WHITMAN — Residents will soon be asked to attend a special Town Meeting to fund an engineering study centering on the replacement of a sewer force main which has already required two expensive repairs.
The DPW Commissioners are seeking a $500,000 transfer from sewer and water retained earnings to fund the study. Town Administrator Frank Lynam said the projected cost of a new pipe is in excess of $8 million. The projected cost of a dual system is about $15 million.
“Good ideas come with cost,” Lynam said.
Both Lynam and Selectmen Vice Chairman Dan Salvucci suggested a contingency estimate of about $900,000, putting any unused portion toward two bills due to the city of Brockton once a sewer contract is completed. Lynam said retained earnings is intended to address situations like this.
“I’m not shopping for other articles right now,” Lynam said, noting the sewer project and perhaps unpaid bills will be the only items on the warrant.
Actual construction work on the sewer line would have to go out to bond.
A date has not been determined yet, but a best date — possibly Dec. 2 or 9 — will be voted on at the next Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
“I think it won’t be a surprise to many people,” Lynam said of the request. “We’ve had two significant failures in the force main as it travels from Whitman to Brockton across Alger Street and into the woods there.”
The DPW procured funding and performed an assessment of the line, finding that there is “significant potential for failure” along it, according to Lynam. The DPW Commissioners met in a joint session with Selectmen on Tuesday, Oct. 22 to discuss needed actions to ensure the town maintains a functioning sanitary system.
“I know Environmental Partners have done some significant work on this, but there’s a lot more to be done,” Lynam said.
The twin force main, which starts at the Auburn Street pump house, is the main sewer outflow to the Brockton pump station, according to DPW Commission member Kevin Cleary.
It was installed in 1984.
“We had two significant breaks over the last couple of years that were well over $1 million,” Cleary said. “We were lucky where they were — they were accessible.”
Since then the DPW obtained funding appropriations and did some land clearing and followed it up with soil borings and analysis.
“They’ve determined that we’ve run a life span,” Cleary said. “The breaks that we had were from the outside [of the pipes] in — they weren’t [from] the inside out.”
The combination of soil, water and acidity rotted the pipes. Soil borings showed more potential problems from similar soil and water conditions in the area.
DPW Commission member Wayne Carroll said the pipe is rated for 30 years, and was installed 35 years ago.
“The next step is we would like to have a Town Meeting to appropriate funds for engineering, permitting, design and getting bid documents together,” Cleary said. “We can’t wait until the spring to start that and then go into typical bid and construction and all that.”
They are looking to doing that work over the winter to present a much better scope of the value of the project and to allow the commission to come before the spring Town Meeting with better information about options and costs.
Both bypassing and sleeving the old main have been discussed as potential emergency remedies, Carroll said.
Cleary said it costs at least $500,000 to repair emergency breaks to the pipe.
In other business, Selectmen voted to appoint officer Peter Aiken as the new sergeant on the Whitman Police Department. Aiken was the top person on the sergeant’s list, as well as the recommendation of Lynam and Police Chief Timothy Hanlon.
Aiken will be sworn in privately, Lynam said.
Selectman Randy LaMattina, who chairs the Budget Override Evaluation Committee, said that panel has met again after delays surrounding a health issue the financial consultant had been dealing with.
The most recent meeting focused on five-year trends and forecast for 2020 new growth — slightly over $1 million — and noted a downturn in excise revenue, whether an economic trend or a billing issue, and that the state is not providing much help in the form of state aid — up only 1.5 percent over five years with school aid up only .59 percent over that time.
“Our budget trends over the last five years are basically proving not to be sustainable,” LaMattina said. “As we go ahead, that’s going to be diagnosed.”
The consultant will be meeting one-on-one with department heads to discuss where they plan to be in the next five years and whether some of their costs are controllable.
“In terms of progress, we are far and away, ahead of where we were last year,” said LaMattina, noting that department heads are coming together and getting information in earlier this year.
Selectmen also approved a request for SDIP, when space is available, to hold automotive insurance surcharge hearings in Whitman Town Hall for the convenience of both the public and hearings officers.