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DPW director: Mill St. bridge replacement is on fast track

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PEPPERELL — The Mill Street bridge will be replaced as part of MassHighway’s “accelerated program” of statewide bridge projects, according to DPW Director Robert Lee.

Advertising for the project could happen as soon as the end of the year, enabling completion of the project in 2010, Lee said at the Board of Public Works meeting May 7.

If advertising begins next spring, it could be a two-season project with completion in 2011.

The Mill Street bridge replacement project comes on the heels of the Covered Bridge project, which is due to be completed later this year. The laminated-truss covered bridge is being construction at a factory in upstate New York. It will be disassembled, trucked to town this summer, and be reassembled over the Nashua River.

In other action the board:

* Approved a $27.22 sewer abatement for 41 Lowell Road and approved a $31.81 sewer and water abatement for 30A Nashua Road.

* Denied a $3,357.20 water abatement for Suburban Village Park on Chestnut Street, based on the recommendation of Water Superintendent Mark Richardson. In the case of Suburban Village, three unoccupied homes had water leaks that went undetected.

“There is no way to quantify the losses,” Lee said.

Superintendent Richardson noted that water usage at Suburban Village had actually dropped from 2008 to 2009, further complicating an estimation of water loss.

Also, in preparation for further debate at Town Meeting, Lee explained the free cash in the DPW’s enterprise fund.

The Sewer Division has $314,000 which is entirely dedicated to paying the debt.

“The debt must be paid when it’s due,” said Lee.

A total of $522,000 is with the Water Division, and Lee explained that the free cash in that account is dedicated to future projects, including the new Nashua Road municipal well site.

“This will save the rate payers financing costs by reducing borrowing,” he said.

Another $166,000 of free cash is maintained for capital improvements at the transfer station. Lee cited the free cash account fluctuations over the past several years with $268,000 in the account in 2005, increasing to $373,000 in 2006, then dropping to $92,000 in 2007, and back up to $525,000 in 2008.

Lee expressed grave concern over the cutting of DPW budgets, noting that only two employees are now available to maintain the entire sewer-collection system.

“This thing has been cut and cut and cut over the past three years,” said Lee.

And staff cuts were not the only concern on Lee’s mind. He noted that the town would like to get its hands on the proceeds from the sale of the Canal Street Water Division office.

“Canal Street was purchased in 1995 with water enterprise funds,” said Lee, who argued that taking those proceeds was akin to taking money directly from the ratepayers to benefit the entire town.

Lee’s update on the 2009 sewer extension project was much more upbeat, as he praised the progress of the contractor who had recently completed 350 feet of sewer line in just one day.

Paving sections of Nashua Road has also been completed, so the rough road surface that has plagued commuters since last year has been removed.

Planning for 2010 sewer projects is already under way, Lee said.

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