Marion Wells Rounding into Shape

            Even with September’s rain, water remains a serious subject, and the Marion Select Board was eager to hear from Meghan Davis of the Department of Public Works during the board’s September 7 public meeting at the Police Station.

            The news was positive, as Davis’ well rehabilitation project update yielded benchmark information.

            The Mary’s Pond Wellfield is in its final stages of completion. Only minor roof repairs and rough spots on the interior of the aluminum railing remain. The new well pumps will be installed when the new chemical-feed building is ready for start-up.

            The chemical-feed building, which is linked to the East and West wells, is midway through construction with an early-November completion target. Once the chemical-feed building is complete, said Davis, three wells will be up and running. The anticipated timeline for that is January, “pending any major difficulties,” according to Davis. “We haven’t had any so far.”

            The Mary’s Pond wellfield permitted volume is 280,000 gallons per day. East and West wells are permitted at 280,000 and 230,000 respectively. Marion’s total permitted withdrawal is 740,000 gallons per day.

            “Once all our wells come online, it will produce the majority of our water,” said Town Administrator Jay McGrail. “We’ll be utilizing (Mattapoisett River Valley Water District supply) much less, which will help financially.”

            A manufacturing problem with pumps resulted in an order for new pumps that as of the board’s September 7 meeting had arrived but had yet to be installed. Davis clarified for Select Board Chairman Randy Parker that the DPW is waiting to install the replacement pumps so as not to prematurely enact their warranty period. Marion is not liable for what went wrong with the prior delivery.

            Davis, who represents Marion to the MRV, told the Select Board that this summer, Marion has “backed off” from its intake from the MRV Water Supply District from 180-200 gallons per minute to 155 gallons per minute. Meantime, Davis explained, Marion is now relying more on the Perry Hills wells for its water. When Marion’s three wells come online, the DPW will again consider reducing its intake from the MRV. (The MRV serves Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Marion and to a lesser extent, Rochester.)

            “We’ve seen an overall reduction in pumping (in 2022 relative to 2021,)” said Davis, who attributed people’s postpandemic return to workplaces as a key factor. Select Board member Norm Hills asked if the drought had run the consumption up. Davis said Marion’s water restrictions “helped out quite a bit.”

            Benson Brook water tower has maintained its capacity. Parker confirmed that the tower is billed directly by the MRV.

            “I think the long-term strategy, once we have Mary’s Pond, East/West, all of the well fields and MRV up and running … we don’t rely on one in particular – they all balance each other out so we don’t burn out any of the usage,” said McGrail, citing prior discussion with Davis.

            “I scratch my head and wonder how bad off we were before we started all these projects,” said Parker.

            “All we had was the MRV that’s it,” said McGrail, noting an emergency connection with water-rich Wareham was being pursued at that time. “Once we get all our well fields up and running and everything going, really MRV’s our emergency connection.”

            Regarding the drought, Marion issued water restrictions from June 15 to September 15. If tanks drop below a certain level, then another restriction would be required per the state Department of Environmental Protection, but Davis said levels are nowhere near such a trigger.

            Faced with the option of letting annual mandatory water restrictions expire on September 15 or extend them to the board’s October 7 public meeting, the Select Board voted to wait and reevaluate the situation on October 7. McGrail said the restrictions have not resulted in complaints.

            Davis said the Point Road water tower is out of commission, but Mill Street (Route 6), Great Hill and Benson Brook towers are all at proper levels. The Point Road water tower was taken offline due to roof damage. The aging tank is under consideration for rehabilitation or permanent decommissioning. Parker requested a report from Davis on the status of the Point Road water tower evaluation.

            In his Town Administrator’s Report, McGrail told the Select Board that the town has officially hired Saltonstall Architects to design the new DPW operations center. McGrail said it was a competitive selection process and that Will Saltonstall will offer design options.

            The Building Committee, meantime, will soon conduct site visits of wood, rod-iron and steel and Morton constructions. Visits to the Kittansett Club maintenance facility and the Rochester DPW will be on the tour. The Building Committee will meet again later this month.

            McGrail also shared positive news on the solar project at the Benson Brook landfill. The Eversource interconnection is complete, and the connection to the grid has been approved.

