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Hadley voters OK $100K for Warner Dam repairs

“I am confident that we will get it in the budget,” Scibak told more than 200 Town Meeting members at Hopkins Academy, saying the funds have been approved by the House. The Senate still has to approve the allocation.

Discussion of the CPA request to save the approximately 100-year-old dam overshadowed Town Meeting’s unanimous approval of a $14.9 million town budget and separate vote to bring a $1.24 million debt-exclusion override before voters to pay for a new pumper and rescue truck, dump trucks, radio equipment and emergency generators.

Townwide support for the $100,000 CPA request comes less than a month after The Kestrel Trust and nonprofit Friends of Lake Warner and the Mill River announced a $350,000 fundraising strategy to restore the dam. The project is needed to meet a state order to bring the structure into compliance with state dam safety regulations. The dam at Mount Warner and River roads retains Lake Warner, which has its own problems of sedimentation and excess fertilizer runoff that the town has yet to solve.

“Voting ‘yes’ will not raise your taxes,” Marjie Pratt Townsend, a lifelong resident of North Hadley and spokeswoman for the Friends group, told Town Meeting members. “CPA funds have already been collected and are in the CPA account.

“It’s one of the oldest structures in our town,” she added.

The town does not own the dam. The Kestrel Land Trust assumed responsibility for the dam in 2011 after merging with the Valley Land Fund, and has been given until December 2014 by the state to figure out a plan. The cost to repair the dam has been estimated to be about $240,000, according to one engineering study.

The fundraising strategy relies on a combination of public and private funds, of which Kestrel has already committed $75,000. Another $50,000 needs to be raised in private donations, money that would fund an endowment for post-repair maintenance, which has been estimated at $1,000 to $3,000 annually. As part of the plan, the Friends of Lake Warner and the Mill River plan to take over ownership of the dam, relieving the town and Kestrel of future responsibilities.

“Kestrel loves Hadley and we’ve been working in the town for two decades,” Kristin DeBoer, executive director of the Kestrel Land Trust, told Town Meeting. “I think we’re in the best possible situation right now for this dam.”

Some voters and local officials were critical of approving the money, arguing that the 82-foot-long concrete dam is only a small part of larger environmental problems in and around the 70-acre lake. More money could be asked of the town down the road, former Select Board member Daniel Dudkiewicz warned.

“It’s going to be a big responsibility,” Dudkiewicz said. “Where does this all end? I don’t know why Hadley should be involved.”

Others who voted against granting the money questioned the larger public benefit of restoring the relatively small dam along the Mill River in North Hadley.

“Is this really a public resource?” asked resident Bruce Morton, who suggested the dam and lake serve a small minority of people.

In other action, Town Meeting approved more than $400,000 in additional CPA funds for various projects, $536,359 for 20 capital purchases, including police cruisers, repairing a John Deer loader and master plan updates, as well as paying $84,668 to the estate of the late police chief, Dennis Hukowicz, who died in February. The money represents accrued leave he was owed when he died, according to his contract.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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