BENNINGTON -- There will be a public informational meeting held eight days before the town has the opportunity to vote for a second time on a water bond proposal aimed at solving water pressure issues near the south end of town.
The meeting will be held on June 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bennington Fire Facility at 130 River St. Town Manager Stuart Hurd said it will be held during a Select Board meeting, at which water rates will likely be set.
In March, voters turned down a $3.3 million water bond proposal that would involve building a 750,000-gallon water tank on the campus of Southern Vermont College, plus lines and a pumping station. The college would have paid a portion of the expense, and allow the town access to low interest loan funds from a state program.
Voters are now being asked if they will support a $3 million project. The vote will be held June 17 at the fire facility. Ballots can be picked up now at the Town Clerk's Office on South Street, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. To have a ballot mailed, call the town clerk at 802-442-1043. North Bennington voters can cast ballots at the North Bennington Village Trustees Office at the corner of Main Street and Depot Street in North Bennington. Polls at both locations are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
June 11 is the deadline for voter registration.
Hurd said in an interview Wednesday that to cut costs the project's designers have opted to run the main water line on a more direct route between the pump house and water tower, going across the SVC campus rather than along the road. He said this will make the line more difficult to service, but repairs are not expected for another 20 years or so.
The college has agreed to pay half the cost of getting water lines run to its campus, which amounts to about 22 percent of the total project.
Hurd said the town will be mandated by the state in a few years to solve water pressure issues in the neighborhoods of Crescent Boulevard and Jefferson Heights, as well as Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, which occur during times when a lot of water is leaving the system, such as during a fire.
At the public hearing, town officials plan to talk about the design of the project, what it will do for the town, and what water rates may look like in the coming years. Hurd says he expects there will be no increase in water rates this year, and any increases in the future should be low as capital projects are completed.
He said the rate increases of recent years have been because the board, for a long time, was not factoring in the depreciation of the system into the budget, so money was not being set aside for major repairs and improvements.
The water fund has also seen an increase in revenue from Morgan Spring, off Gage Street. For the past decade or so the town has sold water from the spring to Vermont Pure, netting about $25,000 annually. The company has found another customer, he said, and so it has been drawing more water, increasing the yearly profit to the town to $60,000.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.