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The Waitsfield community water system has been up and running for more than six months supplying safe and reliable drinking water to our school, health center, library, fire station, town garage, restaurants, offices, commercial centers and residences. Several of the 27 fire hydrants have already been put to use in response to fire calls.
Construction of the water system is nearly complete and the contractors are finishing their punch lists. The water operator, Simon Operation Services, is on site regularly and runs monthly tests on the water as required by the state of Vermont. The billing software has been implemented and the system is generating sufficient income from water customers to pay the expenses and debt service.
We continue to have property owners contact us about joining the system. New connected customers have increased the system’s use by 5 percent over the past six months and we expect this to continue. The more properties that connect to the system, the lower the costs will be for each customer over time.
Water Main Extension to Eagles Resort
The water commission is currently in discussions with the owners of the Eagles Resort to connect them to the system. Their primary and emergency wells are no longer providing sufficient water supply and efforts were initiated to explore whether it would be possible for them to be connected to the town's water system. The Eagles Resort is a timeshare community of 16 two-bedroom homes and a clubhouse, with approximately 20,000 room nights a year. It is an important part of Waitsfield's and The Valley’s economy.
We explored whether it would be possible to extend our current funding sources through USDA Rural Development to cover the $200,000 estimated cost for engineering, permitting and construction of a water main extension from Fiddlers Green, under the Mill Brook and across Route 100 to provide the Eagles Resort with water service and fire protection. We learned this past week that a separate loan application would be necessary and that we have no more borrowing capacity under the original bond vote approval. This means a new bond vote would be required for the $200,000 loan. The financial analysis is very positive. Based on our current rate structure, the annual fees from the Eagles Resort would more than cover the repayment of the loan. The Eagles Resort has paid a 50 percent deposit and is committed to going forward if the bond vote and funding package come together.
For this to succeed, we plan to request that the select board add this item to the bond vote scheduled for July 30, 2013, for the town office. This would require the select board to adopt the necessity resolution, bond warning and article at their next meeting on June 24. It is important to reiterate that the $200,000 loan will be paid in its entirety by the new fees paid by the Eagles Resort. The other benefit of this proposed extension is increased fire protection to the south side of the town.
An application was made to USDA Rural Development for a loan and/or grants totaling $200,000. They have confirmed funds are available and are processing the application but cannot obligate the funds without a successful bond vote. The next step is for members of the water commission to meet with the select board on Monday, June 24, to discuss adding this to the bond vote scheduled for Tuesday, July 30, for the town office.
The other major project the water commission is working on is a re-survey of Waitsfield’s ISO rating. ISO stands for Insurance Service Office, which provides statistical data on risk factors for insurance companies. A community’s rating has the potential to affect the insurance premiums property owners pay. The re-survey is an extensive process that considers just about every aspect of the town and the fire department’s operations. Points are given for everything from the training aids a fire department owns to the distance between fire hydrants. It is being done in collaboration with the Waitsfield-Fayston Fire Department. The next step will be early in July when tests will be run with the fire department's new fire truck. Once the tests are completed the re-survey application will be submitted to the ISO. With the installation of fire hydrants and the Waitsfield-Fayston Fire Department’s new tanker pumper, we expect the rates will be reduced for many businesses and property owners.
If you have any questions, please contact the water commission or commissioners. The water commission meets at the town office at 4 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month.
Waitsfield Water Commission members are Scott Kingsbury, Ray LaRochelle, Robin Morris, Bill Parker and Peter Reynells.