Y Not?

What’s up with this very ordinary photo?

YMCA parking lot

It’s part of the Westport Y’s parking lot, off Wilton Road. It shows a small number of the many cars that are no longer jockeying for a spot downtown.

I went to the new Y today, for the first time. I liked the spacious, airy fitness center.

I did not like the very cramped locker room. (I was a member of the Men’s Health Center at the old Y. I miss the gym clothes and towels, too.)

And I wonder why so many able-bodied people take the elevator instead of the stairs. It’s a health and wellness facility, people.

Meanwhile, here’s what the Y’s Bedford building looks like today. With the trees (and ivy) removed, you can see a pair of gargoyles that were hidden for years.

YMCA ivy removed

That view won’t last, I’m sure. Get ready for big changes downtown.

15 responses to “Y Not?

  1. I am confident David Waldman and his partners will do a stellar job restoring the grandure of the structure!

  2. Hidden gargoyles? Cool. New trees growing? Cool.
    Remember to restore this place, and remember to rid the town of septic systems in order to build a sewer system that doesn’t harm the beloved Compo (and neighbouring) Beach(es), and Saugatuck River.

    Put your affluence to good work now, ’cause Westport seems to be running far behind (septic tanks? really?)

  3. Traffic and the new Y concern–NOT. I guess all those who worried are finding that was clearly overblown.

    Still sad the Y did not move to Barons South. Keeping it close to town would have been wonderful. Oh well. Hopefully Dianne is proud of the outcome.

  4. Michael Calise

    Sorry! In most places a well designed and maintained septic system is far better than a municipal sewer system.An on site septic system helps maintain our aquifers by returning all water back. A municipal sewerage system helps to deplete our aquifers by sending its water out into the sound. Also onsite water is treated in a natural no chemical process contrary to the treatment plant method.

    • Aquifers do not treat sewage. Sewage from the ground still ends up in the Sound untreated.
      Not sure I’d want to drink the water.
      Unless there is little to no rainfall, septic tanks are not meant for towns, especially in 2014.

      • Maybe best to get into some facts–septics can be a greener alternative to sewers and can protect a town from expensive costs for keeping a town sewer system running and also allowing for more over development. Here is just one article on the matter:
        Septic vs Sewer: Might Septic be Better?

        Conventional wisdom suggests that when faced with a choice between town sewer and a septic system, the answer is clear: town sewer wins, hands-down.

        Need Septic System Pumping?
        But is the conventional wisdom right in this case? Is septic sometimes a cheaper, greener choice? A closer look at this question suggests that while the conventional wisdom is clear, it may not be right.

        The Conventional Wisdom

        The advantages of town sewer are well-known:

        Town sewer requires no maintenance — once you flush, you’re done.
        Future home-buyers won’t balk
        By contrast, the downsides of a septic system are equally clear:

        Requires regular maintenance every other year
        Future home-buyers might balk
        While there is truth in both the advantages and disadvantages, there is misinformation as well. It is certainly true that septic systems require maintenance — but it may not be true that they are more expensive. And septic has other advantages that this debate traditionally ignores — it may be “greener”, and when you don’t want to live in the center of town, it may be your only option.

        Sewer Has its Own Costs

        coins in a scale
        While most people are aware of the rather significant cost of replacing a broken septic system, few are aware that municipal sewer has its own costs.

        For example, according to Bill Gassett, owner of MassRealEstateNews.com and a realtor for RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton, Mass., homeowners can be assessed huge fees for maintenance and installation of new infrastructure. “In many towns that have sewer as an option, the buyer is asked by the town to pay what is known as a Sewer Betterment fee,” he says. “This can be quite expensive. For example, the last phase in my hometown of Hopkinton, the Sewer Betterment fee was $16,000.”

        In fact, there is no shortage of stories describing these fees and debates by various planning and selectmen’s boards as to the best means to handle sewer line improvements, which can be quite costly. The cost can increase quite a bit, too, if a pumping station must also be built. It is also possible for a municipality to place a lien on specific properties until they have paid these fees.

        While any home in any neighborhood could potentially be assessed a Sewer Betterment fee, Daniel Friedman, Editor and Publisher of InspectaPedia.com says that homes in low-density areas are at greater risk for higher fees. Installation costs are always high, but fewer homes mean fewer taxpayers to spread the costs.

        Even if pipes and a pumping station don’t have to be installed and built, there is still a fee to connect a home to the sewer lines or to replace aging pipes. “The expense is actually putting in the line from the street to the home,” says Gassett. “This is usually another couple of thousand dollars and then there is also the yearly usage charges for having a sewer connection, which can amount to another $1,000 and, in some cases, $2,000. With a septic system the only expense is a pumping fee, which is generally every couple of years and amounts to a few hundred dollars.”