            Construction will cost more than what the bid proposal estimated, so the additional cost will lower lease payments from $140,000 to $100,000 per year. The financial lease cost remains under evaluation. Next steps will see McGrail meet with CVEC and contractor General Electric, and in November, he will present amendments to the agreement for the Select Board’s review.

            Interviews for a third member of the Board of Health will be conducted in joint session with the Board of Health (Dr. John Howard and Dr. Ed Hoffer) during the Select Board’s next meeting on September 27. Alvin Johnson, Mary Nelson and Tina McMichael are up for consideration for the spot vacated earlier this summer by Dot Brown. A joint vote is planned for October 4.

            McGrail is working with Marion Police Chief Richard Nighelli and Sippican School on planning a stronger police presence at the town’s public elementary school. A proposal will be presented to the Marion School Committee at its September 14 public meeting.

            McGrail shared positive reports on three activities fronts: a successful Town Party last month at Silvershell Beach (McGrail publicly thanked Donna Hemphill and the rest of the volunteers); the opening of the Sippican Elementary School playground (McGrail credited ORR Facilities Director Gene Jones) and an immensely successful U.S. Senior Amateur golf championship held August 25 to September 1 at the Kittansett Club.

            Marion is also looking at installing four pickleball courts on the site of the tennis courts no longer in use at the Point Road playground. McGrail is working with Recreation Director Scott Tavares on an application for funding to be made to the Community Preservation Committee.

            Fire Chief Brian Jackvony and Police Chief Richard Nighelli appeared in an appointment to introduce the new Community Emergency Response Team (CERT): Nicole Barros, Donna Hemphill, W. Dale Jones, Douglas Katz, Margaret Malkoski, Vin Malkoski, Lawrence Robert, Lauren Roberts and Helen Westergard. Absent were: Eileen Molloy, Maria Rowley and Jeannie Sheets.

            FEMA training led to all volunteers on the team passing a final exam, setting up a graduation. Marion has recently gone to the national CERT concept that allows participation from community members of different backgrounds and skillsets. Nighelli publicly thanked EMT/MMA graduate Jack Mills and Marion Police Department Administrative Specialist Lauren Roberts.

            Under Action Items, the Select Board voted to approve several proposals including authorizing DPW Director Nathaniel Munafo to act on the town’s behalf for the MassDEP DWSRF Lead Service Line (LSL) Inventories loan application. MassDEP will fund the inventory program of $20,000,000 in 100 percent refundable loans. Marion must submit its inventory to the state by October 16, 2024. McGrail said the town does not believe there are any lead water lines in Marion but is required by the state to conduct the inventory.

            Also on the list: a two-week, motor-home permit for Sheila Mitchell at 507 Delano Road; the declaration of September 10 as National Suicide Prevention Day and September as National Suicide Prevention Month in Plymouth County; a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the Sippican Historical Society’s donation of a new HVAC system for the Music Hall and McGrail thanked the Historical Society for its benevolence.

            Several events were approved, including the Marion Art Center’s request for street closures for its annual Halloween parade on Monday, October 31, from 4:00 pm to conclusion; a one-day liquor license to the Marion Social Club, 44 Pumping Station Road for its Ham & Bean Supper scheduled for October 15 from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm and street closures from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm for the annual Christmas Stroll on Sunday, December 11. Parker thanked Eiv Strand and his team for “keeping this going.”

            The board also voted to approve the following appointments: Matt Shultz to full membership with the Conservation Commission (Marc Bellanger has resigned), alternate member Wendy Bidstrup to full voting membership with the Cultural Council and several other applications and recommendations to boards and committees. The board also approved McGrail’s revisions to the town’s Memorial Policy.

            The board voted to approve a $612.12 water/sewer credit (final readings August 8), along with water/sewer commitments of $612.12 (August 9), $520.55 (August 9) and $546.46 (August 18) and an agreement with a private homeowner at 50 Oakdale Avenue to build a water main to town standards and to be turned over to the town at completion.

            The next meeting of the Marion Select Board is scheduled for Tuesday, September 27, at 5:00 pm at the Police Station.

Marion Select Board

By Mick Colageo

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