North Bennington eyes water bond

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NORTH BENNINGTON — The Village will approach voters in May with a request for a bond that would update the water system to comply with instructions from the state.

Matthew Patterson, chairman of the Village Board of Trustees, said that the bond project has been "a long time in the works," and is unrelated to efforts to extend the municipal water lines to homes whose wells were affected by perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. "It doesn't have anything to do with the Saint-Gobain issue, other than that its an appropriate time to do some of that work," he said.

The work involves increasing the size of some lines to allow for increased water flow, as well as other improvements. The terms of the bond were not announced at the meeting Tuesday night, and Patterson said the water board would have more information in the coming months. He said that the total cost of the project would likely exceed $2 million, but cautioned that the water board is still very early in the process.

"We had a letter from the state probably 10 years ago about some updates that should be done to our system," said Water Board Chairman Steve Goodrich at Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Trustees, "realizing our system was put in over 100 years ago. We've never done any of these things to it, we've just added on to it, and added on to it, and put more extensions on it. Our response to them was that we were in the process of paying off a bond, and that as soon as that bond was done we would address the issue of updating the system, which they were gracious enough to say, 'Okay, we understand, as long as we have a commitment to do that.'"

Goodrich said the water board felt that the ongoing line extension work presented the perfect opportunity to address some of the areas the state expressed concern with. "While the village is torn up, let's do it all, so when we've got it all put together we're then not tearing up another piece of road," he said.

There are two informational meetings scheduled for the public prior to the bond vote in May. Those meetings will be held at the Village School of North Bennington. "Either way, we do need to do the updates to the system," said Goodrich. "We thought this was the best way to get it done and out of the village's hair." Goodrich said that if the bond is approved in May, the work could begin by the summer and be finished by the fall. If it is not approved, the board will have to start a sinking fund to start putting money aside for the project, which would then need to be completed piecemeal over a number of years.

Village Trustee Mark Boudreau said that if the project is done piecemeal it could end up costing twice as much over the course of the project.

The village is currently paying back a bond for water filtration improvements, which will expire in two years.

"We have a great water system, but it does have its limitations," said Goodrich. "As I've said, it's almost 100 years old and we've never really had any upgrades."

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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