NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Services Committee on Wednesday reviewed a 20-year capital plan to address the city's aging water system.
The $20 million "wish list" was created by Tighe & Bond with a $10,000 grant through the federal Drinking Water Act. The funds ($7,500 with a $2,500 match by the city) was awarded by the state Department of Environmental Protection in December.
"When I was hired, the mayor made it clear what he wanted to achieve," said Public Services Superintendent Timothy Lescarbeau, who was placed in charge of the DPW last fall. "He wanted to know how bad the infrastructure was in North Adams."
Underneath the freshly paved roads are "timebombs" of crumbling water and sewer pipes, he told the committee, as he and Mayor Richard Alcombright ticked off issues the DPW has been dealing with just since the federal streetscape project has been ending.
On Massachusetts Avenue alone, the city's had to dig up the new road six times since last fall to deal with water main breaks. A 24-inch water main stamped 1882 was uncovered and Lescarbeau searched the National Archives to find a schematic for a gate valve made by a company out of business for a century so R.I. Baker could replicate it. Digging to clean a sewer break on Church Street uncovered old wooden telephone boxes and a 100-year-old gas main that has to be replaced.
Thomas LeCourt, a project engineer with Tighe & Bond, takes the Public Services Committee through a summary of the water system capital plan the engineering firm recently completed.
Ten percent of the water lines are at least a century old; some 200 hydrants aren't working.
Lescarbeau, who ran the water filtration plant for United Water until the city took it over last fall, said the grant allowed the city take its first step in the capital planning process.
Alcombright said the plan will become part of a 10-year capital plan that will also look at other infrastructure, such as the police and fire stations and the sewers.
"The goal is to put together a high-level planning document," said Thomas D. LeCourt, Tighe project engineer who, with Vice President Dana Haff, explained the findings and recommendations. "It's really a wish list ... There's nothing in this report that obligates you to do anything. We have a schedule with the projects and a timeline but there's nothing saying you have to follow this schedule."
The survey looked at six areas — source, treatment, storage, pumping, distribution, and other — and identified priorities and expected costs.
Among the top priorities is the deteriorating aqueduct linking the Notch and Mount Williams reservoirs. The concrete structure installed in 1917 crosses a ravine. While repairs have been made on it, Alcombright said at least one of the pylons is more rebar than concrete.
The aqueduct and dam improvements are estimated to cost $3.5 million.
Also on the list were pump replacements, security improvements at the reservoir and filtration plant; a new, larger storage tank at Upper East Main; tank resealing; and replacements of meters, valve, pipes and hydrants. The plan recommends setting program goals and determining funding.
"This gives us a snapshot of what the priorities are going to be," Alcomright said of the plan, which committee members David Bond, David Lamarre and Keith Bona voted to recommend to the City Council. "I don't think there was anything shocking in there. We kind of knew what it was, but it puts it all on one place."
LeCourt said the some of the projects could be funded in part by grants or, more likely, through SRF funds. The city's plan will be submitted to the state to help more federal money flow into the state revolving fund.
"The more need they can document that Massachusetts water systems have, the more money they'll be able to get to allocate to communities," said LeCourt. "They're looking for hard numbers that they can use to improve their position to get more money."
But the city would also have to look at bonding or water rates, which would push the burden onto water users.
Alcombright said he was interested in taking the water fees, which currently flow into the general fund, and placing them into an enterprise account. That would limit the use of the funds to water system-related issues only, allowing a reserve to build up toward maintenance and repairs. A number of municipalities use such accounts, including Adams and Williamstown.
"A lot our capital plan will be deferred until we can find money," said the mayor, adding that having the plan in place will be critical to attaining those funds.
Lescarbeau said the repairs — from water breaks to hydrant repairs — will keep going, plan or not.
"I'm going to do what I can to chip away at a lot of this stuff," he said. "I'm not going to wait for a capital plan. If I have the stuff available, I'll take care of it. That's what I was hired for."
The survey will be presented to the City Council at its first meeting in August.
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It would be nice if the tile roof at the Mt. Williams reservoir was repaired with similar red tiles. It is a unique building in one of the most beautiful area's of North Adams and should not be allowed to fall into such disrepair.
Wayne. I thought you wanted the city to spend all our reserves instead of trying to save up for this kind of work? That's what Alcombright was trying to do but people voted they would rather us not have a dime in the bank for these kind of projects.
HVD50 The outher wayne wrote that,not me ! And no I did not want the city to spend all our reserves. I along with over 1800 wants the mayor to live within it't means.
I could be wrong but the mayor over 1 1/2 year ago when he was running for mayor he was going to fix the old water lines??? And that was before he gave us the new water and sewer tax. Well he now has the money why isn't he using it for that????
Editor: All the money flows into the general account. The mayor has said before that he wants to establish an enterprise account to separate those funds out and use them only for water/sewer. I Agree (1) - I Disagree (0)
Two hundred non-working fire hydrants is not pretty. There are areas of North Adams which are nothing but giant tinderboxes - lack of sufficient water to fight a fire in those (or any other) areas is cause for concern. Kudos to Lescarbeau for keeping his priorities straight...
