The Town of Derry didn’t receive pennies from heaven with its April showers, but the dollars from Concord aren’t bad.
The Derry Town Council has voted to approve the extension of the town’s water lines another 8,000 feet along Route 28 South. At the April 5 Town Council meeting, Councilors heard a presentation by Michael Fowler, Director of Public Works, and Deputy Director Thomas Carrier regarding the extension. After a public hearing, the Council voted to approve the extension, which will bring Derry one step closer to executing its Master Plan for water and sewer.
Fowler reminded the Council that at its March 15 meeting, a preliminary discussion was held on the proposition, which will be partially funded by the State of New Hampshire.
“This,” Fowler said, “fell into our laps.”
He explained that the State Department of Environmental Services had done testing in the Ryan’s Hill area on Route 28 South. Tests of several private wells revealed a “plume” or concentration of the chemical MTBE, which was a gasoline additive in the1970s.
Last year the town completed the first phase of extending town water and sewer part way up Route 28, as far as the Frost Farm and Berry Road, in keeping with the Master Plan, Fowler said.
The state found the MTBE in private wells in the Ryan’s Hill area, including Frost Road, Stark Road, Lawrence Road and Blunt Drive. Several wells were found to have a concentrate of MTBE above the acceptable limit. “It is above the drinking water level standard set by the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency),” Carrier noted.
The State of New Hampshire has $98 million in mitigation funds from legal settlements with gasoline pro- viders, and recently received another $236 million in a settlement with Exxon Mobil, he said.
“That money is all dedicated to mitigating MTBE,” Carrier said.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $2.93 million, according to Carrier. The state is willing to pay for the pipe and service connections to the affected properties. But Derry’s plan calls for larger water mains and hydrants, he added, which are not eligible for the MTBE grants.
Carrier said the state is willing to fund $2,509,000 of the project, with Derry being responsible for the increased costs for fire protection at $421,000.
Carrier said the $421,000 would be paid through the Water Fund Capital Reserve Fund, and there would be no impact to taxes. The state would reimburse the town for the rest of the expense, he said.
In addition, Carrier said, the town is looking to amend and extend its existing contract with American Excavating and Underwood Engineers, the construction and engineering companies respectively for the current Route 28 project. The two companies have agreed to freeze costs at their 2014 rates, he said.
The project was divided into two separate resolutions for a Council vote. The first was to appropriate the $2.5 million from the Unassigned Fund Balance, with the expectation of being fully reimbursed by the state. The second was to appropriate the $421,000 from the Water Capital Reserve Fund.
Carrier said using the capital reserve money would put off the water line replacement project for Emerald Drive. But, he wrote in a memo, “We can defer this project without issue to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Carrier said buying into the State project would not affect water rates, and water users would be reimbursed through increased connection fees.
The expansion would open the possibility of town water to 170 properties and 63 commercially-zoned acres, he said.
The connection fee is $2,900 per residential unit or acre of commercial property, he said.
In the public hearing, resident James Zaniboni said his well was tested and the results were “borderline.” “What if I don’t qualify now, but in five or 10 years it’s at a .6?” he asked. “This is concerning to me.”
“There is significant funding for this,” Carrier said. “The program will be around for a long time.”
Councilor Joshua Bourdon expressed concern for the homeowners outside of the directly affected area. “Is it the homeowner’s responsibility to test?” he asked. “We need to nail down a protocol.”
Carrier said homeowners should be testing and he listed other dangers such as arsenic and radon. “If they find an elevated level of MTBE, they should bring it to our attention,” he said.
Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said she’d had several calls from residents concerned about increases to their water bills, and Carrier reiterated that using the capital reserve fund would have no impact on rates. In addition, he said, the project is expected to expand the customer base, thus keeping rates stable.
The state will reimburse Derry within 30 days upon receipt of a “Pay requisition,” or pay directly upon receipt of an invoice, he said. The town will not have to wait till the completion of the project to be reimbursed.
“It’s not a waiting game for us,” Chairman Brian Chirichiello said.
On the two separate motions, the Council voted unanimously to approve each. A two-thirds majority was required for the supplemental appropriations.