2013-11-14 / News

Town to install gates at North Pond reservoir

By Margo Sullivan

The town will install gates at the reservoir to prevent people from walking on top of North Pond dam, according to Town Engineer Michael Gray.

Gray described the new additions as simple “farm gates,” and explained they would go at both sides of the dam to block access.

Gray informed the Town Council about his plans at the Nov. 4 council meeting. He decided the gates were necessary after he observed residents riding horses along the reservoir.

“This past month,” Gray said, “I found people riding horses on the dam.”

The horses were the last straw, Gray indicated.

In his written report, Gray said the reservoir property has been “actively used as a passive recreational area for walking,” despite a town ordinance that specifically prohibits recreational uses of the reservoir property.

“We occasionally have run-ins with residents,” he said.

According to Gray, in most cases, people are just walking. However, they’re usually walking their dogs along the top of the dam and wearing a path through the vegetation planted to protect the earthen structure.

“We rely on the vegetation on top of the dam to prevent erosion,” said Gray. “It’s a very steep structure.”

While the dog walkers have been difficult to stop, he said, they were somewhat expected. The horses, however, came as a surprise.

“I didn’t expect horses. This past month, that was it for me when I saw the horses.”

Gray said he spoke to the resident about the horses, and although he felt confident she would not ride at the reservoir again, he decided to add the gates. The Public Works Department will also install new signs by the entrance at North Main Road.

One reason for the new signs is to prohibit people from parking at the gate. Occasionally, Gray said, parked cars block access for town workers.

Another reason is because the current signs send conflicting messages, Gray said. One sign, for example, reminds people to pick up after their pets.

Council President Kristine Trocki agreed most people reading that sign would think dogs were allowed.

“That implies you can bring your pet,” she said.

Gray said the new signs should indicate the property is off limits – to people, as well as pets.

In addition, Gray said, the councilors could consider adding language to the existing town ordinance to further discourage recreational use of the reservoir property. If so, the language could be worded not to interfere with plans for a bike path along the reservoir.

“The board can produce additional language,” Gray said. Currently, the ordinance says recreational use is not allowed, but the wording is inconsistent with at least one of the town’s upcoming projects, the bicycle path.

The bike path is supposed to go along the edge of the dam, and according to Gray, it will “improve the dam.”

“It’s an opportunity to get people off the dam and control the use of the property, where right now, there’s no control,” he said.

Last winter, for example, one resident allowed her children to ride ATVs atop the dam.

”I don’t believe there’s any ill will to cause destruction,” Gray said.

“I suspect they don’t realize how fragile the dam is,” Councilor Gene Mihaly added.

Trocki said the new gates and signs should prevent “improper destruction” of the reservoir property.

“Most reservoirs are fenced and gated, and hideously ugly,” she said. “We’re fortunate to not be at that stage.”

Trocki asked Gray to keep the council informed about the situation and update them about whether the new gates and signs were working.

In other business, Gray informed the council about recent maintenance work inside the treatment plant. The town installed new pumps with a corrosion inhibitor, he said. According to Gray, it’s like a coating applied inside the old cast iron pipes to protect the water supply.

“It can block particulates,” Mihaly said.

Gray said the water department is working with a vendor on a price for antennas and software that would simplify reading water meters. The antennas would go atop the water tower, he said, and preliminary estimates say two antennas would cover 97 percent of the customers. The town might opt to purchase a third antenna “for redundancy,” he said.

The new system would be superior to the current method of meter reading. The staff now collects the meter readings over a wireless device, but still must drive around to each customer’s house. Plus, the readings reflect only that “instantaneous moment,” he said, compared to the potential of reading meters “every second, every minute.”

“This is just in the village, obviously,” Trocki said.

Yes, Gray indicated, and said with the new equipment the staff could “do other things” rather than take time to drive around reading meters. Another benefit would be receiving alerts about water leaks.

“I’m hoping we could phase it in,” Gray said.

Trocki asked Gray if he planned to make a proposal about buying the new equipment when the council and staff discuss the upcoming budget.

Gray said there might be some money left in the current year’s operating budget. There is a line item for meters, he said.

Councilor Blake Dickinson wanted to know how much the water department currently pays to read meters. Could you bring us a reasonable estimate for how many hours the staff spends reading meters, Dickinson asked. “What is the current cost?”

Gray said he could obtain the information but would guess the staff requires a few days to read all the meters.

According to Finance Director Tina Collins, it took 10 hours to read the meters in the last quarter.

However, man-hours are not the only reason Gray is pushing for the new system. He prefers having the capability to read the meters at any time, he said.

Previously, the town budgeted $7,000 to read meters, Collins said. However, more recently the town decided to do the work inhouse and save the money.

Trocki said the councilors would look at all the “facts and figures” before making a decision about purchasing the new equipment.

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