By Lisa Loomis
As Waitsfield works toward a final fix of the water main break that occurred last month, members of the town's water commission are working their way backward through layers of state bureaucracy to see why a VTrans contractor had the wrong blueprints for the water system and subsequently broke the pipe between Tremblay and Armstrong Roads.
The incident left water system users without water for two days and subject to a boil water notice for several days after the water was turned back on via a temporary water line.
Now, while the town is working toward a permanent fix – one that must be in a different location than the original pipe because the state would like the town to move the pipe away from the brook – it is also looking into what went wrong.
"We are in active discussions with VTrans regarding responsibility for the cost of the water line damage and those discussions are ongoing. Our discussions with VTrans are in the nature of settlement discussions and should be considered confidential. They are also preliminary," said Waitsfield's attorney Joe Maclean.
He also noted that although the VTrans attorney may provide a recommendation, VTrans management may or may not agree.
Unapproved minutes from the water commission's September 9 and 23 meetings make it clear that blueprints provided to a contractor by VTrans showed the water main in the wrong location. The town's engineers have documentation showing that the as-built plans for the water project had the water main in the correct location. In fact, VTrans personnel visited the site last year and the system operator marked the site for them.
At the September 23 meeting, water commissioners discussed the necessity to compiling all of the expenses associated with the repair, including legal, contractors, engineering and permitting. Because the select board has the authority to borrow money, the select board will process the bills for the repair.
At that same meeting, commissioners discussed the fact that the town will not be covering business owners' claims for lost business or inventory during the outage. Town administrator Valerie Capels has been advising business owners that it will be up to them to file a claim with the responsible party's insurance – once that party has been determined.
The permanent repair will take place as soon as permitting is completed and the town has secured an easement from the Armstrong family, whose property adjoins where the break occurred. The Armstrongs are willing to provide the easement in exchange for the town providing one curb stop for each of the two properties through which the line will cross, with a reduced connection fee of $500 per ERU for each service should the Armstrongs want to connect in the future. The easement will not provide for free water after connection.