Peterborough says yes to $8 million plan for new water source

  • Peterborough held its Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough held its Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough residents raise their cards for a Yes vote. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Peterborough held its Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough held its Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough held its Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough held its Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough held its Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peterborough held its Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/15/2019 10:14:02 PM

Peterborough voters said yes to an $8 million plan to acquire a new water supply for the town and $2.5 million to renovate the highway garage at the open session of May Town Meeting Wednesday night.

About 3 percent, or 188, of the town’s 5,674 registered voters turned out to the open session.

The approved $8.26 million bond article includes the purchase of 528 acres in Jaffrey and Sharon for $2.70 million, in doing so purchasing the Old Stone Spring well site. All of the 528 acres, which sit along the Gridley and Contoocook Rivers, would be conserved as a protected water supply and would be open to the public, but closed to motorized vehicles.

The plan is to have the town of Jaffrey partner with Peterborough and share the water source, which along with other possible funding, including state and federal grants and private donations, would reduce Peterborough’s costs to no more than $4.047 million. Jaffrey plans to consider their cost portion at the town’s March Town Meeting next year.

Other expenses include the engineering, preparing plans and specifications, right of way, construction of wells and the associated well equipment, new water treatment and pumping facilities, and transmission piping to connect the Cold Stone Spring well site to the existing Peterborough municipal water distribution system, as well as payment of costs associated with the financing of the project. The town would not bond more than $4,047,400, the payments for which would come from water users rates.

Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett said the town’s water supply has been a concern since 1982 when the South Well on Sharon Road was found to be contaminated and taken offline. The Hunt Well was brought online in 1999, but was almost immediately taken offline because of iron and manganese levels. Bartlett said the town is in a good position to receive grant funds since the town has been struggling with these well water issues since the 1980s.

The project was touted by town officials as important to both towns’ future business growth.

“We believe that future economic development will be largely dependent on finding alternative water sources,” Selectwoman Barbara Miller told voters. “The Cold Stone Spring site would provide Peterborough with the proven wells and an aquifer distinct from our current water supply.”

Miller said the project is a great example of how towns can work together to solve a joint problem. “Peterborough is too small to do this alone,” Miller said.

Bartlett said the $4 million bond may increase the water bill for the average Peterborough family that uses roughly 17,000 gallons from about $595 to $795 a year.

“To fully fund the $4 million, after it is completely bonded, over a term of 20 years, at a term of 3.25 percent, it would an annual yearly increase of approximately $200,” Bartlett said.

He said the plan would be for both towns to share infrastructure costs and each pay the water each town uses. The new water source for Jaffrey means one of its largest employers, Millipore, would be able to expand.

“They have a plan to expand by about 300 (employees) in about two years and to do that they need more water,” Bartlett said. “So that clearly put Jaffrey in a position to want to be part of this project, support their economic development.”

The water supply plan was discussed for more than an hour during which the Select Board asked voters to amend some of the language of the article for legal reasons, which voters did. Voters also debated whether the water users should be the only residents to fund the town’s “future economic development” through the rate increases.

Thrown into the debate was a motion to cut the $8 million plan down to $4 million, which was made by Jo Anne Carr, a Peterborough resident who works for the town of Jaffrey as its director of planning and development.

Carr’s motion would bond no more than $2 million and would have limited the scope of the article to land acquisition, preliminary engineering, water quality testing and a study of the water rate structure.

Carr said she wasn’t speaking for Jaffrey and said while she fully supports the project, she said an intermediate step was more appropriate at this time. She added that the vote only has an impact on water users.

“That is a significant increase to be borne totally by the water users,” Carr said.

Sharon Monahan spoke in favor of Carr’s amendment and agreed the project would be a burden to water users.

“We don’t know the final outcome with Jaffrey so it will come from our end of it,” Monanhan said, adding, “As a water user I am really not interested in the tremendous increase of the full $8 million to my water bill … I don’t think it’s right that all of the future economic infrastructure is on the back of the existing users.”

Bartlett said Peterborough would not pay for more than half of the $8 million. If the other $4 million doesn’t come from a combination of Jaffrey and state and federal grants the article would be null and void.

He added, that in order to apply for New Hampshire grant funds the entire project costs need to be approved by voters. He warned that the town could lose out on critical grant funding by not approving the full amount.

Marlena Ferstenberg said the water increase would be too much for her. “If you increase my bill by about $200 bucks I can’t afford to live here.”

In the end, voters defeated Carr’s motion overwhelmingly with a show of cards and then said yes 143 to 31 by secret ballot, approving the $8 million plan.

Voters then moved on to a $4 million bond article to build a new Department of Public Works for garage on Water Street where the wastewater treatment plant is located. However, this article was quickly amended by voters to instead bond $2.5 million to renovate the current Department of Public Works garage on Elm Street. This amendment came after residents, including incoming Selectman Bill Taylor, asked for alternatives to the $4 million plan for a new building and asked if town officials to take another look at renovating an existing building in town instead.

Bartlett said the Elm Street property is also where the town plans to build a new fire station, and possibly a new police station, in the future so keeping the DPW garage on Elm Street means the town must acquire abutting conservation land owned by the Hancock-based Harris Center for Education and Conservation. Bartlett said the Harris Center is open to exchanging the land with the town for land elsewhere in town.

Once amended this article quickly went to a vote and garnered the two-thirds majority the bond article required with a 138 to 18 vote by in a secret ballot.

Voters also said yes in a unanimous vote, by a show of cards, to create a new Roadway System Upgrades Capital Reserve Fund and to raise $400,000 to place in the new fund.

Voters ended the night by unanimously saying yes, by a show of cards, to spend $325,000 from the Ambulance Revolving Fund to enter into a lease to purchase agreement for a specialty ambulance.

Peterborough ballot voting took place on Tuesday.

Ballot voting coverage:

Peterborough ballot voting results

Taylor wins Peterborough Select Board race

Zoning Amendment 15 fails, petition that made it fail by requiring two-thirds of the vote to pass ‘stands’ town administrator says


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