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Tri-Town voters OK $1.5 million water storage tank

SHOREHAM — Residents of Shoreham, Addison and Bridport in low turnout on May 23 voted in favor of by a huge margin a $1.5 million Tri-Town Water District proposal for a new 760,000-gallon storage tank on Douglas Orchard land in Shoreham.
Although only 155 residents cast ballots, public sentiment was clear: 143 residents favored the new tank, 10 opposed it, and two ballots were deemed to be spoiled.
Tri-Town Water District Board Chairman Darwin Pratt said work to install the new tank could begin late this year, but more likely will next spring. The site will be a knoll overlooking a cemetery off Route 74 in Shoreham.
Tri-Town officials chose that location for its elevation and suitability for construction, Pratt said, adding the district has all needed permits and what he called a “forever lease” with Douglas Orchard for use of the site.
“There were only two or three places in the three towns we could actually have the height to make the thing work, for pressure and everything,” he said. “The other two we looked at were all ledge, and it was going to cost a lot of money just to get a road in.”
The project will be financed with a bond and the Tri-Town board will not have to raise rates to pay for the new tank, Pratt said, although increasing costs, such as for chemicals, power and labor, could mean a higher rate down the road.
“I don’t see where it’s going to affect the rates. We just went up last summer,” Pratt said. “The project itself isn’t going to affect the rates.”
Pratt said board members decided to propose the new tank because the district’s 60-year-old existing main tank, also in Shoreham and the same size as the new tank, was starting to show its age.
“It’s got some rust in it, but it’s nothing bad yet. But in another couple years we’d probably have to do something anyway, so we’re trying to be proactive,” Pratt said. “There’s nothing wrong with the tank we’ve got, but it’s 60 years old and coming near the end of its life.”
Tri-Town officials also hope they can refurbish the old tank and use it to almost double the district’s storage capacity. But they can’t determine whether it can be salvaged without emptying it for more than a month, during which customers would be without water — the district has a smaller storage tank on Route 22A in Addison that could not handle the job alone.
“The tank we’ve got now, we can’t take offline because it would be three towns without water,” Pratt said. “We know with the age of it we’re worried about having to drain it and go in and sandblast it, which would take five or six weeks. And there’s just no way we could do that.”
Once Tri-Town workers can check the existing tank out they will know whether it is worth investing in for the long term.
“Until we get the new one up and get that one drained, we aren’t going to know how much money it’s going to cost us to put it back online. If it makes sense to us, we will,” Pratt said.
That increased storage capacity could help in the unlikely recurrence of an emergency such as struck the district in a four-day period this past December, when many customers were at least briefly without water after Tri-Town suffered two water-main breaks, a car crash that knocked out power to the district plant on Tri-Town Road in Addison, and the failure of the plant’s backup power system after an electrical fire.
Since then, Pratt said, Tri-Town has also repaired its plant’s electrical system and taken state-recommended steps to improve its emergency communication for its customers.  
“Everything is back on, and we have a new phone system in the office. If we have a problem, they can get to that. They’ll know exactly where things are,” he said. “We’ve beefed up everything. And if we do put the other tank online we’ll have twice the storage.”

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