Middlebury to clarify private water lines

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury officials are vowing to identify and notify area residents served by private water mains in light of a recent case involving four property owners on Munson Road.
The town selectboard on Sept. 27 agreed to fix a break in what they state is a private water main serving those four Munson Road residences, but selectboard members will bill the affected property owners for the work, estimated at around $5,000.
While the residents are pleased the town will be doing the work, they point to municipal documents dating back to the early 1960s that they say at least imply that Middlebury officials agreed to take over the line when it was installed more than a half-century ago.
Mike Davis, one of the affected Munson Road residents, argues the line was built to town specifications when it was installed by Paul Carrara and Bud Palmer back in 1962. While there is no written agreement between the town and Carrara and Palmer, Carrara — who was present at the selectboard’s Sept. 27 meeting — said, “We always assumed it was the town’s line.”
Carrara added the line was built in the town’s right-of-way, with the most modern materials available back in 1962.
“It has been pretty maintenance-free,” he added, noting the users have paid the same water rates as other Middlebury consumers throughout the years.
Adding to the confusion is that there is nothing in the four property owners’ deeds that suggests the water line is their responsibility to maintain, according to resident Colleen Brown.
The town’s arbiter in this, and other cases of private water line disputes, is a 1979 ledger in which the names of the approximately 30 (known) private water lines have been marked. Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner said the Munson Road 2-inch water main is in the book.
“The book is the record,” Selectwoman Susan Shashok said. “It’s what we have to go with.”
Werner acknowledged the book might not be a complete record, but it is the best information currently available. He said he has received “three or four” questions about the ownership status of local water lines — particularly in the Peterson Terrace area.
“I’m sure there are people in town who do not know they have a private water line,” he said.
And that could make for a nasty surprise in the future for some Middlebury residents who have been operating under the misimpression they are served by a municipal water line.
“I think it would be a good idea to inform people so they know (the private water line) is their responsibility,” Werner told the selectboard.
Selectman Victor Nuovo agreed.
“It would be a good idea for the town to go through the book and let everyone know … ‘By the way, you have a private water line,’” Nuovo said.
In the meantime, Middlebury officials don’t want to take on the responsibility of repairing water lines of indeterminate ownership. So they will be reaching out to the community to clearly establish who owns what.
“I think it’s something people should be advised they need to find out,” Nuovo said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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