Upton Residents Say Yes to New Wellfield
By Michelle Sanford Staff Reporter/Columnist · June 13, 2012
The majority of Upton voters supported a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion that will fund the construction of a new wellfield on West River St.
By a vote of 253 to155 the debt exclusion passed, with only eight percent of the 4,897 registered voters in town coming out for the June 12 ballot vote at Nipmuc Regional High School.
Now that the ballot vote has passed, a construction contract is expected to be signed at the beginning of the new Fiscal Year, July 1, with the hopes that the new wellfield will be completed in September 2013.
During the May 10 Annual Town Meeting, residents passed the initial vote for the new wellfield, which will total approximately $3.39 million, and also include the installation of a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system at all water and wastewater facilities in town.
The original estimate for the project was at $6.5 million. However, because new testing needed to treat the water was eliminated and a shorter route for the water main was reduced, the price tag was decreased by more than $3 million. The $3.39 million project will be funded 50 percent by the system's users and the remaining 50 percent by the general tax base. The tax impact to a $400,000 home is estimated at $48 during a 20 year bond.
Town officials wanted to secure the funding for the new wellfield now because the Department of Environmental Protection could impose new regulations down the road and the town's source permit for the project expires in 2014. In addition, bond rates are currently low.
Upton, in anticipation of the new water source, has expended a large amount of work and money on the project dating back to 2005. Those prior expenses, which now total $885,000, including test well exploration, a completed pump test, purchasing the land on West River St., and paying for designs.
For more than ten years, town officials have been working to acquire another water source for the community. Currently, Upton receives its water from the Glen Ave. wellfield and the West River well. However, both water sources have suffered from leaks and decomposed pipes. A study completed by Tata and Howard nearly 15 years ago confirmed at that time that Upton would be in need of an additional water source in the not-so-distant future and without it, the town would not be able to meet its projected daily water demands. Even conservation efforts and demand management over the years did not eliminate the need for the new wellfield.
Before the ballot vote, representatives from Riverdale Water Company in neighboring Northbridge were hoping town officials would consider purchasing water from their company. However, many Upton residents felt it was more important for the community to control its own water.