Voters OK water plant upgrade

VERGENNES — Voters turned out in small numbers last Wednesday, but backed by a large margin a proposed $5.1 million upgrade of the Vergennes-Panton Water District plant, which was built in 1973 on Panton’s Adams Ferry Road.
The final tally recorded at the district’s Vergennes office on Canal Street was 104-49, or 67-33 percent. That vote cleared the way for the first major upgrade of the Lake Champlain plant since its construction.  
The Vergennes and Panton residents who showed up supported a project that will replace all the facility’s 30-plus-year-old pumps and filters; replace all its electrical, heating and ventilation systems; build a new control room and upgrade its equipment; update chemical treatment equipment; and improve chemical storage areas.
District officials and project engineers said the work should allow the plant to function and meet projected greater demand for water for 30 or 40 more years.
Plans call for the plant’s filters and chemical treatment equipment to be replaced in phases, a strategy that will allow the plant to continue to produce water during the project. 
A bond to fund the work will also mean the first major increase in Vergennes-Panton water rates, which have been for years less than half the state average paid for public water.
That average is now about $400 a year for a typical household, according to district officials. Comparable rates in the Vergennes-Panton district have been $174 a year, and are estimated to increase to $368 a year once bond payments kick in.
Water district superintendent Jon Deming said he and district board members are grateful that residents understood the need to take care of the plant.
“We appreciate everyone coming out and supporting it,” Deming said. “You have to maintain your infrastructure.”
Bids for the project should go out soon, Deming said, and contractors could be identified by the end of the year. But work may not start right away at that point, he said, because board members must decide whether it is worth incurring extra energy costs by starting the project during the cold weather months, or whether it would be more prudent to wait until spring.
“At the moment, we don’t have an actual start date,” Deming said.
Reporter Andy Kirkaldy is at [email protected].

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