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Roundtable discussion next step for dam at Mahar

ORANGE — A meeting of local engineers along with the consulting engineers seems to be the next step in determining the fate of the Mahar Regional School dam.

Several engineering experts brought to the project voluntarily by concerned citizen Carl Sauter weighed in at the Finance and Facilities meeting this week at Mahar. Sauter, a field service engineer at Rodney Hunt Co., who is also a Mahar graduate, has argued for saving the dam since the issue of its removal or repair came about in 2009 when the dam was inspected by the state.

The fate of the dam was slated to be voted on by the Mahar School Committee in April, but put on hold to gather more information. Superintendent of Schools Tari N. Thomas said that her primary focus is to do what’s right for all constituents. Several extensions have been received by the school from the Office of Dam Safety as to when the dam needs to reach compliance. Thomas confirmed that the school will seek yet another while more information is obtained.

Thomas explained that both she and the new director of finance and operations, Daniel Haynes, and several School Committee members are new to their positions and the dam situation as well. Thomas says that moving forward they would like to continue partnering with firm GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc. because of their existing relationship and have them outline all options with detailed costs. Her hope is for everyone to get a clearer picture of the project and for GZA to attend a committee meeting, so they can revisit the whole project before taking the next steps.

David M. Lenart, engineer and owner of Lenart Consulting Service, agreed that was a good idea. Lenart said that he didn’t feel all costs were laid out on paper at this time. Lenart said that if Sauter’s recommendation of classifying the dam as non-jurisdictional is a viable option there are several ways to do so. In any case, he says, the dam would need repair and maintenance and there are still capital costs. Lenart suggested having a roundtable discussion with GZA before they present to the school committee, in order for all parties to address their concerns.

Thomas and School Committee Chairman Peter Cross agreed that the roundtable discussion be the sensible next step. Cross says he’ll inform the School Committee of the direction they’re taking and suggested having the meeting of engineers take place in May or June. The result of that will then be presented to the School Committee at a public hearing with a date to be determined.

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