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The Briggsville Water District has been unable to find members willing to serve it; members voted last year for the town to take it over.

Clarksburg Officials Want More Answers on Briggsville Water Takeover

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The Briggsville Water District is served by the Red Mills spring.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The new Select Board is hitting the pause button on the decision to take over the Briggsville Water District.
 
Chairman Ronald Boucher and Karin Robert are holding off on any further decisions on hiring a system operator until the October meeting and asked that town counsel review the agreement again. 
 
"I'm not willing to take on something I know nothing about," said Robert at last week's meeting. Her concerns were prompted by a resident who had called and questioned her about why the town was operating a private water system.
 
The members of the water district had voted last year to have the town take over operations — including hire a system operator, billing and setting rates — for the 80-household district along River Road. 
 
"We had an attorney draw up the agreement with the Select Board as the directors of the water district," Town Administrator Carl McKinney said. "We are working through some issues that the DEP has asked us to take care of ... everything has been done legally."
 
Formerly the Red Mills Water Co., a board of commissioners had been developed when the district took over nearly 40 years ago but that body hasn't functioned in decades. Water Operator Clebe Scott had been almost the sole member and operator for going on 30 years and he's ready to retire.
 
The former board of Jeffrey Levanos, Linda Reardon and William Schrade Jr. had agreed to take on the billing and, once the district voted, the operations of the water system. All three have since left and Boucher and Robert were voted in at the last town election to join Kimberly Goodell.
 
"We do have a responsibility of providing services to our residents," said McKinney, who helped shepherd the agreement through and who is on the water system. "There are 180 people, approximately 11 percent of our population, dependent on that."
 
The water system also serves Town Hall and Clarksburg's only industrial area. Most of the rest of the town is on private wells.
 
McKinney compared it to the sewer district, for which the Select Board acts as the sewer commissioners to bill and collect payments for the city of North Adams. 
 
Robert, however, said the town isn't being compensated for the work it's doing for the water system. McKinney said that will be set in place the same way the town charges the sewer district for hours worked, but it will take time becuase the water district can't afford it yet.
 
"It's still costing the town," Robert responded. Boucher added that "our responsibility is for everyone in town."
 
Scott, who attended the meeting, wanted to know where this left the water district.
 
"So you're just going to wash your hands of the whole thing?" he asked.
 
Boucher said he'd like to see new water commissioners rather than have the Select Board step in but Scott said he'd been trying to drum up interest to no avail. 
 
"I've been trying to do that for 30 years and nobody wants to be on board," he said. 
 
McKinney said the state could step in and force the town to act. He believed the town has had an ownership in the system dating to 1980 under the state Department of Environmental Protection. 
 
"What we are doing is legal, it is ethical, and it is reasonable," McKinney said.
 
Robert isn't convinced.
 
"I can't see the fairness of this from where I'm sitting," she said. "I can't see the town guaranteeing water for this part of town when the rest of the town is on their own."
 
In other business, the Boucher and McKinney reported that the town received two Community Compact technical grants. The first was a $30,000 grant toward the feasibility study on merging the school district with that of Stamford, Vt. The town is trying to find out if a grant awarded in March was still available because the deadline for its use was June 30. The second compact grant was $15,000 to continue zoning updates. 
 
The town has to do self-assessment on its compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. McKinney said this will require reactivating the handicapped commission. 
 
The town will also hold its annual bulky waste collection on Saturday, Oct. 6, at the town garage. 

Tags: drinking water,   water district,   

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