Onset voters OK $1.7 million water main replacement project

Dec 17, 2018

Voters at an Onset Fire District Special Meeting on Monday approved spending up to $1.7 million for a new water main on Cranberry Highway, replacing pipes that are nearly 100 years old.

The project will increase district water bills roughly 20 percent, said officials, who stressed the importance of taking advantage of a state grant worth 25 percent of the project. The state offered to pick up part of the costs due to an upcoming overhaul of Cranberry Highway. The $20 million, 1.6-mile state project would revamp the highway from the Cranberry Shopping Center, where Routes 6 and 28 split into west and eastbound lanes, to a point approximately 900 feet east of the Red Brook Road intersection. Construction is set to begin in 2019.

Officials told the 30 voters in attendance that replacing the main during the overhaul made fiscal sense. 

“It’s a golden opportunity to fix the main while the project is going on,” said Water Commissioner Kenny Fontes, adding that the district would have to pay the full cost otherwise. “You’ve heard the commercial: ‘You can pay me now or pay me later.’”

The district, which provides water and fire service in Onset, is governed independently from the town. The Wareham Fire District, a separate entity, provides the same services for the rest of Wareham. Because the Fire Districts are governed separately from the town, rates may be raised by an amount without the need for a debt exclusion or an override of the tax-limiting proposition 2 1/2.

Officials stressed the need to replace the mains. 

Fontes said there was a water main break on Nov. 24, which left businesses and homes without water for that afternoon into late evening.

“Unfortunately, businesses were shut down,” said Fontes. “But our crew did a good job 24 hours around the clock to repair it.”

Two mains, one on each side of the road, will be replaced from Sand Pond Road to the district’s boundary east of Tyler Ave., which is approximately 500 feet away from Tyler Ave.

Officials said the state offered to put more than $300,000 toward the water main project. While $1.7 million was approved, officials said the current project estimate is $1.4 million. The additional funds cover a 15 percent contingency.

Voters approved two other agenda items on Monday.

They revisited a previous request made at the district’s annual meeting in May for a generator. While voters approved the $75,000 purchase, language including the cost of installation and accessories was left out. On Monday, the committee added language that allowed not only for the purchase of the generator, but everything else, too.

“The way the article was written didn’t include the installation and fuel source hook up,” said Prudential Committee member Pamela Pike. “This will include the installation, labor and purchase of the generator.”

Voters unanimously approved the agenda item.

Also, revenues generated from a Borrego Solar field near Sand Pond will now be used for future pipe repairs in the district and retirement funds. According to officials, the leased property brings in $14,000 to $15,000 to the district each quarter.

With the unanimous approval, 75 percent of the field’s total revenue will go to the district to pay for future water tank repairs and maintenance. The remaining 25 percent will go towards the district’s other post-employment benefits fund, which covers retirement funds.