Bellows Falls trustees discuss Water Department

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed Water Department capital projects.

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Oct. 11, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed Water Department capital projects.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup said the Kissell Hill project was on the current intended use plan for funding to replace the asbestos pipe distribution line. He presented the motion for the design proposal from the Dufresne Group of Springfield at $37,000 and anticipated the plans and specifications by year’s end. The estimated project cost is $1.2 million.

Village President Deborah Wright asked if this involved grant money. Pickup said this was in the current funding stack of $625,000. The board authorized the motion for $37,000 for engineering services.

Pickup said the pump station on Griswold Drive was on the asset management plan. Costs for the new tank were $775,000, and $175,000 for a refurbished tank.

Trustee James McAuliffe asked about the longevity of a new tank. Pickup said it was anywhere from 30–50 years, depending on the coating and maintenance. According to Pickup, the refurbished tank “is, in effect, buying us another ten years.” McAuliffe noted the tank was installed in 1979, and upgraded in 2006 at 27 years.

Trustee Jeff Dunbar said, “the refurbishment makes sense” and asked about the backup if it started to fail. Pickup explained the biggest issue and concern was fire flows, but said they could handle residential flow with a temporary tank.

The next item on the agenda was a federal mandate for drinking water requiring a service line inventory. Pickup explained that by October 2024, the Water Department must present an inventory of all lead lines servicing the village. He said that service was not a part of routine maintenance, and loan programs were available and would be pursued to help with the increased manpower necessary for the inventory. “It will impact [the village],” said Pickup, “with potential recruitment for the Department and [involve] a whole host of challenges…in terms of responsibility for service line replacement.”

In response to Wright asking if the expense would fall on homeowners, Pickup said that the guidance was not yet released, but guessed that “with the age of some of our housing stock, there will be some homes that [need] remediation…and involve some cost to homeowners.” He continued by saying, “This is something we will be talking about for the next 18–24 months.”

McAuliffe asked if the village had lead pipes in the system. Pickup was not aware of any in distribution, but acknowledged that some of the connections were old.

Pickup also addressed employment concerns at the Water Department. Two senior members were within 18–24 months of being fully vested and eligible for retirement. He said it took time to train new employees and suggested they advertise to get a sense of who was available before the end of the calendar year. Pickup explained that this was a critical issue and would relieve pressure on succession planning. He reminded the board that without a viable option, the village would need to contract at a substantially higher cost.

Dunbar asked about the time span between anniversary dates. Pickup said only three to four months, and that the biggest concern was getting new employees certified. He explained, “Once certified, you need two years of on-the-job training before you’re officially certified to be an operator.” Pickup acknowledged that the additional lead line inventory would be time consuming and involve numerous weeks of field work.

Golec asked about mapping. Pickup said they had pieces of the Geographic Information System (GIS) data, but not a full set.

Trustee Wade Masure recalled Everett Hammond overseeing different phases of that project. Pickup agreed that before they hired anyone to work on system line evaluation, “We will pull all the data we have…and the GIS product [would] come out of this inventory.”

The Village Trustee meetings are on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House.

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