ARLINGTON WATER DEPARTMENT COMMISSIONERS
MINUTES OF MEETING of October 30, 2023
Commissioners in Attendance: Cynthia Browning, Glenn Sherman (via Zoom) and Jamie Paustian
Commissioners Absent: Dan Harvey and Todd Wilkins
Also in Attendance: AWD Chief Operator- Burr Snow, Town Administrator- Nick Zaiac, and Janet Barry, via Zoom.
The meeting was called to order by Ms. Browning at 7:02PM
Public Comments: None
Report of the Chief Operating Officer: Mr. Snow said that the master meter that failed at the Pump House in July was able to be repaired the next day. He said a week later the transducer failed and he was able to detect the issue from his phone. It was repaired the next day, with a back-up replacement he had in stock. Transducers typically last about seven years. He said he has assisted two service line repairs for customers. Water production is historically low and pumping demand down.
New Business: Regulatory update, Discussion of Hydrogeology Study and Service Extension Moratorium, and Authorize drafting of RFP: It was discussed that there has been a system expansion moratorium since the Water Department was acquired. Mack Molding has requested being able to remove and replace the existing water tower. In order for this to happen and to be able to add ratepayers in the future, the moratorium would need to be lifted, and there must be a hydrogeology study of the main water source, with a goal of repermitting the source at a greater volume of water per day. Doing the regulatory compliance solution for South Road with a pipe that solves the chlorine issue was discussed. It was discussed that there are approximately $500,000 in unallocated ARPA dollars that can cover the cost for the South Road project. Compliance solutions for Red Mountain Spring was discussed, following a letter from August 2023 from the State. A hydrogeology study and engineering plans and permits would be needed to keep the spring available for use. The State recommends discontinuing the spring because of the high compliance costs and low water capacity. The Commissioners agreed they are reluctant to shut down the spring and would like it available in case of any future emergencies. It was decided that Mr. Zaiac will draft an RFP for hydrogeology and engineering studies. The Memorandum on Water Moratorium and Regulatory Issues is as follows:
Memorandum on Water Moratorium and Regulatory Issues in the Water Department
This memorandum serves to inform you of recent efforts to remedy the town’s ongoing water expansion moratorium.
Per a call with the State Water Resources Division, I learned new detail on how the Moratorium and Permit to Operate conditions, which had been conflated in the municipality’s understanding of the regulatory challenges the Water Department faces.
The Department currently faces multiple independent regulatory issues that the Board will be tasked in dealing with as part of the long-term sustainability of the Water Department.
- Permit to Operate conditions and hydrology Red Mountain Spring: Per a July 2023 letter from the state following on the previous letter from fall of 2021, the town must take action to get all relevant information about the hydrogeology of Red Mountain Spring, and complete engineering and planning for system upgrades to account for temporary decreases in pressure at certain properties in the time immediately after the source is turned on. This will require both a hydrogeology study and an engineering plan and associated permits, as well as capital to install necessary updates. It is noted the spring has not been used in 7 years.
- There are two solutions to this problem.
- Discontinue Red Mountain Spring: This is the solution recommended by state staff because summer yields (which cap the spring’s rated capacity) max out at about 10 gallons per minute. With high and uncertain compliance costs and an illiquid federal-funds engineering market, dollar-for-dollar the resilience added by the spring is unlikely to cover its costs.
- Use ARPA funds to pay for a study and repermitting of Red Mountain Spring including engineering of a compliance solution. Must provide a plan for ensure all properties maintain safe pressures, including adding “booster pumps” and potential in-home infrastructure for certain properties. These will not likely be ARPA-eligible because we will have limited time to bid upgrades and have the study completed.
- There are two solutions to this problem.
- System Expansion Moratorium: The system has been under an expansion moratorium since the acquisition. Per the July 2023 letter, engineering work at the time of the acquisition did not give the state sufficient information regarding the main (South Road) water source. The system has received a request from Mack Molding for additional water so as to remove and replace the existing water tower, as well as long-term demand from existing and potential future water users to add ratepayers that can help the system handle additional costs to running the system. To have this moratorium lifted, we must undertake a hydrogeology study of the main water source, with a goal of repermitting the source at a greater volume of water per day.
- Recommended board action: Authorize the Chief Administrator to prepare an RFP for engineering for removing the water service expansion moratorium on the understanding that ARPA funds are to be used. (Because this is simply hydrogeology work, the engineering market is more liquid than for a larger engineering project)
- South Road Compliance: After a recent call with Otter Creek Engineering and state staff, we are close to finalizing the permits to allow construction of the South Road Subsystems compliance solution. While we could wait for a preferred-rate loan to pay for upgrades, it is recommended the Water Board decide to table the Water Streets/313 line replacement in favor of using Water Department-designated ARPA funds on this project.
Lead Line Study: Finalization of the Revolving Loan and Create Budget Lines: The Commissioners voted on the finalization of the the Revolving Loan Agreement with State of VT that has been voted on at other meetings, and funds the lead line study required by the State. Ms. Browning made a motion to authorize the creation of budget lines for revenues and expenses labeled “Lead Line”. Mr. Paustian seconded the motion. Motion carried, with Mr. Harvey and Mr. Wilkins absent.
It was discussed that Mr. Zaiac will write a memo on the fiscal health of the Water Department, and revisit the Capital Plan before budget planning begins.
Mr. Paustian made a motion to approve the Loan Agreement of the State of VT #RF3-525-1, in the amount of $68,000. Mr. Sherman seconded the motion. Motion carried, with Mr. Harvey and Mr. Wilkins absent.
Aged Receivables: The Commissioners and Mr. Zaiac reviewed the Aged Receivables. It was discussed that one of the highest balances owed was going to be shut off but the valve was broken and cannot be repaired until spring. The criteria for letters to go to water customers was reviewed, and is over 120 days late, and over $500 balance. It was discussed that some customers had signed up for payment plans in the past or had been able to make payments with State Covid era money. New letters will be sent out to higher balances soon. Mr. Paustian asked for a list of customers on the payment plans to be available at the next meeting.
Mr. Paustian made a motion to adjourn. Mr. Sherman seconded. Motion passed unanimously with members present, and the meeting adjourned at 7:54PM.
Minutes taken by Janet Barry