        While sewer rates around the country vary widely, a few examples of yearly rates include Boston, average of $832 per home; Chandler, Ariz., average of about $612 per home; Lemoyne, Pa., average is $651; Danvers, Mass., average is $680; and so on. By contrast, the cost of pumping a septic tank, which generally should be done every two to four years, can also vary considerably, but the average is between $200 and $300. “The advantage on a septic system depends on the load being put into it, but here in Florida the average is about three to five hundred dollars to have someone come out and pump it,” says Eric Martell, a realtor based in South Florida. “Depending on the load, this could be every three to five years.”

        Martell adds that while Florida homeowners are required by statute to pump their tanks at least once every five years, that with proper management it is possible to go 10 or even 15 years between pumping.

        There is also the point that sewer systems have become big business across the country. Costs to replace or make improvements to systems can be very expensive and costs are growing as these systems are becoming increasingly more complex.

        Meanwhile, septic systems, while somewhat expensive to install or replace, will work perfectly well for a considerable period of time with just minor maintenance and pumping. According to Eco-Nomic.com the cost of a standard gravity system for a three bedroom house located on a level site with good soil is roughly $3,500 to $6,500. However, depending on where the house is located, type of lot and soils, the cost can go up considerably. Also, if you want the BMW of septic systems, such as a Mound system, you can pay as much as $10,000 or even more.

        It should also be noted that a septic system, when properly maintained, can last decades. According to InspectaPedia.com, a steel tank will last about 15 to 20 years while a concrete tank can last about 40 years. Septic drain-fields that are well maintained and properly sized can last as long as 50 years, but on average it could be about 20 years.

        Of course, these estimates are based on a properly built and maintained system located within good soils. Life spans could be quite a bit less, but it is not unreasonable to expect a septic system to have some longevity.

        Septic: The Green Choice?

        septic tank installed in a garden
        As people become more environmentally aware, owning a home with a relatively low environmental impact can be an important selling point. For some, a septic system may offer a green wastewater option.

        For example, sewer systems require energy to pump water throughout the system and use chemicals to treat the water. There are also issues as to how the outflow impacts streams and rivers as it may increase the bacteria content or add other seemingly neutral substances to the water that nonetheless alter its ecology. It is also not unheard of for treatment plants to overflow during large rainstorms or due to overuse.

        By contrast, properly installed septic systems adequately treat waste without using energy for pumping or chemicals to treat the water. They also return water to the local aquifer and, again when properly installed and maintained, rarely if ever overflow or create similar such hazards.

        One realtor we spoke with for this story said, “If you have a septic system, it may be in some ways more sustainable in that it is a system that requires no chemicals or power to operate and it is distributed so that you don’t have a single collecting point for an entire community of houses and businesses with an outflow of a large volume of treated water. Instead, you are trickling wastewater in relatively small quantities so that it is naturally filtered and cleaned.”

        Additionally, Jim Anderson, Education Coordinator for the National Association of Wastewater Transporters writes, “The technology is available to install an onsite wastewater treatment system that will protect the public health and meet water quality standards indefinitely—if it is properly managed and maintained. In addition, these systems can help to promote better watershed management by avoiding the potentially large transfers of water from one watershed to another that occur with centralized treatment.”

        Anderson goes on to note that a 1997 report by the EPA says that adequately managed decentralized wastewater treatment systems (e.g. septic systems) are a cost-effective, long-term option for meeting public health and water quality goals, particularly in less densely populated areas.

  5. Wendy Crowther

    Back in the 1980s (when I worked at the Westport Y), the original front doors to the so called “old building” were failing. Antoinette Fromson, a long-time Y member (she may have also been a former board member or trustee), donated the money to have the doors restored (or exact replicas built). Those are the doors that you see today in the above photo. I doubt the doors will remain in place when the Y is converted to other uses but I hope they will be re-purposed inside the building in a notable position.

    Just above the doors, the photo shows the Y’s classic triangle (a logo created in the late 1800s). The equal sides of the triangle stood for spirit, mind and body. It was representative of the Y’s interest in helping people develop in spirit, mind and body. It was an idea way ahead of its time and remains a core tenet of the Y today. I hope this symbol, and the large, gold YMCA letters that appear above the entry, will remain on the facade in homage to the original YMCA building and its important presence in Westport’s history.

  6. As soon as I read your post, Dan, I immediately thought….’this is surely gonna spark a raging debate on sewers versus septic systems”!

  7. Well getting back to the discussion about the Y. Dan I agree on the locker rooms, and you know that for me I need some legroom! I have not been there during “rush hour” (early weekdays) and can’t imagine what that is like.