BF Trustees discuss Water Department

Water Department Director Brian Joslyn joined the Tuesday, July 19, 2022 Bellows Falls Trustees meeting to discuss failing digital controllers in the plants. Photo provided

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, July 19, 2022, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed capital projects for the Water Department with Director Brian Joslyn and Municipal Manager Scott Pickup.

Pickup explained that both digital controllers failed in July. He said that they do an annual asset management plan for the plant with potential replacements. Joslyn said that the life of the controllers was ten years.

Upcoming replacements include the Griswold Drive storage tank and pump station as well as SCADA system upgrades for an estimated $775,000. Pickup said, “The systems are poor and failing” and that he did not think there was any way to avoid the replacement. He said the village would look for rural development grants and other state and federal funding before turning to taxpayers.

Trustee Jeff Dunbar asked if the tank was the same as the water tower on Clace Drive which is roughly forty years old.

Trustee James McAuliffe asked how many tanks were in the village. Josyln said four tanks and Griswold was the oldest. Pickup went on to state that the new processes included screening for the presence of new “forever” chemicals that were driving most of the reinvestments.

Pickup said St. Johnsbury was upgrading their entire system and said, “We are approaching a life cycle issue.” He said Griswold was the biggest concern. Village President Deborah Wright said the plant in St. Johnsbury was the first one built in the state, which Joslyn concurred, stating that the St. Johnsbury plant was followed by the ones in Bellows Falls and Brattleboro.

Dunbar asked about the grant cycle and if ARPA would apply. Pickup explained they were looking at the next round of applications for USDA and state ARPA funding.

Wright wondered if this was an anticipated expense this year. She recommended if useful life is a ten-year range, they consider adding this to the capital plan.

McAuliffe noted that revenues were 95% of the year-end budget. Joslyn said because of the wet summer last year, they saved on irrigation.

Pickup explained that Joslyn’s chemical expenses had nearly doubled, but did not recommend rate increases this fall. He said that the earliest ratepayers would see an increase would be in the spring, and suggested the board find a reasonable number.

Pickup said, “We don’t want to make it burdensome,” but capital projects were expensive. He said the village would try to find outside sources and do their due diligence, before raising rates.

Pickup re-introduced the opportunity for village solar to offset facility expenses. He found an example from Milton using their landfill site and wastewater plant. Wright said she thought a roof install could save land. She said, “It makes sense to me to utilize the available space above ground,” that is, on the flat roofs of both water and wastewater plants.

Pickup suggested getting an engineer to look at the acceptable load. Wright said someone had looked at the roof of the sewer plant less than five years ago, but had not seen the report.

McAuliffe said the biggest user was the wastewater plant. Wright agreed they are the largest consumer in the village of electric and propane.

The Bellows Falls Village Trustees meet on Tuesday, Aug.16 at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House.

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, at the Joint Board meeting, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) will present initial design and scope of Canal Street utility work for the Depot Street Bridge project.

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