Epping officials urge voters to OK land buy of 75 acres
EPPING - Town officials voiced strong support Tuesday for a $2.3 million plan to purchase 75 acres with five wells to boost the town's water supply to avoid a shortage in the future.
The town is in desperate need of a new water source and could be forced to place a moratorium on building if it doesn't solve its water problems soon, Henry DeBoer, water and sewer commissioner, told the 50 voters who attended the town's annual deliberative session.
This is the fourth time voters will consider the plan to buy the land behind the Wal-Mart Supercenter in the Epping Crossing retail center. Similar proposals were rejected in 2013, 2011 and 2010.
“You’ve seen the commercial growth that this town has experienced in the last 10 years,” DeBoer said.
The growth has put more demand on the town’s water supply, which has also caught the attention of state environmental officials.
The state sent a letter to Epping last August expressing serious concerns about the water now provided by three municipal wells at Hoar Pond.
Officials from the state’s Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau said water levels at the wells were declining more rapidly than anticipated.
If approved by voters at the polls on March 11, the land purchase would be funded through a 20-year bond. Half of each year’s bond payment would be covered by water rates and unit fees. In addition, half of all water connection fees would be put toward payment of the bond.
Selectmen and the municipal budget committee unanimously support the purchase.
“We need this water to continue the town of Epping … down the path it’s going,” Selectman Robert Jordan said.
DeBoer said the wells on the property are capable of providing up to 650,000 gallons of water a day.
He said other towns are interested in buying the property if Epping doesn’t take it this year. He said Exeter is one town that’s looking for more water and is eyeing the property.
“We’re in the driver’s seat today. Next year we won’t be,” Selectman Jim McGeough said.
The proposed land purchase generated the most discussion at the deliberative session.
Other proposed articles moved to the town warrant with little discussion included a $6,590,001 town operating budget and $36,740 to hire a full-time school resource officer and cover the salary and benefits for six months. The total estimated cost of the officer for 2014, 2015 and 2016 is $194,370, but would be offset by an already approved federal COPS grant totaling $125,000.