CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Users of the Briggsville Water District will see a significant rate increase beginning in November.
Select Board, acting as the water commissioners, voted on Wednesday to raise the annual rate of $200 per household to $300, effective Nov. 1.
Users on the line will be billed $75 quarterly.
The district voted in May to have the town take over with the understanding it would have to raise revenues to address significant infrastructure needs and hire a licensed operator to replace longtime manager Clebe Scott.
"The $200 raises $13,000 a year and that's not enough to make the district more resilient," Town Administrator Carl McKinney said. "We need a bigger capacity to store water and some engineering work."
In the long term, the recommendation is to go to metering, so that those who use more pay more, but that is not an option at this point, he said.
Board member Carlyle "Chip" Chesbro Jr. asked if the water lines were protected from backflow, or contamination being able to get into the system. His company, R.I. Baker, had had to do work for Mount Greylock Regional School back in 2002 when an improper connection allowed chemical boiler cleaner to get into the school's water system, he said.
McKinney said he was unaware of the potential for backflow but agreed it was something to look into.
"I'm more worried about capacity," said Chairman Jeffrey Levanos. "I'm worried about increasing people's rates and not they're not having any water."
The system has had problems in recent years with maintaining enough water on hand for users. McKinney, who is on the system, said he was out of water again all weekend because someone filled a pool.
"We only have a 3,000 gallon tank to serve 68 houses," he said, but added he believed other elements may be harming the system's capacity. "The overflow is something like 40 gallons a minute ... I'm not sure what the source is so we're going to work through that problem."
He's working on grant for an engineering study to review the system and make recommendations for the aging system.
Chesbro suggested putting a 40-gallon tank in every basement, which adds about 3,000 gallons or almost double the capacity. That way, he said, each home would have consistent access to water.
In other business, McKinney said the state has determined the problematic Cross Road Bridge would have go down to one lane because of structural problems. He said, "a lot of the bottom is just blown right out of rusted rebar. The footings are leaning and it's seen better days."
Replacement of the span has been discussed for some time but has been lower on the priority list as East Road and Gates Avenue bridges, and West Cross and Horrigan roads were addressed.
McKinney said the estimate to replace the bridge was $1.5 million to $1.8 million. But the town's engineers offered a solution that could save the town $400,000 to $500,000 "by doing away completely with the bridge and doing an aluminum arch on footings and making it a little get longer to accommodate our Complete Streets bicycle lane."
The arch style was used in replacing the East Road Bridge several years ago. It won't change the load but it would require closing the bridge completely for at least two months. A temporary bridge could cost up to $300,000.
The town is now eligible again to apply for a MassWorks grant, like that used to fix West Cross Road. But that only goes up to $1 million so McKinney said he would like to get the cost down. He also could try for another grant for economic development, which could cover the higher bridge cost.
"If I cannot get a grant, I can see this running out five years," he said.
• The board also heard an update on Horrigan Road, which is nearing completion. McKinney said the formerly pitted road is now smooth, which will mean speeding, so officers will be doing more patrols along the reconstructed byway.
• The Planning Board attended a workshop on solar array bylaws held by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. McKinney, who also attended, said the town has three large arrays and two more may be in the works. The largely new Planning Board will be working on a bylaw for town meeting.
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