On October 8, 2015

Voters back new water system

Spoons for hunger: Governor Shumlin and volunteers and staff of the Vermont Foodbank planted 15,300 orange spoons at the Statehouse Wednesday, Sept. 30. Each spoon represented 10 Vermonters who visit a food bank in a year, a total of 153,000 people.

By Stephen Seitz

CHESTER—It took three tries, but Chester voters decided they would back a $4 million plan to improve the town’s water system. The 280-121 vote took place Sept. 29.

Town Manager David Pisha said the town’s water system is so old, no one can remember when it was originally constructed. “The last major work done in it was back in the 1970s,” he said. “I don’t know when it was first constructed.”

Chester isn’t alone; a number of communities in Vermont have water systems going back at least 100 years, and some even longer. Various media have reported that Rutland’s system was originally constructed in the Buchanan administration, and city public works director Jeff Wennberg has said it would cost $1 million a year for 100 years to fully upgrade the city’s water infrastructure.

The money for the Chester project will be used to construct a 330,000-gallon storage tank and replace some water mains lined with asbestos. The new tank will be sited on a 139-acre lot near Green Mountain Union High School, which the town will purchase from M&M Excavating. The parcel was the site of a proposed controversial gravel pit about ten years ago.

“The tank will improve water pressure and provide a backup should something go wrong with the main system,” Pisha said. “It will also account for a lot of lost water. Right now, more than one in three gallons is lost.”

The town’s main water system uses a 1-million gallon tank on Reservoir Road.

Financing will come from a $3.7 million loan from the Vermont Drinking Water State revolving fund, with the remainder to come from the Vermont Municipal Bank.

“We expect most of the construction to take place during the summer,” Pisha said. “It shouldn’t disrupt operations at the high school. It will improve water pressure in the school’s fire hydrants.”

The voters first approved the water project back in May; however, the vote had not been properly warned, and so a second vote had to be held on June 30 for the voters to reaffirm their support. That day, only 143 people showed up to vote, and they defeated the project by five votes: 74 to 69.

Pisha credited a well-informed public for the successful vote this time around.

“We had a good turnout,” he said. “We distributed a brochure with the facts to the voters, and this time more than 400 people showed up. The word got out.”

The water system is not the only project in Chester requiring voter consideration. The town has owned a parcel of land on Route 11 near the Sunoco station for quite some time. It’s intended to be the future home of a public safety building, which would combine police, fire and rescue. Thus far, the voters have not seen fit to back that project.

But “that’s a whole different item,” Pisha said.

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