BRASHER FALLS — The Clorox bottles voicing opposition to a proposed municipal water project in the towns of Brasher and Stockholm dot the main street running through the hamlet of Brasher Falls.
But Tuesday night, engineers, Department of Health technical experts, a Development Authority of the North Country representative and an attorney gathered at the St. Lawrence Central school to hold an informational session on the proposed Tri-Town Water Project. The session drew approximately two dozen people.
The towns of Brasher and Stockholm commissioned the architectural, engineering and planning firm C2AE to prepare a preliminary engineering report to document the cost of a regional water project. The proposed project would serve about 1,250 people and 572 equivalent dwelling units, addressing several water quality and quantity issues in the Winthrop and Brasher Falls area, officials said.
DANC Director of Engineering Carrie M. Tuttle said that it will take time before final costs for district residents are known, but the total system cost is projected at around $7.6 million.
“The keys about these surveys that’s really difficult to make decisions on, if people don’t know how much their water is going to cost, it’s very hard to say whether you want public water or not,” Ms. Tuttle said. “One of the discussions that I have had with the towns in a couple of meetings that I’ve attended is we want to have a public meeting and we want to give people information — but the biggest question that everybody has is ‘What is this going to cost me?’ And unfortunately we can’t answer that question tonight because we don’t have enough information because we haven’t got to the point in the schedule where we’ve received a funding offer.”
The potential water district stems from a petition brought to the towns of Brasher and Stockholm in July 2010 from residents who were having issues with their water quality.
There were more than 36 signatures on the petition from Brasher and 35 from Stockholm. “Then in 2011, there was a RCAP (Rural Community Assistance Program) survey that was done and this survey was a little more detailed. It asked residents to provide information about their existing water source — the quality and the quantity of their water, whether they were sharing water with their neighbor, and other details about their existing water source,” Tuttle said. “(C2AE’s) preliminary engineering report was really the first step to taking a cursory look at what the costs of a water project would be for the town.”
In 2013, the project was listed on the intended use plan –– the plan where municipalities apply for funding through Environmental Facilities Corporation. Ms. Tuttle said that according to a draft intended use plan the project could be above the funding line. Ms. Tuttle explained the best and worst case scenarios in terms of cost for the municipal water service. “When (DANC) got involved, the towns actually entered into a technical service agreement with (DANC) to provide project development assistance for this project. The scope of our contract is $10,000. In turn, we provided the towns with a grant of $25,000 to go towards project development,” she said.
“What the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund could provide is 0 percent financing for 30 years and up to a $2 million grant. That would be the maximum award that the towns would receive from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.”
She noted that all of the grants are competitive, and there are no guarantees funding will be approved for the project.
“From Tim’s report, he’s computed that the cost per year per EDU (Equivalent Dwelling Unit), so basically the cost per year for a one-single family household for operation and maintenance of the system would be $144 per year. What I’ve shown in this slide is just everyone a few different scenarios, so the first scenario says that if a maximum grant was received of $2 million, then the amount of debt that would be paid per year per EDU is $320,” Tuttle said. “If $1 million in grant were received, that debt would go to $378 and if no grant was received, the debt would go to $436.”
She added that in her experiences, most of the municipal projects that go forward have three or four different funding sources.
Approximately a dozen opponents of the municipal water system –– including Glen Perry, who has spearheaded the opposition effort –– attended the information session.
Perry has started a petition calling for the ceasing of “all activities affiliated with the promotion of, studying of, funding of, or planning of a municipal water system in Brasher, Stockholm or Lawrence.
He has also made a web site for the effort, www.nobrasherwater.com.
“Look at the crowd tonight. If you (take) out all of the town officials and your presenters here tonight, there were 15 people that came here with me. Isn’t that a good enough sign that people don’t want this system?” Perry asked.
“No. It’s not,” Winthrop resident John Chateau said. “Glen, the sign is if they didn’t want it they’d be here, but they’re not here. If it goes through, it goes through. If no, then no.”
C2AE engineer Tim Burley talked about potential project costs and said that there is a small project contingency budget.
“The base project area is basically 50,000 linear feet of 8 and 10 inch — so about 10 miles. Hydrants go in every 600 feet. There’s a general recognition in all of our projects that we’ve done - to be honest we’re working with hardship communities. And to me, part of the hardship of connecting residents to a new water system is taking the cost of the lateral and the installation of the meter and putting it into the project,” Burley said. “The project has a 10 percent project contingency. During planning stages, the funding agencies recommended 10 percent project contingency.”
Mr. Burley said Tuesday the costs incurred to produce the engineering report was $3,500.