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Final Tolan Farm well money requested

TURNERS FALLS — Turners Falls Water District customers will be asked to authorize the final chunk of change for a new well project 13 years in the planning at next week’s annual district meeting.

Authority to borrow $935,000 for remaining construction of the Hannegan Brook well is the largest item on the ballot for the meeting Tuesday.

The article supplements related requests approved every year beginning in 2001, for a project Water Department Superintendent Michael Brown said has been in the works since 1999.

Brown said the portion of town served by his department and the Turners Falls Fire District used to have two water sources, the Tolan Farm well field and Lake Pleasant.

An amendment to the safe water drinking act in the mid-1980s took Lake Pleasant out of circulation with a new requirement that any surface water source have a filtration system, an expensive upgrade voters rejected at the time.

Since then, the district has been without a true backup supply, Brown said, relying on interconnections to the Erving and Montague Center water systems, neither of which are large enough to supply the Turners Falls Fire District, and emergency contingency plans such as running pipes across the river to Greenfield.

A further turn of the screw, the district is down to one well in the Tolan field. Brown said the other is in need of repair and running off-and-on for the last decade, but due to its proximity to the second well can’t be fixed without the risk of damaging that source.

The new well has already been dug — 16 inches wide sunk to a depth of approximately 250 feet — and has been approved by the Department of Environmental Protection for 1,000 gallons a minute, Brown said.

Brown said the water commissioners have tried to spread out the cost to taxpayers over the years, paying for different phases of the project as money became available over the years, and the water department has done as much work as it can in-house

“We are at a point in the project phase that we need to go out to bid for the rest of it,” Brown said.

The project has qualified for a low-interest state loan, and if voters approve borrowing Tuesday the well may be online in the spring of 2014.

Work to be bid out includes a pump house, backup generator and retrofitting the Lake Pleasant pump station as a treatment facility.

District accountant Eileen Tela said the borrowing should have no impact on tax bills for two years, after which repayment of the 20-year loan would begin at 2 percent. This year also saw the end of repayment on another substantial project, $85,000 for the reservoir.

The total budget runs to about $8,000 more from taxation from this year to next, Tela said, “Which means over the tax base it’s going to be just about nil.”

Also on the warrant is the district operating budget, with $1,775,514 to be taken from taxation and $528,015 from water department revenue.

Items on the warrant to be funded through district surplus include $30,000 as an installment toward repair of the damaged Well 1, $7,500 to convert a Fire Department vehicle into a brush truck and $30,000 to be set aside for a new fire vehicle.

Separately, the warrant includes $24,270 for operation of the Turners Falls Fire Department’s new backup ambulance service. Tela said this is the figure the service is anticipated to cost beyond the department’s existing medical expenses line, and the expectation is that insurance receipts will cancel out this cost.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Montague Elementary School’s Hillcrest building auditorium, 30 Griswold St. All registered voters within the Turners Falls Fire District, covering Turners Falls, Montague City and Millers Falls.

The Turners Falls Water Department serves Lake Pleasant, but Brown said Lake Pleasant is not part of the Fire District.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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