Bristol passes water system improvements


Special Town Meeting accepts federal stimulus funds for project



BRISTOL
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Bristol Water system design engineer Mike Metcalf, Moderator Ned Gordon, Town Clerk Raymah Simpson and Water and Sewer Department Supervisor Jeff Chartier discuss the vote after Bristol Special Town Meeting in Old Town Hall this past Saturday. Marcia Morris. (click for larger version)
June 25, 2009
BRISTOL — In an unusual "off-season" Special Town Meeting authorized by the state legislature for the purpose of acting on the acceptance of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to complete public projects, the Town of Bristol approved a $1,191,000 Bristol Drinking Water System Improvement Project by a vote of 40-6 this past Saturday.

The project involves upgrades to the existing underutilized Storm Center Well, a part of the Village System, and the addition of a Hillside Avenue booster pump station in order to expand the supply capacity of the drinking water system as a whole.

Town Manger Paul Weston explained that 50 percent of the project, or $595,500, will be funded by federal stimulus monies via a loan forgiveness program through New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. Weston said that 100 percent of the loan principle and all of the interest will be immediately forgiven under the ARRA funding scheme. The remainder of the project will be funded by appropriating funds from the Bristol Water Department Capital Reserve Fund that will provide the matching share for the ARRA monies.

"I want to emphasize that there are no property tax dollars involved in this project," said Weston. "We have been setting aside these capital reserve funds over many years and the time has come to prudently use those dollars that have been accumulating from water rates for these improvements."

Water and Sewer Department Supervisor Jeff Chartier said that no rate increases are expected as a result of this drinking water system improvement plan, although increases might come in the future to fund further capital improvements as part of other upgrades to take place over the course of the next ten years.

"I want to impress on everybody how important this project is to the Town," said Chartier. "The flexibility of the water system will be greatly improved. If I wasn't standing here today, I would be back at March Town Meeting asking for the $1.2 million to fund this work. The availability of these stimulus funds to pay for half of this project is definitely a benefit to the Town."

Not everyone was entirely convinced. Resident Boake Morrison said that he was concerned that the upgrades were not the highest priority for the Town. He suggested that aging water lines that run through the downtown needed replacement before the water supply project should proceed.

But the Town's water system Design Engineer Mike Metcalf, from Underwood Engineer's, said that a detailed inventory of all water lines had been conducted during a comprehensive water system study completed last summer. He presented the resulting report that included a long term capital improvements plan that prioritized the proposed drinking water supply project and the addition of a second storage tank ahead of the underground water line replacements scheduled to occur several years in the future.

Metcalf explained why the Storm Center Well was so important for the system. He said that according to DES criteria, the Town has to be able to meet the average daily water demand with the largest well in service, and also that all of the wells combined have to able to meet the maximum demand on the system. He noted that iron and manganese problems at the second Fowler Well site in the Lake part of the system have compromised the Town's ability to meet DES criteria with a water supply that could meet acceptable aesthetic standards. Metcalf said that the addition of the booster pump station would mean that the excellent water quality of the Storm Center Well in the village could be made available to the Lake System in case it was needed.

He also said that the proposed improvements cost less than providing a treatment facility for the contaminated Fowler Well which he estimated could run up to $2 million.

After about one hour of discussion the Town Moderator Ned Gordon called for the vote. As per statute, the polls were open for one hour for the two-thirds majority vote by secret ballot needed to pass the measure. Construction is expected to begin by the end of the summer.

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