Editor: Mr. Lescarbeau said there are no groups of hydrants not working; they're pretty scattered. If they find any nonfunctioning ones close together, they're fixing them "by any means possible." I Agree (3) - I Disagree (0)
Well, that's good news, Editor...
These are the kinds of invisible expenses that people resent paying for, yet can have catastrophic consequences.
Yet again, Wayne puts in his worthless two cents and want the raises the city employees didnt get in the first place, to go towards fixing the water system. Wayne and most other haters expect the employees to sacrifice but not themselves. Dont give me a line of crap bout how you are cause your taxes went up....newsflash batman...so did ours. Yet you want only us give. Get real !
Editor: I think it's your system. I'm not seeing any doubles on my end. I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
TheOne Wow, If I were the editor I would call that a personal attack . Just another person on the payroll .
The city has the best medical insurance money can buy, so you should talk to someone about anger management.
And yes I am entitled to my two cents worth, weather you like it or not. Free speach. Have a nice day.
Wayne- If you can't figure out that your water bill paid for water, and the sewer fee was used to plug holes left by Uncle Deval cutting us of from the state nipple, I don't know what to tell you.
If we actually "lived within our means," we would remove another several million in state aid from our budgets and we would essentially become a city without any services except schools and a couple other basics.
(And none of this "State aid is OUR money" junk. We get back more than twice what we pay in, and if the state stopped providing its services, as well as the additional funding, we could kiss the schools, highways, parks, state police, courts, etc... goodbye.)
You'd better get you snow shovel out. In your world, you would be responsible for your share of the block.
What gets me about WelfareWayne and the rest of his "tea" crowd, is their utter lack of understanding of our system of government and regulation.
The REAL Tea Party guys risked life and limb - and everything they held dear - for a principle that was ... independence.
These ersatz tea types rail against ALL tax increases - if it affects them personally. They're plenty okay with taking other people's tax money.
They have no vision, and not even enough discipline to learn to spell correctly and understand the basic principles of municipal finances.
Fakes. The real Americans are the ones trying to grow and thrive, despite all odds. I've grown to think that the tea-ers are old previously-apathetics, whose cushy retirements have been directly threatened.
Too un-informed to be helpful in the dialogue, and too old to change.
WelfareWayne I hope you are not talking about another shovel ready project?? We all know how the last one worked or not.
Isn't is funny just 4 words make the Liberal ty0e go NUTS. (Live within our means)!!!
Not to worry everyone. Our new tour director will bring in so much money our taxes will be even lower. But has anyone seen her??? Please don't tell me she also has worked for the city long enough for a pension and insurance and decided to retire.
You're leaving out some very big factors in your equation. The city is receiving $4 million less than a few years ago. JB spent close to $3 million in reserves to cover the deficits leaving little left. The city is paying back $1 million towards the insurance fund JB forgot to pay. Take the water increase, tax, and sewer fees together and they don't add up to the above cut state aid and other bills. There's your deficit. All this was coming before Alcombright took office.
HVD50 The state does not have a problem with cutting back. What is so hard to understand, if you make a dollar do not spend five ??? If you get a cut and make 50 cents you cut back your standard of living . It is called living within your means. Have a cup of tea and a nice day !!!
Editor: Take a bus? Do you actually live in the Berkshires? I Agree (0) - I Disagree (0)
The state isn't doing it. The state has been running on deficits in the billions for years. It's getting better but they still have a huge deficit. How did they improve their deficit. They cut what they give to cities and towns. $4 million less for North Adams. Federal government is worse. Their deficit is in the trillions and they went to dig deeper. The local cities and towns are the only ones managing to pay their bills. What's cheaper: patching a roof for $2000 a year until it can no longer be patched or getting a new roof for $20k that last fifty years?
I agree, we can't afford to keep using bandaids. That's where we differ. You want to patch and duct tape and hope the roof won't leak and cave in, instead of a new safe roof protecting our people. You think short term. You'll spend 2-3 times more and get less over fifty years, instead of a new roof that's more attactive, efficient and economical. There's more than one drip in your theory. Go get some buckets it's about to rain.
HVD50 How about taking care of what you own. You would never get to a point that the roof leaks. If you own a roof you know that someday you will need another,so you put money away for a rainy day. You do not spend money on other things and depend on borrowing money you can not pay back. You do not expect people that are taking care of what they own to pay for your neglect. Live Within Your Means.
Your sense is not sensible and it is less common than you believe.The city is doing great considering that we are running on millions less than we were just a few years ago. Your deliberate attempts to smear the mayor simply because he had the nerve to ask you to pay for the services you've been using subsidized for decades. You don't understand infrastructure. You have no clue about municipal finance. Large numbers confuse you. If you represent the smell of tea, I am confused because all I ever smell in your direction smells a lot like male bovine manure.
Broken Wayne Someone else on the payroll. Smear the mayor ?? Nope he is doing that on his own much better than I ever could hope to.
Nope I do not fully understand infrastructure . Never said I did. Yep large numbers confuse me just like the mayor, but I do not claim to be a banker. And yes you like the mayor seem to be confused.
Have a cup of hot tea and relax. Life goes on.
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.