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Scituate Town Meeting approves new water pipes, library expansion

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 5, 2013 11:06 AM

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Scituate residents were amenable to every article that came before them during a rapid-fire Town Meeting Monday night, saying "yes" to everything from a $22 million pipe- replacement project to preliminary approval of a $12 million library expansion and renovation.

Both articles received modest discussion before the more than 400 members in attendance at Scituate High overwhelmingly approved both projects. The library sepnding now requires approval in a townwide vote on Dec. 14.

“There is a severe need,” said John Clarkeson, chairman of the Water Resource Committee on Monday regarding the new water pipes. “You’ve seen the sample pipes, selectmen have been at the meeting when many of you showed up angry by the brown water, and many people are affected by it. A clean, clear safe water supply is very critical to our well being.”

The project was prompted by pervasive brown water problems throughout the summer, caused by sediment inside old pipes.

The biggest opponent of the project was Advisory Board member Anthony Antoniello, who felt the cost of the $22 million project was out of line with other capital improvement projects.

According to the charter, he said, the specific appropriation for the work should be requested every year, rather than a lump sum approved to be spent under the town’s discretion.

Yet he, too, said he supported the project in its essence.

The replacement will allow officials to replace over 20 miles of aging pipe in several stages, to occur over three to four years.

The debt will be repaid through water rates, which are expected to increase for the average user approximately $50 a year for four years.

Though the entire expanse of old pipes are being looked at, selectmen said the goal is to solve the biggest problems first.

“[Engineers] are looking at the worst areas of town that would have the biggest impact,” said selectman Marty O’Toole.

Itai Halevi, a First Parish Road resident, summed up the topic by saying that if the Romans could figure out how to get clean water nearly 2,000 years ago, Scituate should be able to as well.

“We can get it right if we spend the money where it makes sense, into these pipes, instead of on water filers and bottled water,” he said.

Town Meeting attendees also unanimously approved an override for the $12 million library project, which will go to a ballot vote on Dec. 14 for final approval.

The project, which has the backing of a $5 million state grant and the help of $600,000 in private funding, will be among the many costs coming down the pipeline for Scituate residents.

Looking further ahead, Selectman Tony Vegnani said residents should expect to see overrides for a new middle school, a renovation of the existing Gates School for a town hall, and an override for a public safety complex.

Altogether, those overrides, including the library’s, would add $500 to the average annual single-family tax bill in Scituate for the next 20 years.

“It boils down to priorities,” said Scituate Selectman John Danehey. “All these issues we’re talking about bringing to you for your vote, we’re asking you prioritize these things. They are important to your community, important to your town, import to your lifestyle.”

Despite the costs, the library project received strong support on Monday.

Library Director Jessi Finnie outlined the benefits, pushing the estimated $3 million in basic fixes the 35-year-old library needed regardless of the project, and listing statistics on how heavily used the library was, even in the high-tech era.

Residents stood up one after another in support, including a man representing Friends of Scituate Seniors, who only asked that residents also support a senior center when the time came.

After the unanimous vote in support, Finnie said she felt “incredibly blessed.” Les Ball, co-chairman of the Capital Campaign, said the vote made him optimistic for the townwide ballot vote on Dec. 14.

“We never expected to get that much success," Ball said. “We can’t believe it.”

If ultimately approved, Finnie said the library would have a planning year and temporary library relocation, with construction to take place in the following 14-16 months.

Other approved items:

- $2,143 in unpaid bills for fiscal 2013, which ended last June.
- $73,080 to balance fiscal 2014 budget needs, including $27,000 for veterans services, $16,080 for cable studio services, and $30,000 for accounting services while town searched for a new Town Accountant.
- Replace $965,000 into the stabilization fund, taken out to pay storm costs. Only $539,000 had been spent but the total amount was repaid to the account.
- $28,000 for a new mower for the golf course
- $73,076 for unexpected higher costs in Town Pier rehabilitation
- $600,000, to accompany already approved $375,000 for the purchase of a new ladder truck
- Rescinding of unspent debt.

Articles regarding the Scituate Harbor Community Building revolving fund, payment of Plymouth County Retirement costs, and expansion of an overlay district around Greenbush Commuter line, were all post-poned or withdrawn.

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