic agreement that has come to fruition. Jersey City gets a chance to pick up some more revenues, which will make us able to stabilize our rates. We're looking forward to working with North Bergen. It's an example of how neighboring communities can work together."
The Jersey City MUA already has similar agreements with Kearny, Bayonne and Union City.
Pumping In the terms of the agreement, North Bergen will pump up to eight million gallons per day to the Jersey City lines and then out to Passaic Valley's plant in Newark. Service charges will rise by 5 percent every year, from roughly $306,000 to start and escalating to $988,000 over the term of the 25-year deal.
"We have a manageable plan now," Township Administrator Chris Pianese said. "What was in place could have been devastating. It would have been expensive in the long run. To run our flow to Jersey City makes all the sense in the world."
North Bergen treats approximately seven million gallons of sewage and wastewater a day now, although it can increase to as many as 12.8 million gallons in times of heavy rains and melting snows.
"But we're just a drop in the bucket to what Passaic Valley treats daily," North Bergen MUA Executive Director Frank Pestana said. "If we produce more, then the rates would have to be negotiated."
Rates may rise slightly Although rates are expected to go up because of the deal, Sacco said that he hopes to keep the rates within the cost of living increases. Right now, the average North Bergen one-family home pays between $400 to $600 annually in sewage fees.
"We're going to try to offset the cost hikes by receiving grant money," Sacco said. "Unfortunately, there will be an increase, but it will fall within the cost of living."
It is not known how much of a rate increase will be in effect.
"It's so hard to put a figure on it at this point," Pianese said. "We're looking at a 3 to 4 percent increase, which should be like $15-to-$20 a year. That's what we're looking at."
Sacco said that the closing of the treatment plant will not result in massive layoffs at the plant.
"We'll be looking for other positions to put our workers in, transferring staff," Sacco said. "There will also be losses by attrition. We'll keep the job losses to a minimum and hopefully no one will go to the unemployment line. We don't want to see any jobs lost because of it."
Pestana said that the more skilled workers will be transferred to the MUA's other treatment facility, the Woodcliff Treatment Plant, located on 71st and River Road.
Timeline Pianese said that once the DEP approves the agreement, then the construction project can go out to bid. Construction of the lines, which will more than likely run parallel to the CMX rail lines, and the pumping station will take approximately a year to 18 months to complete.
"Once we get full approval, we can get the design done and by year's end, be out to bid," Pianese said. "It should be in place between 2-3 years."
Since the pumping station will not be as expansive as the current treatment facility, the township will get an additional 1.5 acres to be used in another capacity, either commercial or in another municipal form. "That's just another advantage of this deal," Pianese said.
Opposition While most of the existing officials believed the agreement to be one that would be beneficial to North Bergen, some others weren't as sure.
Jack Ventri, a staunch Sacco opponent and the former director of maintenance for the MUA, believes that the deal is just covering up the eventual.
"The rates will not go up immediately, but they will go up in four years," Ventri said. "They will take the debt and spread it out. The ratepayers will feel it eventually. They should have redone the Central plant. I don't think this plan makes sense. Our ratepayers will be susceptible to whatever Passaic Valley decides. This move will cost the ratepayers a lot. Only time will prove me right."