WILMINGTON — Wilmington Water District and town officials are proposing a merger they believe will increase efficiency and allow for a succession plan.
“The burden of being the district’s sole employee has worn on me considerably,” Chris Lavoy said during a public hearing about the district’s merger with the town held remotely Tuesday. “I think moving forward, the water district needs some assistance and maybe someone to carry on as the next operator and so forth. So it just makes a lot of sense that the water district merges with the town and has the town’s support moving forward so the water district doesn’t more or less dry up one day.”
The next hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 27 on Zoom. Voters are being mailed ballots for the Nov. 3 election asking if they want to approve the merger.
Select Board Chairman Tom Fitzgerald said if voters support the plan, the Secretary of State’s Office must approve it then the House of Representatives and Senate before the governor.
“If the governor signs it,” Fitzgerald said, “it would come back to us and make it law as of July 1, 2021.”
Jessica Lee Smith of Wilmington asked if the merger is something the town or state wants. Town Manager Scott Tucker said it has been a goal for the Select Board and water district, with discussions beginning around 2011.
“So this culminates a fair amount of work between several boards,” he said. “And the idea here is to create a certain amount of efficiency and allow us to apply for possible grants when we talk about extending water and sewer at any time.”
The district, which covers properties downtown, would operate as a business enterprise similar to the Wilmington Wastewater Treatment Plant, where revenue from those using its services support its operations. As water commissioners, the Select Board would manage the district if the merger is approved.
Christine Richter, town finance officer and treasurer, said the district is in “decent shape” financially and is not running at a deficit right now.
“They have finished the large upgrade project that the state was working with them on,” she said. “They do have two bonds that are pretty extensive but have several years before they’re due.”
Richter said the district ended its last fiscal year with a surplus but a capital account is nearly depleted after finishing a large project. One goal involves rebuilding district capital funds in case issues arise.
“Thanks for doing this,” said Meg Streeter, former Select Board member and real estate business owner.