2008-07-03 / Front Page

Council upholds summer water ban

By Sam Bari

The Town Council sitting as the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners voted at a special meeting June 26 to uphold the water restrictions they amended on June 16 that shortened the water ban by two months.

Beginning on June 30, the ordinance will ban commercial boat washing until Oct.1. The ban was originally scheduled from June 1 to Oct. 31, but was shortened to accommodate Conanicut Marina at East Ferry and the Jamestown Boat Yard. Both businesses offer boat washing as a major part of their services.

Section 15A, subsection 7 allows the commission to suspend all or part of the limitations on water use set forth in subsections 2, 3 and 4. At the meeting, the commission was only considering suspending the ban on commercial boat washing. All other restrictions that include lawn irrigation, house washing, boat washing or residential car washing are still in effect from June 1 to Oct. 31 as stated in section 15A subsection 2, of the water regulations.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said that both businesses asked for a suspension of the water restrictions throughout the summer unless the town water supply is in jeopardy.

Conanicut Marina owner Bill Munger and Jim Archibald, foreman of Jamestown Boat Yard both attended the meeting. Munger said, "Our boat washing is not much more than a faucet drip when you look at the big picture. But if there is a crisis, we're not here to break the system." Munger explained that customers expect a boat to be cleaned after repairs are completed.

Archibald agreed with Munger and said they couldn't consider returning a filthy boat to a customer, "especially when extensive hull repairs or fiberglass work is done." He said that boats had to be washed when customers came to return them to the water after storage.

Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski said that neither business used as much water as a restaurant and the restaurants weren't being penalized. She said that was very unfair.

Public Works Director Steve Goslee made a PowerPoint presentation to explain in detail exactly how the water system works and emphasized the weak condition of the antiquated water treatment plant.

Town Engineer Michael Gray said that Goslee was on vacation that week, yet he came in every day to make sure the plant was running well enough so the town would not be without water.

Goslee urged the commissioners to uphold the ban during the summer months, saying, "We can barely keep up with the demand during peak periods." He told the commissioners that the town is not without water. He said the problem is that the plant cannot treat water as fast as it uses it until the new treatment plant is up and running. The plant produces 300 gallons an hour when it uses 700 per hour during peak periods. An equipment failure on a hot summer weekend could result in people being without water, he said.

Gray said, "We're just asking the board to lean toward the conservative side."

"We don't want anyone to get the idea that we are in an emergency mode. We just don't want it to get that way," Gray added.

Keiser said, "We're operating an old plant whose infrastructure is very unpredictable. All we need is one emergency, like a fire or a breakdown at the treatment plant, and the town could be without water."

Goslee said that the town's two water tanks hold one million gallons each. If they fall to less than 70 percent capacity, users on Highland Drive, which is at the highest point of the gravity-fed system, would be without water, he said.

When the matter was discussed at the June 23 Water and Sewer Commission meeting, commissioner Robert Sutton was the only board member who supported upholding the ban as recommended by the public works director.

After seeing Goslee's presentation, Council President Julio DiGiando sided with Sutton and agreed that the recommended restrictions should be upheld. Council Vice President Michael White agreed with council members William Kelly and Barbara Szepatowski to relax the bans unless there was an emergency.

Kelly suggested "tweaking" the regulations and restricting other practices to compensate for water used by the boat yards. However, Town Solicitor in water and sewer matters Wyatt Brochu said that the ordinance could not be rewritten because changing the ordinance was not on the agenda. He said there was a distinct difference between suspending and amending.

When Szepatowski saw that the motion to suspend the restrictions would not get the four-fifths majority needed to pass, she chose to abstain. The motion was defeated by a 2-2 margin with Szepatowski abstaining.

DiGiando agreed with Sutton that the board should support Goslee's recommendations and keep the ban in place until next year after the new water treatment plant is brought online in the fall. Szepatowski said that she wanted to revisit the issue after she had time to consider additional recommendations.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to leave the decision for the roof configuration on the salt storage building adjacent to the highway barn at Taylor Point to the discretion of the public works department.

In an unrelated matter, the council unanimously approved the waiver of regulations for the Jamestown Striper Club's Annual Kid's Fishing Derby.

The board also unanimously agreed to put the town property at 44 Southwest Ave. on the market.

Return to top