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Malfuntioning meter brings high water bill to Elm St. residents

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PEPPERELL — Paul and Janet Helland appeared before the Department of Public Works to defend their request for a water and sewer abatement after receiving a bill from the town for water and sewerage use totaling $1,877.73.

The sizable bill reflected a malfunction in the external water meter which was recently identified as defective.

The large bill was due to a slow down of the exterior meter over time, resulting in an understatement of the actual water usage, according to Public works Director Robert Lee.

“I feel like we’re being fined, not invoiced “It’s almost malfeasance,” said Paul. “Yes, we used the water, but we don’t know when we used the water, and you don’t either.”

“We have no way of knowing how long the problem existed,” said Janet. “Seems that we should go back to 1990, and go from those rates.”

The Hellands moved into their 38 Elm St. home in 1990.

“We broke it down to the lowest tier,” said Lee, noting that the inside water meter had been read in September 1997. “We did the best we could.”

Without any clear indication of when the problem began, the board agreed to table any decision until its next meeting and consider using an earlier sewer rate to compute the bill.

Lee also updated the board on his discussion with town counsel Ned Richardson regarding Groton’s request to connect several homes to be constructed to the Pepperell sewer system. The homes are to be located in the Reedy Meadow Estates subdivision. They will be built within 900 feet of the Jersey Street municipal well.

“I would not be comfortable not having that sewer,” said Chairman Lou Shattuck.

Lee, who favors providing sewer capacity to Groton, listed several reasons why the subdivision in Groton should rely on septic.

“I think its much more of a possible danger that there’s going to be an accident in the street and fuel is going to get spilled, and it’s not going to go into the storm management system,” said Lee. “I think that’s more likely to damage our wells.”

Commissioner George Clark expressed opposition to the connection.

“I don’t see enough criteria that we need to connect this,” he said. “I would like to see a hearing and get more voter input.”

“I think they have some options,” agreed commissioner Lewis Lund.

“I’m in favor of sewering it,” said commissioner Paul Tierney. Commissioner Fred Farmer also agreed that sewering was the right thing to do.

In a surprise announcement, Lee said the owners of the property along the Dunstable town line adjacent to the Rail Trail that was being considered for a municipal well site had contacted him to reopen discussions. This followed a memo from the owners withdrawing their offer to sell the property to the town for $425,000 after the town requested an appraisal.

“They seem a little more receptive to an appraisal,” said Lee.

To continue testing the site for quantity and quality would cost the town $120,000 to $150,000, said Lee. It would cost up to $300,000 to complete a formal Department of Environmental Protection study for approval, he added.

“So much has gone into this, let’s keep it going,” said Clark.

In addition, the Townsend Street sewer extension is “substantially complete,” said Lee, noting that the job was completed more than $16,400 below the contract price and in half the time. Lee said he expects betterments for the project to be included in the 2007 property tax bills.

Bids for the Bemis well improvement project are also in. The low bid from Bay State Regional Contractors was only $26,000 above the engineer’s estimate. Four of the five submitted references came back as positive according to Lee. A contract could be signed within two weeks.

The Suburban Village Mobile Home Park sewer project is getting closer to reality following the submission and review of the pump station.

“There remain a few additional revisions, but nothing major,” said Lee.

Approvals are still required from the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board. Depending on the progress of those approvals, construction could start the beginning of October and be completed in six weeks.

The covered bridge project is expected to go out for bids by end of September as well.

Finally, the board approved drainlayer’s licenses for J.A. Polito and Sons, and Chartier Construction.

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