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Windham considers funding for proposed town water study in Exit 3 corridor

WINDHAM - Funding options for a proposed town water study were discussed Thursday afternoon, when the Windham Board of Selectmen gathered for its final meeting of the year.

With the Interstate 93 widening project , along with the new Route 111 overpass, expected to be completed over the next several years, development around Exit 3 is expected to increase rapidly. Last month, the Convenient MD urgent care clinic opened near the exit, and other development projects are in the works.

The town recently adopted ordinances to protect the local water sources at Cobbett's Pond and Canobie Lake. Robert Young, chair of the town's Economic Development Committee, said the water study would be a vital step in the committee's mission of promoting growth, generating positive tax revenue and maintaining a welcoming environment for new businesses.

"We believe water is very important for future economic development," Young said, noting that extended town water would be needed to expand fire hydrants and other necessary safety items.

Ralph Valentine, who chairs a subcommittee tasked with studying existing infrastructure and future needs, said, "It's really not feasible to think that over the next 20 years we can develop this area using sprinkler systems supported by wells alone."

Valentine said the area in question spans "about 400-600 acres."

"There isn't much capacity left. But we understand opportunities for water come from several sources, including (the towns of) Derry, Hudson and Salem," he added. "The question is how much water do we need before we begin to build it out."

The water study, estimated to cost $30,000, would determine options for supplying public water to the general area, utilizing existing water sources and estimating peak usage.

Developing the area in question could generate over $7.5 million in annual tax revenue, according to Valentine's estimates.

"The driving force of water is life safety," Valentine said. "But we realize that getting money for the study from the upcoming budget would be difficult if not impossible."

Selectmen agreed that the item is work talking about but more research and discussion needs to take place before any decisions are made.

"This is not something that's going to happen overnight," Selectman Kathleen DiFruscia said. "We need to approach this carefully, with input from the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission."

Planning Board member Ruth Ellen Post admitted "the need for additional water might be a reality," but stressed that more feedback was needed when it comes to Valentine's proposal.

"We need to work with the fire department to determine if there's a safety issue," Post said. "And right now, not a hint of this proposal has been brought to the planning board. We haven't had the opportunity to discuss this and the public has been out of the loop on this."

aguilmet@newstote.com

     
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