A barn option that makes "cents"
Now that the town is reviewing new options to locate the DPW barn there is a seldom-talkedabout site that was on the short list of both review committees that I believe could become a contender if we consider it as having the potential of solving "two" major municipal challenges.
First, I must say that I have always been in favor of putting the barn in a central location. To me, it's a common-sense objective for an island that is 10 times longer than it is wide.
Fortunately, I have no NIMBY issues to cloud my thinking. I live in the south Shores over a mile away from both sites that have been the subject of controversy over the past three council administrations.
Because I rely on well water, I do have a big problem with taking unnecessary risks with our fragile bedrock aquifer. I also find it unbelievable that a community that boasts of nearly 40 percent of its land mass as being undeveloped, that we cannot find 2 or 3 acres to locate a DPW facility that most everyone agrees we needed yesterday.
Now that my personal positions are on the table, I'll move ahead with my suggestion.
To start with, I need to identify the second major problem we might be able to solve.
Several years ago, during the process of approving upgrades to the town water system, an actuary was hired to project how much town water rates would need to increase to pay for all the improvements. The news was not good, as many town water customers can attest to today.
The second problem has been under the public radar because the other shoe has not fallen yet. You see, economics has forced many water customers to initiate their own conservation measures above and beyond the town mandated measures. Well, the projections of revenue to the water department done several years ago were based on "pre-conservation" usage, so when the construction bills come due this year, further rate increases are likely.
The good news is that repairs and upgrades have improved capacity and when the new treatment plant is on line, the town will have three times the water that it's using now.
Unfortunately, though, many people will not be able to afford to use more water until the rates come down, which will not happen until the loans are paid. Water, water everywhere, but not the funds to drink it!
Since the policy of the town has been to limit new water connections to restrict development, the existing customers will be paying for the upgrades through compounding rate increases.
Yes, more customers would distribute the burden to more households and reduce rates, but how can that be done without increasing development and population growth?
The obvious answer is to sell water to existing households that are on wells and regularly at risk of saltwater intrusion. I'm speaking of the households to the east of East Shore Road, from Potter Cove north to the soccer field.
Over the past five years, I've been to several water and sewer meetings where residents in that area have asked for connections to town water because of problems with their shallow wells. I'm suggesting that the opportunity to have municipal water might be accepted by them with great enthusiasm.
It's also quite possible their enthusiasm would overcome NIMBY concerns about locating the DPW facility on Lot 71, which is between the soccer field and the Route 138 overpass. It's on the west side of East Shore road out of site from almost everyone.
So the win-win here is the water department would increase their customer base by about 10 percent and relieve stress on the water-rate increases. We would not be adding more population to the island, and most important, the residents in the area would be getting something of high value in return for NIMBY concessions.
Although proceeding with this plan will not be totally without difficulty, by acknowledging that there will always be NIMBY problems, this plan would be providing an upside to both neighboring property owners and the town's need for additional water customers.