Water Commissioners Meeting Minutes 4.26.21



Commissioners Virtually in Attendance:   Dan Harvey, Matthew Bykowski, Cynthia Browning,  Todd Wilkins, and Glenn Sherman

Also in Virtual Attendance: AWD Operator- Burr Snow, Town Administrator- Nick Zaiac, Steven McClafferty

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Harvey at 7:00PM

Minutes of the Meeting on January 19, 2021:  Mr. Bykowski made a motion to accept as presented, the minutes of the meeting of January 19, 2021. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed unanimously.

Briefing of the Chief Operator:  Operations:  Warm Brook Road Leak Repair: Mr. Snow spoke to the Commissioners and Mr. Zaiac about a major, 25,000 gallon a day leak on Warm Brook Road that he and Highway crew member, Mike Finnegan, repaired recently. Mr. Snow said a resident on the road called him directly to thank him, and say it’s the best pressure he has had in fifteen years. Mr. Snow said he has also been working with VT Rural Water, and water loss is now at historic lows, and will soon be at the target goal. Fischer Agreement: Mr. Snow supplied an agreement that Town Attorney, Joe O’Dea drafted for the Fischer property well issue on South Road.  It was decided that the text in the preliminary agreement was agreeable to the Commissioners, but it will also have to be negotiated with the Fischer family.

Mr. Snow spoke of the need to work with an engineer who could address the geological ramifications of drilling wells on South Road, as part of the on-going need to address the State mandated chlorine contact time issue.  Mr. Snow said he has worked with Mark from Otter Creek extensively in the past and he knows the exact situation. Mr. Harvey said there would be an Executive Session at the end of the meeting to discuss the issue.

Long Term Projects:  Mr. Snow spoke of the need to replace three sections of main pipe, 200-300 feet on Warm Brook Road and 200-300 feet on Pleasant Street. He also said the age of the mains at the four river crossings are a concern and will need to be addressed in the future. Mr. Zaiac said there is no Federal guidance as yet, on the money from the American Rescue Plan Act Funding the Town will be receiving, but he expects to have more information by next week, and expects to be able to have $500,000-$600,000 be dedicated to the Water Department infrastructure projects.  He said it will be important to obtain contractors as early as possible, with surrounding towns also being given Federal funds, and the need to have the money spent by the end of 2024.

Aged Billables:  Account #296 Request for Bill Forgiveness:  The Commissioners, Mr. Snow and Mr. Zaiac discussed a request for forgiveness of money owed the Water Department on account # 296. Mr. Snow explained the person sold the property to her nephew who gutted the property and made it completely uninhabitable. When the property reverted back to her, there was debit assigned to it she did not know existed. Mr. Snow said there is no connection or plumbing in the house. It was discussed that the water is not turned off at the curb, but that it would be best to have Mr. Snow do that, so whoever wants to use water in the future needs to call to have it turned on and then become responsible for future billing. Ms. Browning said it is important to point out that the state of the house being uninhabitable is not the fault of the person seeking the abatement.  Ms. Browning made a motion to authorize an abatement or forgiveness of outstanding balance on Account # 296, in the amount of $1,697.98, and to direct Mr. Snow to fix the curb stop and turn off at his earliest convenience. Mr. Bykowski seconded. Motion passed unanimously. Mr. Snow will notify the homeowner.

Mr. Zaiac said the aged billables are down and efforts for lowering the threshold of when people get letters has helped, as well as the Water Department receiving $2,500 in credits to accounts from Covid Aid programs, and that most people responded and are fulfilling their payment agreements, or sent in one-time payments to lower their balances. He said the Town is following the State-wide moratorium on shut offs, that is scheduled to end May 1, 2021.  If payment plan payments are not received, they will be re-warned about having their water shut off. Mr. Harvey said the Koopman bill was paid in full and he and Town Clerk, Robin Wilcox, had signed paperwork to discharge the lien that was being held against the property.

Water Rates: Ms. Browning said when the possibility of raising rates was discussed at the previous meeting, she had been against it due to pandemic related economic issues, but she would now be willing to discuss it when it was appropriate to do so. Mr. Harvey said rates can be raised at any time, but he would like to see it done in small increments. Mr. Bykowski suggested a spreadsheet be made to show what raising the rates $5 per quarter, per household, would produce in revenues. Mr. Wilkins and Ms. Browning agreed there is need to cover operating and capital costs for the future. Mr. Zaiac said a meeting can be warned at any time to vote on a rate increase.

All Other Business: Mr. McClafferty, a School Street resident, spoke at the meeting about occasional pressure issues, which Mr. Snow said he believes is from two lines that were split in a mutual agreement with homeowners from a long time ago. He also wanted to thank Mr. Zaiac for writing nice executive summaries.

Executive Session:  Mr. Bykowski made a motion that premature discussion of a contractual issue would cause the municipality to suffer substantial disadvantage. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed. Mr. Bykowski made a motion to enter into Executive Session for discussion of a contractual issue and to allow Town Administrator, Nick Zaiac, and Chief Operator, Burr Snow, to remain in the room. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed. The Commissioners entered Executive Session at 7:41PM.

The Commissioners came out of Executive Session at 7:54PM. As a result of the Executive Session, Mr. Bykowski made a motion for the engagement of engineering services from Otter Creek Engineering, to look at five well locations on South Road, beginning with the Fischer residence. Mr. Wilkins seconded. It was discussed that there is no commitment to drill the wells now. Mr. Harvey said  drilling wells could be the most economical way to eliminate the antiquated system that is no longer in compliance with State chlorine contact times. Mr. Bykowski said it would be worth asking Otter Creek if there are other options, and that this would be included in the engineering study.  The motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Bykowski made a motion to adjourn. Mr. Wilkins seconded. Motion passed. Meeting adjourned at 8:02PM.

The next regularly scheduled Water Department Meeting will be July 19, 2021.

Minutes taken by Janet Barry

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