Town leaders still believe the water line project in Berkshire Village is possible despite a setback.
The Berkshire Village Cooperative Water District has been in existence for nearly 100 years and operates its own water system for about 35 homes in the village. But, it's equipment is aging and five years ago the Department of Environmental Protection issued an order asking for significant upgrades to the system.
County Ambulance will now serve as the town's primary EMS.
The Board of Selectmen last week signed an agreement with the Pittsfield-based ambulance provider to handle calls in town. Town Manager Kelli Robbins said the three-year agreement comes with no cost to the town.
"I would like to see this done as a trial," Robbins said.
The City Council is split on setting water and sewer rates for the next 18 months.
In a 6-5 vote Tuesday night, the City Council's Committee of the whole approved the mayor plan to raise water rates by 20 percent and sewer rated by 50 percent starting on Jan. 1. However, the final decision has to be made next Tuesday and the council has requested more information before casting that vote.
Mayor Linda Tyer is introducing a plan to raise sewer rates over the next seven years to pay for the $74 million wastewater treatment project.
The sewer rate increase will be particularly front-loaded with a 50 percent increase at the start of 2019, should the City Council approve the plan. That would raise the current rate to $362.34 per year - an increase of $114.65 per year for a household with two toilets - effective January 1, 2019.
The private water district was taken over last year by the town because of the cooperative's difficulty in finding trustees and addressing the significant infrastructure upgrades required for the more than 30-year-old district.
Last month, the board heard a presentation from a Green Community representative who spelled out the state program that the town can take advantage of if it adopts policies including the stretch code that extends the town building code to require higher energy efficiency construction.
While much of the talk recently has been on a $74 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant, upgrades to the water system are following closely behind.
Doug Gove, a consultant with Aecom, reported to the City Council's Public Works subcommittee Monday evening that in the next seven years the water system will need $69 million worth of repairs. However, Gove said there is an option to stagger out the repairs over time to ease the financial burden.
The state Department of Environmental Protection had ordered the testing after it said the Water Department failed over three years to consistently use a soda ash additive to adjust the water's pH to prevent corrision. The additive is designed to adjust the pH to 7 or higher
Cheshire water took home the gold in the 12th annual Rural Water Association Water Taste Test.
Water Department Superintendent Travis Delratez presented the Selectmen on Tuesday with an award the Water Department won in a statewide water tasting competition Sept. 13.
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell wants a commission to oversee the water and wastewater operations.
Connell said years ago there was one but it was halted under former city Commissioner of Public Utilities William Forestell. Now the city is facing what could be up to $150 million worth of capital upgrades to the two treatment centers and Connell wants that commission back in place to make sure everything is done right.
The Selectmen have until the end of the year to make a decision on whether or not to remove Kitchen Brook Dam using state funds.
Eric Ford, a wetlands ecologist with the Division of Ecological Restoration, met with the board and the water commissioners on Tuesday. Although he was able to answer some of the town's questions, the selectmen still were unsure which way to go.
Officials say the city's water is safe, but residents with compromised immune systems are still being cautioned after three water samples came up positive for total coliform bacteria.
According to a letter mailed to residents from the Water Department, random testing in June turned up positive samples of coliform bacteria. However, the department says samples taken from the same sites the next day came up negative.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously authorized a borrowing of $783,910 for a number of infrastructure upgrades, including an engineering study of the city's two reservoir dams.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said the borrowing will be rolled into a long-term bond in the next couple years. The ability to borrow at this point comes from the stabilization of the city's finances because reserves are up and a significant amount of debt is falling off.