By Katina Caraganis
ASHBY -- Selectmen are pondering several options for alternative water sources after a well in the center of town began to fail.
There is no town water in Ashby; every homeowner and business relies on wells. The well in question feeds the American Legion, the Grange Hall and the congregational church.
Selectman Mike McCallum said Monday that the board has a number of options to consider, including replacing the well, tying into either Fitchburg or Townsend's system, tapping into the well at the library or tapping into the well at Ashby Elementary School.
The board met with Townsend Water Superintendent Paul Rafuse on Monday morning to discuss the potential of tapping into Townsend's water system, and whether the capacity was there.
No decision was made, but Rafuse said it's likely there is enough capacity, depending on how much of the town would be brought onto the system.
"It's real preliminary right now," he said. "If we can, depending on what the percentage is, if it's just a small area, maybe just the center area, it could possibly be done."
He said it would take about four miles of piping to go from Townsend to Ashby, with the latter being financially responsible for the work.
Now that he's met with the board, Rafuse said Ashby selectmen must decide what works best for them and how to go about implementing it.
Selectmen recently accepted a grant from the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission that will investigate what it would take to bring public water to the center of town and establish a water district.
The grant, administered through the district's local technical assistance program, gives the town $5,000 and 40 hours of consulting work to look at public-water options.
Alan Pease, who helped secure the grant for the town, previously told selectmen that by accepting the grant, it agrees to match it with $5,000 plus the services of its land-use agent.
The grant will look at whether it makes sense to lay enough piping for just the center of town to have public water, or whether it would make sense to tie in to either Fitchburg or Townsend's water department.
McCallum said he hopes the work done by the grant will give the board a better idea of the most cost-effective and feasible solution. Only then would they make an informed decision, he said.
Selectman Steve Ingerson said he would like to see another alternative added to the mix: acquiring a small piece of property near the current well and digging another one.
He said the town should approach abutters of the church, the Grange and the American Legion to discuss purchasing a small parcel of land and drilling a well.
"In my opinion, that's the least costly alternative to what we're looking at," he said. Besides the initial costs of purchasing the land and drilling, he said it costs about $1,500 a year to recertify a well.
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