DORSET — Long-anticipated improvements to the Dorset Fire District’s water service lines are expected to be the main topic of conversation when the district hosts its annual meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Dorset Fire Station on Route 30.
The district will vote on its annual budget and candidates for the Prudential Committee at the meeting, as well as hear reports on the Fire Department’s activities through the past 12 months. This year’s proposed budget of $193,000 marks a 2.6 increase over last year, according to the district.
The $5 million water project is due to begin construction in June, as Zaluzny Excavating of Vernon was awarded the bid last month. According to Prudential Committee Chairman Ben Weiss, engineer Jeff Mangini of Otter Creek Engineering, which is managing the project, will be contacting property owners to inform them when work on their service lines is to begin.
To date, more than 100 customers have granted easements for work to take place on their property. That leaves a little more than half of the system’s users still on the sidelines.
Weiss said those owners should get involved now, so that they can take advantage of improvements, rather than pay for the work themselves at a later date, while paying for the district improvements through their bill.
“From a leakage standpoint, we’d love to replace as many service lines as possible,” Weiss said. “From a personal standpoint, they are paying anyway, they might as well get a new service line.”
Weiss wanted to assure users concerned about their yards and driveways being torn up by the work that “part of this project is replacing everything the way it was.”
Furthermore, Mangini will be physically present in Dorset for the duration of construction, Weiss said.
As much as $3.5 million of the cost is being offset by grants. The sources include $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars through a grant administered by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, a $1.75 million principal reduction grant from the state and $500,000 from the Northern Borders Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership serving parts of upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
That leaves $1.75 million to be paid through a municipal bond, at a cost of $324 per user per year, according to the district.
For years, the Dorset Fire District has operated under a state moratorium because of a lack of water reaching users. As a result, the district has not been able to add customers or increase usage for existing customers, preventing property owners from investing in homes and businesses.
“Say somebody wants to renovate their house and add a bedroom — they can’t do that,” Weiss said of how the moratorium has affected construction.
It’s widely believed that leaks in the delivery lines are to blame for the water loss. The service lines were built with galvanized steel, which has corroded over time. It’s hoped that replacing them will alleviate water loss and allow the moratorium to be lifted. About 25 lines already have been replaced, Weiss said.
In addition, the district plans to drill a test well on Cheney Road to add capacity to the spring-fed system and conduct a study of the springs to measure seasonal flow into the reservoir. Both of those studies are awaiting regulatory approval from the state, Weiss said.
“We’re meeting with a state engineer in a couple weeks, and we have a hydrogeologist on board,” he said. “We feel the springs as is produce enough water. The spring study by itself could get us out of the moratorium, but we want to go ahead with the well.”
The work also will include the installation of meters, promoting equitable billing and conservation, and shutoff valves, which will help aid future leak detection in service lines, the district said. Key valves also will be installed in the system, reducing the number of users affected during system maintenance.