Main Street water main project could start next year

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MANCHESTER — A multi-million dollar water and sewer improvement project that was expected to start construction in 2021, or later, might need to start in 2018, the Select Board learned Tuesday night.

The Vermont transportation department (VTrans) informed the town late last week that its paving schedule for state highways would include Manchester in 2018.

That's important because town leaders want to time the water and sewer projects with the state's paving projects. That could save the town $250,000, as well as prevent the hassle of tearing up heavily-traveled streets more than once.

"I think it's important to work with VTrans to get this right," O'Keefe said Wednesday. "Usually, paving projects get pushed off, not accelerated. We're not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth."

Unless the paving schedule changes, the Select Board and the Board of Water Commissioners must now scramble to prepare plans for the project, and secure approval from Town Meeting voters to float bonds to cover the cost.

The Select Board has tentatively scheduled another meeting for Tuesday, Jan. 17, at which the warning for Town Meeting and the FY 2018 municipal budget will be discussed. The Board of Water Commissioners will meet Friday, Jan. 20 at 10 a.m.

"It's not undoable," O'Keefe said of the situation. "I wouldn't call it a crisis."

The sections of Main Street water line to be replaced are between Seminary Avenue and Prospect Street, and between Depot Street to the Shaw's roundabout. Those sections of water main are made of cast iron and are more than 100 years old.

The Seminary Avenue-Prospect Street section is a higher priority, because under state regulations it had to be disconnected from fire hydrants due to its narrow (4-inch) size. (The fire department has an alternate plan in place to protect that neighborhood.)

The water project is estimated at a cost of $3.5 million, with the Seminary to Prospect section taking up $2.5 million of that cost.

Much will also depend upon whether the sewer lines can be lined with an insert rather than rebuilt. The cost of installing inserts in all of the sewer lines is estimated at $149,700; rebuilding them all would cost an estimated $1.63 million.

On Wednesday, O'Keefe said it's likely that some sewer lines can be repaired and relined, while others will need to be replaced.

Depot Street Redesign

Tuesday's Select Board meeting started with another long-brewing construction project - the redesign and and reconstruction of Depot Street from Highland Avenue to the Manchester Center roundabout.

Traffic engineering consultant Corey Mack of Burlington-based Resource Systems Group guided the board through the proposal, which scraps the current center turning lane for dedicated left-turn lanes where needed and adds bike lanes and green space at selected locations on either side of the road.

The desired effect, Mack explained, is to "redefine the roadway" and make Depot Street look and drive less like a straightaway. But the plan still allows for 16-foot travel lanes in either direction, leaving more than enough room for emergency vehicles to pass pulled-over cars, Mack said.

There's not yet grant money in place to pursue new traffic light sensors and period street lighting, as seen at the main roundabout. But the board showed interest in installing the underground conduits for the new lighting, so that it can be added later.

The project is now in the state environmental review process and could be ready for construction as soon as spring 2018, Mack told the board.

Destination Manchester

The board informed members of the Destination Manchester business marketing group that it should pursue a petition for getting onto the Town Meeting warning as a means of getting its proposal in front of voters, rather than have the Select Board place the item on the warning directly.

The business group wants to establish a destination marketing organization that would fill some of the roles that were played by the now-defunct Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce. The business group would fund its activities with a special assessment district — a tax on commercial properties that would not exceed 10 cents per 100 dollars of value — and use that money to hire professionals who would market Manchester as a tourism destination and a place to build and grow business.

Spiral Press Cafe owner Bill Drunsic told the Select Board that at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 10, there was some interest voiced by residents in expanding the assessment to include residential properties as well.

"We haven't changed our approach, but we have to look at that," Drunsic said. "There's an overall general recognition that we need to do something."

Board member Steven Nichols said he's "not thoroughly convinced this is the way to go," explaining that the cost of the assessment will be passed onto business owners and consumers.

Other Business

The board also unanimously approved entering into a memorandum of understanding with Christ Our Savior Parish on Bonnet Street about the potential to purchase property adjacent to Recreation Park for $160,000.

The document clears the way for the town to survey the property, and for Town Meeting voters to decide whether to move ahead with the purchase. The property would potentially be used for a field or for overflow parking at Rec Park. In return, the church would retain a recreation easement on the land.

Reach Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000 or on Twitter @gsukiennik_mj

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