Town moves closer to approving highway barn water source
Sitting as the Water and Sewer Commission on Tuesday, town officials moved one step closer to gaining approval for water and sewer hookups for the town's planned highway barn facility at Taylor Point.
The site, which is located just beyond the reach of town's water infrastructure in the island's rural water district, must satisfy commission procedures and regulations before obtaining approval to join the water district.
Town Engineer Michael Gray reported to commissioners about a request from last month's meeting that he had contacted an abutting well owner to conduct a well test in order to determine the feasibility of installing a well under similar conditions at the town's site as required by ordinance. Gray reported that Bill Munger, the town's closest abutter, agreed to allow a well test on one of his three existing wells located approximately 150 feet away from the town's site.
Gray said that Munger has observed a flow rate of approximately .75 gallons per minute at a depth of 400 ft. Gray's test yielded similar results, although at a shallower depth. Gray reported that after an initially strong flow reading, the well had been been pumped dry after approximately 28 minutes. Further testing over the course of several hours yielded a recovery rate of .65 gallons per minute. "Typically you want four hours of constant pumping to get an accurate measurement," Gray said.
According to Gray, based on the recovery rate, while a well would likely not be able to meet the standard for residential use of 39,000 gallons per year, it may be able to meet the minimal needs of the highway barn's projected 12,000 gallons per year usage.
Because of the exceptional nature of the project, and the need to ensure a reliable source of water at the facility, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser recommended an alternative to going through the standard town procedures. "If this were an urban district, we'd be clearing these hurdles without any problems at all," he said. However, based on the terms and regulations imposed by the town, according to Keiser, "the easiest way of dealing with it, is to amend the regulations specifically for public buildings."
Asked to expound on his thought by Councilor Robert Sutton, Keiser replied, "We could create some language that is very specific that would state under what conditions a municipal facility can tap in to the water district."
Still, Sutton had more questions. When asked who he felt might object to the proposal, Keiser speculated that individuals who would oppose the highway barn would possibly object to amending the regulations, however he added that he did not believe island residents would object to municipal facilities in general being exempt from the standard regulations.
The reasoning, Keiser explained, was based in a desire not to set a precedent that would compromise the town's regulations for any individual party. Sutton recognized the town's concern, however, and stated that he didn't believe he would be out of line to approve a hookup under the current provisions.
"If this were a private concern...it wouldn't bother me at all to approve the hook up as it stands and leave the regulation alone," Sutton said.
Referring to Gray's determination that a well may be able to the meet the town's need, Keiser responded, "It's a close call." Sutton disagreed. "I don't think it's a close call at all," he said. "You can't run a facility of that size on a well that runs dry in 28 minutes."
In the end, Sutton made a motion and it was passed to authorize the town administrator to move forward with an application to forego a further well test. "We've put ourselves through a pretty good turmoil just to get to this point," Sutton said.
EPA order addressed
Town Engineer Michael Gray also gave a status report on the town's progress in addressing an EPA order it received in August over high levels of wastewater discharge into the bay.
According to Gray, the EPA had required the town to complete a self-assessment within 180 days, or Feb. 1, that would identify improvements that can be made to the town's wastewater management practices. Gray said that his department has already identified several possible improvements, including moving toward a computerized record keeping system.
After 270 days, or May 1, the town must submit plans to perform corrective actions based on the mandated management assessment, and after 365 days it must file a report notifying the agency of the progress made.
According to Gray's report, "FOG," or fats oils and grease originating from the downtown area was identified as a considerable contributing factor to the town's inadequate rating.
Commissioner Julio DiGiando reiterated his surprise that Jamestown was cited in the first place. "It's surprising to see the EPA come knocking on your door when you look around at other communities, and you see that they're light years behind from where we are," he said.
Gray agreed. "I think it's important to note that the town has been implementing a successful plan since 2001," he said. "The town has been doing a lot of work and spending a lot of money."
With above-average precipitation falling in December for the first time since April, Public Works Director Steve Goslee reported that the island was "exiting drought conditions."
In his regular report to the Water and Sewer Board on Tuesday, Goslee said that the reservoir was 39 inches below capacity, up from the nearly 48 inches below capacity reported over the last few months. The increased precipitation, in the form of both snow and rain, accounted for the best water quality in North Reservoir observed in "quite some time" according to Goslee.
Island-wide water fee discussed
Commissioners continued their discussion over whether or not to institute an island-wide fee for contributing to the town's water infrastructure. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser reported that he expected to hear from the town's consultants within two months. Kesier also noted that water district rate payers' greatest burden right now is from the wastewater system as opposed to the water system. According to town figures, the average island rate-payer spends $313 per year in water fees and over $730 in average sewer costs.
In other business:
• In the open forum, Ellen Winsor, of 736 East Shore Rd. reminded residents that the date for the meeting sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the island's designation as a sole source aquifer has been pushed back to Feb. 13 in the Jamestown library's main meeting room.
• Commissioner Robert Sutton continued to push for a pull-off along North Main Road to provide public access to the trails behind the town's water treatment plant as well a space for a Great Creek osprey viewing platform. Town Engineer Michael Gray was instructed to sketch out a proposal that would ensure both public access and address security concerns for further consideration.
• Commissioners also discussed a proposed purchase and sale agreement the town has received from affordable housing developer Church Community Housing Corp., however held off approving any agreement until they had received legal comment from Town Solicitor Peter Ruggeiro. The CCH proposal, which would relocate the former town office complex and add two new structures to the property, includes the development of nine residential units at the site in addition to six more at the Conanicus Avenue housing development. Legal comments are expected by the end of next week.
• Keiser reported that he had met with Barbara Paterson, coowner of Dutch Harbor Boat Yard, regarding lease negotiations for the continued operation of the town owned facility at West Ferry. Keiser said that the Pattersons agreed to provide an annual payment up front for the first year of a new operating lease, followed by an option for an extended lease. The final lease is expected to be presented to councilors at their next meeting on Monday, Jan. 28.
• Goslee also reported that spillway repairs at south pond were complete and renovations to the sewer plant were on schedule for completion sometime in the spring, while improvements to the town's treatment plant had reached a "milestone" with the completion of the new plant's concrete foundation.
• Goslee also touched on the issue of the geese population on and around the reservoir. He reported that short of obtaining a special culling permit, his research has determined that simple harassment has been demonstrated as effective in other communities.
• Sutton asked whether the issue was something that needed to be controlled, or was cause for worry. "Some days I worry about it," Goslee replied. However, regular monthly and yearly tests have not shown high levels of bacteria.