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City moves to fix water woes

VERGENNES — At their April 10 meeting, Vergennes aldermen told homeowners affected by water problems in the Crosby Farms and Booska Court areas that the city had hired Middlebury’s Otter Creek Engineering to evaluate what needed to be done to cure drainage woes in the subdivision.
The water problems came to a head during the spring of 2011, when melt from heavy snows combined with steady rain to flood and badly damage eight basements, according to a group of homeowners who also met with aldermen in August.
Last week, they said problems predated 2011, and that they were frustrated with what they called officials’ slow response. 
“We are concerned with the delay that has taken place,” said Bowman Road resident Jay Curtis.
City Manager Mel Hawley said from city officials’ point of view, much of the situation has been out of the city’s hands. City officials had to wait for a report from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ insurance branch before moving forward, and Hawley said that the report, when it arrived, detailed the problems but failed to offer solutions.
Hawley also noted that state officials had granted the subdivision’s original stormwater permit to the project developers, and even though the city was now the permit holder, Vergennes had never issue the permit. The VLCT investigation, he said, described a watershed of 82 acres, while the project designer had determined the project watershed was 45 acres.
Hawley hoped the Otter Creek probe — which he said could be done in a month and would be acted upon quickly — would find a simple solution. He also noted that some drainage pipes appeared to be smaller than others and held out some hope for an easy answer.
“I would love it if that were the quick fix,” he said.
It remains possible that city taxpayers will have to foot a now-unknown bill to solve the problem, although Hawley said Otter Creek will also look into the possibility that the original engineering firm that designed the stormwater system might be liable.
Regardless, Hawley said the city would move forward with a solution to divert and drain the unwanted water.
“We’re serious about fixing the problem, or I wouldn’t have signed a contract with Otter Creek Engineering,” Hawley said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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