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Scituate Town Meeting to look at library, water infrastructure articles

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 4, 2013 03:20 PM

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Scituate residents will be asked for votes on two expensive projects at Monday's Town Meeting, with articles regarding a $22 million water infrastructure pipe replacement and a $12 million library renovation both on the warrant.

Library proponents have been building support since May 2012 for the estimated $6.5 million needed for the library project, which will accompany a $5 million state grant and more than $500,000 in private funding.

"I’m hopeful. I think we’ve done all we can do," said Les Ball, a member of the Library's Capital Campaign Committee. "We’ve really had a very good campaign to get people there so I think we’ve got a good group of people who will be there. I'll feel better when I get into the room and see if it’s the right audience we want, but I think we’re in good shape."

Meanwhile, town officials will ask residents to approve the borrowing of up to $22 million for a water pipe infrastructure project, which will replace 24 miles of aging pipe.

DPW Director Al Bangert has said that if passed, water rates will increase 40 percent for the average water user over the life of the project, from $319 annually to $534 for the average single-family user.

Officials have pushed for the project since this summer, when brown water problems, caused by the old pipes, became pervasive.

According to Selectman Tony Vegnani, the town hopes to borrow the $22 million in four to five pieces as the project progresses. The debt would be paid back through higher water rates, not a property tax override.

“It allows us to proceed with the project quicker and it is probably one of the top priorities of the town, so it won’t be delayed by as much of a year to go through the process of getting an override passed,” Vegnani said.

A water rate increase would bring the water rates up to par with surrounding communities, and allocate the burden to those that use the most water, Vegnani said.

Vegnani noted that though the cumulative borrowing approval looks like a large sum, the money would only be taken out as needed throughout the course of the project.

The town is also awaiting input from a town-hired consultant, who is in the process of analyzing what needs to be done, how quickly, and how to coordinate the entire project.

“We may find we may only need 1/3 of that money to make a substantial dent in the problem, then react accordingly in terms of spending the rest of the money,” Vegnani said.

Vegnani was confident that the borrowing would receive Town Meeting backing, especially considering the feedback town officials have been getting about the project since it was announced in July.

“The sense we’re getting is they all feel very strongly about it as well,” Vegnani said. “I guess there is a chance [it won’t pass], but everything we’re hearing from people is do it as quick as you possibly can.”

Library supporters have said they are equally optimistic, especially considering that the project is predicated on a time-restricted state grant, which expires at the end of this year.

"We worked a lot convincing people that may not have thought it was the right thing that it is, we’re happy with vote of selectmen and vote of the advisory, both are making us very pleased.”

OTHER NOTABLE ARTICLES FOR NOV. 4 TOWN MEETING:

- To return $965,000 to stabilization taken out to pay storm bills associated with Hurricane Sandy, the November Nor’easter, Nemo, and Saturn.
- Establish a revolving fund for the Scituate Harbor Community Building
- A $73,000 allocation for rehabilitation of the Town Pier
- Purchase of new fire equipment.


To view the entire warrant, click here.

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