Water users/members of the Greensboro Fire District #1- July 2012

Our August billing letter last summer and Bob Fairbanks’ letter a few weeks ago informed you of the upcoming construction project to replace most of our water lines and install a new roof on the reservoir.  This note tries to answer some of the questions we have heard.

If, after reading this letter, you have further questions, call one of us on the Prudential Committee or come to our open meeting at 7pm on Wednesday, August 1 at the Town Offices.

What’s the problem?  Many of our water lines are leaking badly and the state has required us to replace most of them as well as replace the roof on the reservoir.  We have resisted this expensive measure for many years; Helen Lyles was tough, but ultimately the state wins the wrestling match.  Much of the system was installed in the late 1920s; so the extensive leaking is not all that surprising.  The state’s intent is to keep our water as clean as possible.

Why doesn’t the town solve the problem?  As the supplier of water to over 200 users, Fire District#1 is a separate entity from the town.  We are a municipality established by the state legislature in 1925.  Greensboro Bend has a smaller Fire District #2 supplying water to people there.  The Town of Greensboro has expressed no interest in taking over our water role, though many years ago the town obviously did take over our firefighting role.  There is reason to believe that, if the town were to take over the system, the cost to each user would go up.

Who is financing this project?  In the fall of 2010 the legal voters of the Fire District voted to go ahead with this project by voting a $2,950,000 bond.  This past winter your Prudential Committee considered two financing offers, one from the State of Vermont and one from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  We accepted the federal offer though the monies were virtually identical from both. The USDA will loan us $1,558,000 at 2.75% per year for 40 years and make us a grant of as much as $1,275,250.  The debt service on the loan will be $64,470 per year, thereby more than doubling our yearly budget.  So, in the end, in spite of the federal grant of over a million dollars, we users have to finance the project by our yearly water fees. Whereas the yearly water bill was $200 for a single home two years ago, by 2013 that bill is expected to rise to about $440.  We, as water users, will not be asked to pay for any new water line out to the proposed new fire station at the Four Corners.  If the town wants that water line added to our system, they will pay for it.  Our estimate for that extension is $119,750.

 When are you starting construction?  Our consultants, Leach Engineering of St. Johnsbury, will be putting the project out to bid very soon with construction expected to start right after Labor Day.  We know that at least three experienced large companies are planning to bid on the project.  We expect to complete Phase 1 this fall by doing the reservoir roof and replacing the lines from there, down through Winnemere, to the center of town.  Phase 2, going up Breezy Ave, out Country Club Road and out Black’s Point, is planned for the spring of 2013.

 Will homeowners lose water during construction?  We hope you will lose water for only very short periods when the construction crews are switching your service connections to the new lines.  When they are cutting trees and digging up the old lines they will be running temporary plastic water lines to maintain your service.  Obviously, there will be inconveniences, particularly in the tighter spots where there are many houses, roads and water lines; that is why we have worked hard to try to get all the construction done in the fall and spring when most of the summer residents are not here.  When a construction company has been chosen and there is a “Clerk of the Works,” there will be someone for you to discuss your unique situation with.

Is this the time to replace my old water line, the one to my house?  Yes, this is a perfect time to replace your line.  We know that some of these lines to houses are leaking; some might be old lead pipe and others are surely old galvanized pipe.  We will put out a spec sheet for recommended piping and connections later, but you might now want to start planning for this replacement, perhaps even adding features like a pressure reducing valve.  FD#1 is responsible for the piping up to each curb stop; each private line (or collection of lines) will continue to have a shut-off valve at the curb stop. Each homeowner is responsible for the line from the curb stop/valve to the house.  In extreme situations, when we see a particularly bad pipe, we may require that you replace your service line.  As a state regulated public water system we must supervise the connecting of your service line at the new curb stop if your work in not being done by a licensed plumber. You could do this work next spring or try to work it out with the Clerk of the Works this fall if you are here.

 If I want to leave you and dig my own well, what happens?  Nobody is required to stay with our water system though we remind you that our water quality is superb.  Before you leave us, do check the very strict state laws about where you can dig a well.  There are “separation distances” from other wells, any septic system, lakes and roads.  If a number of people decide to leave the system, then obviously the price per user must go up.

 Why do summer residents have to pay the same monies as year round residents?  No meters?   It’s that first gallon of delivered water that costs so much.  Look at the almost three million dollar price tag for this project. It’s all roof and pipe; both components are required to deliver that first expensive gallon of water to you.  Later gallons of water you use cost only the electricity to pump the water out of the ground, a small expense in comparison.  The water itself is actually free if you can get it.  The great cost is in setting up and maintaining the water delivery system.  We do charge some bigger water users a lot more than a single home user.  The cost of purchasing, installing and reading water meters appeared to us to be prohibitively expensive.  In the early 1950s, each user bill was determined by the number of faucets, toilets, kitchen gadgets and cows at each residence! We have those records if you want to check.

If I see a “Boil Water” notice in town, what does that imply?  John Mackin, as the licensed Water Operator, is required by law to post “Boil Water” notices whenever he supplements the reservoir water supply by turning on the water pumps we maintain on the edge of Caspian. If leaky pipes or faulty well pumps result in the reservoir water level getting too low, he pumps lake water into the system.  We are most fortunate to have such a plentiful safe back-up system.  And even though we are informed that our lake water is clean, drinkable and safe, the law says that we must post warnings saying “Boil Water.”  In those rare instances, John calls some important users like the school, Nursing Home and Willey’s as an extra precaution.  Many summer residents still drink that lake water all summer, all the time.

July 1, 2012            The Prudential Committee of the Greensboro Fire District #1: John Mackin, Craig Dezell, Nat Smith