BRATTLEBORO — Town Meeting members overwhelmingly approved $12.5 million to upgrade the municipal Water Treatment Plant last week.
The 111–2 vote officially capped off Annual Representative Town Meeting, which lasted 15 hours over two days.
On March 21, meeting members voted to recess the ARTM until March 26. This action was necessary to give members a week to drop off their ballots at the Municipal Center.
Under state law, voting by Australian ballot is required for bond votes.
Director of Public Works Steve Barrett wrote in a Feb. 10 memo that the town had applied to the state's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), with the application contingent on the March 26 vote results.
The loan's terms are expected to be for 30 years with an interest rate of between 0 and 3 percent, he wrote. The project might be eligible for a 25-percent subsidy, Barrett added.
The infrastructure project involves substantial upgrades to the town's water treatment plant, which provides drinking water to the municipal system.
For many years, the treatment plant - while still producing safe drinking water - has not operated in compliance with state regulations, town staff told meeting members at a March 17 informational meeting.
The treatment plant - built in 1989 and described in the current Town Report as “12 years past its expected useful life” - has had issues for decades, some big, some smaller.
For example, the plant's roof is too weak to withstand New England snow loads. Barrett said that every winter, staff spend hours shoveling the roof.
According to Town Manager Peter Elwell and Barrett, the building's designs were flawed from the start due to a miscalculation in the CAD (computer-aided design) program used at the time.
Upgrades include adding a fourth water filter and constructing a new building to house the treatment system.
While the town is authorized to take out a $12.5 million loan, Elwell told meeting members on March 17 that staff is also applying for grants.
The town will advertise the bid in early April with an aim to award the contract at the end of May. Construction could begin as early as June.