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January 03. 2014 12:45AM

Windham voters to decide municipal water study

WINDHAM — After reconsideration by the Board of Selectmen Monday afternoon, a warrant asking residents to vote on a $35,000 municipal water study will appear on the March ballot after all.

If approved by citizens this spring, the study will examine the pros and cons of bringing public water into the Route 111 corridor. As it stands now, the majority of town is serviced by well water, with both private residential wells and several public wells.

Initially rejected by the board at the Dec. 16 meeting, the warrant item was revisited this week at the request of Selectman Ross McLeod. McLeod wasn't able to attend the earlier meeting.

"It's an important article and I think it warrants the full board's vote," he said on Monday.

During Monday's reconsidered vote, McLeod voted in favor of the warrant's inclusion on the ballot, echoing the votes of fellow Selectmen Phil Lochiatto and Al Letizio.

Selectmen Kathleen DiFruscia and Roger Hohenberger voted against the warrant's inclusion during both meeting's votes.

Earlier this month, Economic Development committee spokesman Ralph Valentine appeared before the board urging their support of the item.

Valentine, who did not speak at the Dec. 30 meeting, said the town "has everything to gain" by extending its municipal water offerings and in doing so, would be able to offer tax incentives to homeowners by increasing the commercial tax base in town.

McLeod said he agreed the idea was worth pursuing.

"Most home owners would not be directly connected to the water line, but we could all benefit from better property values if the community, as a whole, was more economically robust," he said.

Should the item pass before voters this March, the town would put out a request for proposals to obtain the best price on the water study, Town Administrator David Sullivan said.

Sullivan added that the town's review committee would then attempt to negotiate the best fee based on the bottom line budget, meaning the study's cost could actually come in below $35,000.

"You set the scope," Sullivan said. "Then you can back it down based on what you have (set aside) for dollars."

McLeod said he's happy to see all options being considered.

"To me it's all about learning what we can," he said. "It's about finding out what we can get with water that we couldn't get without it, and gaining a better understanding of our growth opportunities."

"At this point we need this study to make an informed decision and that's why I support it," he added.

Neither DiFruscia nor Hohenberger addressed the matter during this week's meeting, though both had made their feelings clear at the time of the initial vote earlier this month.

At that time, Hohenberger said he couldn't support such a hefty expense, which be believed "would only benefit a small portion of residents."

DiFruscia agreed, noting that, "it's a lot of money to ask for."

aguilmet@newstote.com


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