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Wilton’s Everett Well in need of repair

WILTON — The cause of damaging vibrations in the town well off Route 31, the only source of local water available during long-term power outages, may be related to one of two malfunctions , according to the Wilton Water Commission.

The total cost of repairs could set the Wilton Water Works back more than $10,000.

The Everett well’s pump operates on an electric motor, but has a back up motor that can run on propane gas, which allows the well to continue pumping during power outages, according to Water Commission Chair Jim Tuttle. The other town well, located on Abbott Hill, does not have the same ability, leaving the Everett well the sole source of water during power outages, said Tuttle in an interview Monday.

At a Water Commission meeting Thursday, Water Administrator Mike Bergeron addressed an issue he and the commission members have been observing for the past four months: a vibration in the well that may be causing damage to the structure.

“Everett well is still shaking like a leaf,” Bergeron told the commission. He asked that the members of the commission make a decision on two submitted bids to identify and address the problem. The issue could be one of two things, Bergeron explained to the board. The vibrations could be caused by malfunctions in the pump itself, or in the drive shaft.

If the problem lies with the pump, Tuttle said Monday, the vibrations could cause serious damage to the pump housing. If the drive shaft is the problem, it could damage the pump itself, meaning both the shaft and the pump would have to be replaced if the problem is not addressed.

The commission received two bids for the repair job , one from D.L. Maher of Denis L. Maher Well Drilling and Pump Services of Ayer, Mass., and one from Barrie Miller of Barrie Miller’s Well and Pump Service in Hillsborough. Tuttle noted during Thursday’s meeting that Maher was the company that first installed the well in the 1980s, but Miller’s quote was lower. Miller’s quote was approximately $11,000 for assessing the problem and making necessary repairs. Maher’s quote was approximately $14,000.

The quotes only cover the cost of repairs, and not the replacement of the pump, should that be necessary, said Tuttle on Monday.

Because the repairs to the well will require it to be shut down, the commission decided to wait to do them until April. Tuttle explained the reason for the delay was to ensure that the possibility of weather events that could cause a large-scale power outage would over, and there would be less risk involved with having the well off-line. However, Bergeron advocated selecting a contractor to complete the work now, as both had a waiting list of several weeks for upcoming projects.

At Thursday’s meeting, Tuttle suggested that the commission hire Miller to do the preliminary work to take the pump out of the well and take it apart to determine the source of the problem, before authorizing additional funds for repair work.

Commissioner Tom Schultz strongly objected to that plan, protesting that the commission could not expect a business to honor individual line items within an overall bid. He was in favor of Miller’s lower bid, but did not feel the commission could hire someone to complete the work based on a portion of the bid. If the commission would like a bid on only that portion of the work, they should request bids for only that portion, he argued.

“You can’t parse out individual line items,” Schultz argued. “You have to get a new quote.”

Tuttle calculated that for Miller to do the preliminary stages of the work, based on the individual line items in his quote, it would cost just under $7,000. He moved to authorize that expense and to hire Miller to begin the work. The motion passed 2 to 1, with Schultz voting against.

Included in the preliminary cost is the option of using a remote video camera to view the well’s screens, to determine if they were clogged by silt or other chemical residue. This is a regular maintenance issue that could be addressed while the well is down for repairs said Tuttle Monday.

The Water Commission will meet next on March 28 in the Town Hall at 6:30 p.m., followed immediately by the Sewer Commission.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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