The town is asking voters to approve two water projects on this year’s Town Meeting ballot in addition to the $5.98 million budget and a $1 million paving bond.
When voters head to the polls on March 5, they’ll find two separate articles that town manager Don Turner says will fix water infrastructure needed most in emergencies.
“If we do these two projects … our system is in really good shape, and that’s what we want: Invest dollars today so we don’t have big problems tomorrow,” he said.
If approved, an $804,000 bond — to be financed at 3 percent over 20 years — will replace a water main near the Lake Road-Route 7 intersection. A separate $198,000 bond, repaid on the same terms, would install a new pressure sustaining valve on River Street.
The current $39.95 base rate for the town’s 2,437 water users would decrease to $35.70 in FY20 as long as the town receives a 30 percent state subsidy for the Lake Road project, finance director Jessica Morris said. If the town doesn’t get the discount, the base rate would increase to $42.27, Morris said.
The Lake Road water line was identified as problematic as far back as 2002, a 2016 report by consulting engineers Aldritch + Elliot says.
The 4-inch line on Lake Road, Sally Way, Elmer Place and June Way “creates a bottleneck … and consequently limits the available fire flow to the point that the town should bag all hydrants in this area,” the report says. That study named the Lake Rd. main the highest priority water system project.
If approved, the project would replace 1,500 linear feet of 4-inch water lines with 2,600 linear feet of 12-inch lines, starting about 400 feet up Lake Road to the 12-inch main on Manley Road, documents show. The project would also install several hydrants along the route, Turner said.
The second project, the pressure-reducing valve on River Street, would maintain water service in the event of a system failure at the Champlain Water District, from which Milton sources its drinking water. The valve would rebalance the high pressure from the town’s water storage tanks on Westford Road with the water from CWD, Turner said.
The current valve is situated below grade and is frequently submerged underwater. If approved, the ballot item would build a small structure to house the equipment aboveground, Turner said.
“The user is not going to see anything different: They’re going to turn their faucet on and get the same water they did before,” Turner said, adding, “I don’t think people today would know these are even a problem. We are being proactive in both these scenarios.”
Turner’s team originally proposed a third water project, a $1.87 million effort to install a pressure sustaining valve and 12-inch main on Railroad Street. The infrastructure would have created redundancy in the system, tying into existing lines on Barnum Street and Middle Road.
These lines dead-end, rendering the fire hydrant on Railroad Street useless, Turner said.
At their Jan. 22 meeting, board members wondered if the project was prudent, given that it would more than double the base rate.
“I can’t see asking [voters] for $2 million when the school’s already asking them for millions,” board member Brenda Steady said of all three water bonds. “I know I can’t afford it, so I know other taxpayers [can’t].”
Board vice-chairman Ken Nolan questioned whether this project was still a priority, especially given the impending significant expenses for the Flanders development that has dealt with low water pressure for years.
Turner acknowledged this, saying, “We’ve got a lot of projects and need a lot of money, and it’s expensive. By doing [Lake Road and River Street], we’re really going to upgrade our system.”
In a follow-up, Turner acknowledged Milton has some of the highest water rates in the area but stressed the two ballot items are fiscally responsible.
“We can’t just go out and do projects year after year,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re responsible to the user in that we have a good system [and] we’re making it better.”