BENNINGTON -- The town and Southern Vermont College say a water project planned for 2014 will benefit them both. The Select Board signed an "inter-local agreement" with Southern Vermont College after an executive session Monday that will require voters to approve about a $3.3 million bond.
Town manager Stuart Hurd said the project is expected to cost $3.3 million, but the college has agreed to pay a portion adding up to $1 million.
Hurd said a pump station will be built off Monument Avenue near the entrance to the college's athletic fields. A line will run from there up to Hunter Hall, and a water tower with a one-million-gallon capacity will be constructed near the college.
SVC will foot part of bill
The college will foot half the bill for the pump station and main line, said Hurd, while it will pay 100 percent of the connection costs. The town is paying for the tower, which will ensure Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and the neighborhoods of Jefferson Heights and Crescent Boulevard do not lose water pressure during times of high usage in the downtown, such as a fire.
SVC will become a rate payer, said Hurd. The bond, if approved by voters in March, will come from The Agency of Natural Resource's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund which offers a 3 percent interest rate. Hurd said payments do not have to be made until one year after the project's completion, so the board would not have to budget for bond payments until 2015 or 2016.
He said work must be done to get information to the public about the bond. In the coming months he plans to have more information on costs, which will be affected by the number of users on the system when payments are due.
Hurd said the Agency of Natural Resources Water Supply Division required the town to begin addressing the water pressure problem by 2018. The town has known of the issue for years, but building the wastewater treatment facility had been a higher priority.
He said this project is on the top of the state's priority list for the revolving fund.
The benefits to the town are the water pressure problems get fixed, and it will be cheaper as SVC is sharing in the cost.
Karen Gross, president of SVC, said Wednesday the state would also like the college to be on a municipal system, however no deadline was ever given. She said the college will no longer have to maintain its own system or worry about water quality tests. The school also anticipates growing in the coming years and would have to be thinking about upgrades at some point.
While Hurd said if the bond is approved, bids will go out and once awarded work will begin, hopefully in the summer of 2014 when it will be least disruptive but the project may be phased so classes do not get interrupted.
The project is being seen as a learning opportunity, said Gross. There may be ways students can do internships with contractors or subcontractors and learn about the technical aspects of water systems, or students could study how bonds work.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.