WINCHESTER — A warrant article seeking to move forward with the third and final phase of upgrades to the town’s sewage plant has cleared its first hurdle in getting voter support.
The majority of voters at the town’s annual deliberative session Saturday morning voted to place the article on the ballot next month after about an hour-long discussion focused on the necessity of the $1.48 million project.
Ryan Cain, an engineer with Tata and Howard, said the scope of work in the third and final phase is everything not included in the first two phases of the project. Those items include putting a rubber membrane roof on the operations building, upgrading the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, installing a station to receive sludge delivered to the plant, and upgrading the well water system and laboratory equipment. Developing a plan to inspect the sewer collection system is also part of the project.
Upgrades to the roughly 30-year-old plant have been ongoing since 2010.
Resident William A. McGrath asked if the $1.48 million was enough to fund all the items listed under the third phase. Cain said it was.
In addition, 50 percent of the cost, or $739,050, would be covered by the state, he said.
Resident Harvey J. Sieran pressed Cain for specific numbers on what would be saved in electricity costs if the upgrades are done. Cain said he didn’t have specific numbers, but knew from the first phase of the project that electricity costs did go down for the facility.
Sieran also asked if installing equipment to improve the plant’s ability to accept more sludge from septic systems was cost effective.
Cain said septage currently generates about $4,000 a month, or $48,000 a year, in revenue. That $48,000 offsets the labor and maintenance costs associated with accepting the waste, he said.
Two articles involving the town’s two public libraries, Thayer and Conant, also generated a lot of discussion.
One, establishing a committee of seven residents to study the effects of consolidating the libraries, quickly moved to a conversation of why the Thayer Library shouldn’t be dissolved.
Julia Ferrari, chairwoman of the Thayer Library trustees, said she believed the article arose because of the library’s budget.
“We voted to have the same budget as Forest Lake,” Ferrari said. “Aren’t our children more important, if not as important, than having to take millfoil out of Forest Lake.”
Earlier in the meeting, voters approved warrant articles seeking $2,000 to be put into a capital reserve fund for treating exotic invasive plants like millfoil at Forest Lake, and to appropriate $1,200 for the operation of the boat ramp at the lake. Thayer Library was allocated $3,500 for fiscal 2013, according to the town budget.
Selectman Sherman Tedford said the article wasn’t to dissolve Thayer, but to form a committee to study the two libraries.
Theodore Whippie, vice chairman of the Conant Library trustees, also spoke against the article, saying comparing the two libraries was like comparing “apples and oranges.”
“There is a good reason for two libraries, and I think it would be a mistake to combine them at this time,” he said.
Before voters decided in favor of putting the article on the ballot as written, resident Paul Taylor proposed an amendment that would alter the membership of the study committee. Instead of having five residents and one representative from each of the two libraries on the committee, Taylor suggested the board have two representatives from each library, two residents and one selectman. The amendment was seconded by Kenneth Cole.
“The purpose is to make sure the study is done in a fair way,” Taylor said.
The amendment was voted down.
An amendment proposed by Tedord, and seconded by Selectwoman Theresa Sepe, to reduce the amount placed in a capital reserve fund for the Conant Library from $20,000 to $10,000, also failed. Voters then approved placing the article on the ballot as written with the $20,000.
Sepe said while she would like to support the allocation of $20,000, she would also like to see a detailed explanation from the trustees about what repairs still have to be made to the century-old library.
Whippie said the biggest of those repairs is the roof, which he was told two years ago would cost about $100,000 to repair.
Sepe said the library currently has $45,000 in its capital reserve fund, and she would like to see a warrant article next year asking voters to support a roof repair project.
Sieran, a library trustee, said he strongly objected to funding the project all at once.
“I don’t think people in town will vote for a lump sum,” he said.
Voters approved the remainder of the 31 warrant articles, including one containing the town’s proposed $3.42 million budget, with little discussion.
The deliberative session, which began at 9 a.m., ended at 1:10 p.m. Voting will take place Tuesday, March 12.
Meghan Foley can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MFoleyKS.
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I am part of a group of Winchester citizens completely opposed to dirty and hazardous businesses, like asphalt and wood burning plants wanting to come into town at the expense of our quality of life. I am concerned about preserving the rural character of Winchester. These types of development have no benefits for Winchester citizens and they create many health hazards and will cause the destruction of green space. Our Winchester is known for its precious natural resources; dramatic rocky slopes, unique wetlands and abundant wildlife. I feel there are many questions concerning these proposed projects that outweigh any benefits. The increase in traffic along existing streets and noise and air pollution would be very significant. I am also concerned that the town infrastructure cannot cope with the problems these types of businesses will demand. Furthermore, I am very discouraged with the Planning Board and Zoning Boards and feel they have been negligent in their duties to protect neighboring residents from health hazards and safety issues that will surely arise and affect the lives and livelihoods of many citizens.