Brattleboro seeks loan for water plant planning

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BRATTLEBORO — The town is looking for financial help with planning an approximately $10.9 million project to replace a water treatment plant.

During a meeting held last week via teleconferencing software, the Select Board unanimously approved a proposal to apply to the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund. The town is seeking a $480,000 planning loan to complete the final design of a project to replace the Pleasant Valley Water Treatment Plant in West Brattleboro.

Such loans are provided to public water systems at a 0 percent interest rate, states a memo from the Brattleboro Department of Public Works. And no payments are due until the project goes to construction.

Town Manager Peter Elwell called the project "essential." He said the plant was built in 1989 with an expected useful life of about 20 years.

"That might suggest neglect and it shouldn't," he said.

Planning for the project began in 2003 but the town had other competing needs, Elwell said, referring to upgrades made to other municipal facilities. Town staff has been working with Dufresne Group engineers on details.

Public Works Director Steve Barrett said that since its construction, the plant has performed well and corrected an issue with discolored water. He recalled issuing orders to boil water in the 1980s before the plant was built.

The pre-engineered building has structural issues, Barrett said. He noted that it was a good thing plant operators have shoveled snow off the roof because roofs have collapsed on similar buildings.

The approximately $11 million price tag is a "very conservative" estimate by engineers, Barrett said. He expects the final design to include expertise from electric engineers and soil experts.

Christina Haskins of Dufresne said water filtration equipment in the plant is still in good condition and tanks will not need repairs.

"So this saves a lot of money ... it makes it easier for us to switch over to a new plant," she said.

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The project would bring the building into compliance with structural, electrical and energy standards. Eight permits are expected to be needed.

Plans call for a larger building, which will be more energy efficient. Haskins said new lighting, pumps, and heating and ventilation equipment typically is more efficient.

The plan also is to consult with Efficiency Vermont on different options. The group offers advice and technical services.

The new plant is anticipated to have an upgraded control system and more automation. It will be built "pretty close" to the existing plant, which will stay up during construction to avoid costs of running a temporary plant, Haskins said.

The plan calls for adding a fourth filter to the plant and replacing vales, piping and some other equipment.

If the loan is wrapped into another one when the project is ready for construction, the town could receive a 25 percent subsidy. Haskins also pointed to the potential to receive federal funds being made available during the coronavirus pandemic to help get more people working.

Elwell expects construction could begin around summer 2021. Approval for funding would be needed from Representative Town Meeting members.

On Tuesday, the board approved the purchase of property to replace a pump station on Signal Hill.

"It's really outdated," said Barrett, citing a report that concluded the station needs to be replaced.

He said the owner of the nearby approximately 0.25-acre property agreed to sell the land at $47,000, the same price assessed by the town.

The board also agreed to pay Dufresne $51,000 to develop a final design to replace the station. The project is anticipated to cost about $300,000.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.


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