Beer company saves town $10 million

MERRIMACK – Thanks to Anheuser-Busch, the town can undertake $5.2 million in improvement projects related to wastewater treatment without borrowing money or raising taxes.

The Board of Selectmen on Thursday approved changes to the wastewater capital improvement program, which includes money set aside to pay for specific projects.

Last month, selectmen endorsed a proposal by Anheuser-Busch to construct an approximately $20 million anaerobic treatment facility at the company’s Daniel Webster Highway brewery.

Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser and other beer, is the largest producer of wastewater treated at the town’s Mast Road plant. When the company, after a series of discussions with town officials, decided to build the treatment facility, the town was off the hook to have to spend nearly $10 million to construct its own treatment facility.

With that cost off the table, the town is now poised to use capital reserve money for a slate of other projects.

“We have adequate funding now to do a lot of these projects, which means we can do them on an expedited schedule,” said Public Works Director Ed Chase.

Selectmen praised Chase’s department for its work with Anheuser-Busch officials that opened the door for the other projects to be funded.

“I hope a lot of people are watching tonight (on cable television),” Selectman Carolyn Whitlock said.

“Ed just gave a fine example of why we have these capital reserve funds,” she said, noting the funds enable the town to pay for projects, which are saved for over time, without a large impact on the taxpayers’ bill in any one year.

Selectman Chuck Mower praised the town’s Public Work staff for creating “an attitude and disposition” that enabled Anheuser-Busch to work with the town on the waste treatment facility, thus enabling Merrimack “to accomplish these things better, and sooner.”

Following are some of the most expensive projects in the revised wastewater capital improvement program approved by selectmen:

– Construction of a primary clarifier, at a cost of $900,000, to be done in 2005-06.

– Reconstruction of Reeds Ferry sewer lines, revised to $550,000 from $220,000 because one of the oldest sewer systems in the town was found to be in worst shape than first anticipated: work to be done in 2005-06.

– Replacement of a belt filter press at the plant, at a cost of $580,000, with the project moved up to 2006-07 from 2008-09.

– Security improvements made to the plant, with $72,000 to be spent in 2005-06 and $43,000 to be spent in 2006-07.