Milton council sets Jan. 27 date for water referendum

December 10, 2023

Milton Town Council unanimously approved a resolution setting Saturday, Jan. 27, for a public referendum on borrowing $6.2 million for three water infrastructure projects.

The big ticket of the three projects is a 500,000-gallon water tower on town-owned land next to the Rails to Trails on Federal Street. The town has already gotten preliminary approval from the state’s Water Infrastructure Advisory Council to borrow $3.8 million to build the tower, which town officials say will provide additional storage to meet daily demand and serve as a backup if the town’s other two towers are out of service for maintenance or repair. 

Brian Miller, engineer with Pennoni Associates, the town’s engineer, said the tower would be about 130 feet high and 56 feet in diameter. He said this tower would be similar in height to the two existing water towers in town. 

The second of the three projects is a $1.78 million water main replacement project that would replace 3,900 linear feet of existing mains underneath Carey, Walnut, Magnolia, Reed and Mill streets. The project would include replacing valves, abandoning the existing main and repaving the roadway. At Walnut and Mill streets, the town would upgrade to an 8-inch main, while at Carey Street, the upgrade would be from a 2-inch main to a 6-inch main.

Miller said the existing mains are 25 years old and beginning to show their age. Rogers said in early December, the town had three water main breaks around town. Miller said the current mains are small and not efficient for the town’s needs. He said the new mains would improve flow capacity and add new valves that will improve maintenance. 

Finally, the town would use a $579,000 loan for improvements to the Chandler Street water treatment facility. The project would include upgrading the plant’s electric system, generator, chemical feeds and testing equipment, and leveling the concrete floor. Miller said the Chandler Street facility treats about 80 percent of Milton’s water supply in the area, but the plant itself is outdated. He said the changes to the plant would improve water quality and allow better operations. 

Terms of all three loans are for 20 years at a 2% interest rate, with interest-only payments during construction. By town code, the borrowing must be approved by the town’s voters.

At the council's Dec. 4 meeting, Town Manager Kristy Rogers ran through the history of referendums related to water infrastructure projects. The town had created a water facilities master plan in 2008 to identify and prioritize water infrastructure upgrades; that plan was updated in 2012. 

In 2012, the town went to referendum on a package of improvements that included a water tower, which was then estimated to cost $1.7 million. That referendum failed by a 260-124 vote. In 2013, the town brought another referendum to the voters, which did not include a new tower but did include a water main loop at Wagamons West Shore. That referendum also failed, 151-141. 

The town then undertook another update to the master plan in 2017, and in 2018, brought two projects to referendum: the Wagamons water main loop, and a new well and treatment plant at Shipbuilders Village. This referendum succeeded by a 493-38 vote. The town’s run of good fortune with the voters continued in 2021, when they approved borrowing $1.6 million to replace water mains at Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic Street and Chestnut Street. That referendum passed 341-4.

On the three projects up for a vote Jan. 27, Rogers said the price of deferring a vote would be extremely costly. She said by deferring on a water tower once before, the project is double what it was if a tower had been built a decade ago. Rogers said the mains in the area proposed for replacement are made of cast iron and deteriorating rapidly. 

While the voters will have the ultimate say, council members were all supportive of moving forward with the projects.

Councilman Fred Harvey, who chairs the water committee, said the members supported all three projects. He said a new tower will be particularly helpful in the event of maintaining water service townwide in the event of a large fire. Mayor John Collier said while he understood the cost may be high, that is largely the result of deferring on these projects in the past. 

“These are large loans, but the town will be in great position if these projects are approved,” Rogers said.


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