Waitsfield Water Commission in 2016

Waitsfield’s water commissioners think system users should bear none of the cost of repairing the water main break.

On Thursday, May 11, the water commission gathered to discuss changes to the water ordinance and they also discussed the recent settlement between the town and VTrans regarding the water main break in 2013.

After settling with VTrans for approximately $80,000, the town was left with a $129,548 bill and the Waitsfield Select Board is figuring out how to pay it. While both the select board and the water commission agree that the water system is a town asset, the select board would like to see the water commission contribute some money to offset the total cost.

The water commission has a few accounts that it could pull money from to answer the select board’s call for help. Their asset replacement fund has $13,846, their emergency fund has $14,198 and their operating fund currently holds $50,119.

If the water commission contributes to the cost of the water main break, the money would most likely come out of either the emergency fund or the operating budget, because the asset replacement money is not really meant for expenses like this one, said water commission chair and select board member Darryl Forrest.

At the water commission’s meeting they reiterated that the water system benefits every taxpayer in Waitsfield, whether they are active users or not. The mere fact that the town has a municipal water system benefits the entire town, they all noted.

One water commission member said that if someone eats at a restaurant or is employed by a business using the water system, that person is, in some sense, using the municipal system.

The water commissioners will head back to the select board to make their case that the entire town should pay off the settlement, with no impact to the water commission’s reserve funds.

Some water commission members stated that the select board’s request for funds is politically motivated, believing that if the select board can bring down the cost, it would make the select board look better.

The town has some time to figure this out as they have renewed their line of credit, giving them about a year to put together a plan.

The next select board meeting will be held on Monday, May 22.