Published in the September 22, 2016 edition
By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING — Town Meeting voted last June to join the MWRA district for water supply. And Monday night, the Board of Selectmen accomplished another milestone towards making MWRA membership a reality, voting 5 to 0 to purchase land on Mill St. in North Reading as the site of a future pumping station.
Last June, Town Meeting approved up to $750,000 for land acquisition for a pumping station. Monday night, the Selectmen approved the purchase and sale agreement and authorized Chairman Robert Mauceri to sign the deed to acquire 9 Mill St., over four acres with a single family house on it, as the future location of the pumping station to bring MWRA water from Reading and connect into the North Reading distribution system.
The Selectmen agreed to pay $700,000 for the property, less than the amount authorized by Town Meeting. The source of the funding will come through bonding, as voted by the Town Meeting voters.
Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto said the property is ideally suited to the town’s needs because it is located just to the north of the Reading–North Reading town line. The plan calls for the MWRA water to cross the Ipswich River at the Mill St. bridge into North Reading. When the pumping station is built the water will be connected to the North Reading distribution system.
This is a friendly acquisition, not an eminent domain taking. Gilleberto said the town successfully negotiated with the present owners for several months for the parcel, which was considered one of the most desirable locations for the needed pump station.
“This is an important step in our project to move forward with the MWRA connection, to have this site secured” and to meet the project timelines, said Gilleberto.
“This will allow us to proceed further with the interconnection design that was authorized at the June Town Meeting. A critical piece of that design is the physical location of the pump station. Now we can proceed with the next steps in the design.”
Construction costs will be separate and requested at the next Town Meeting. The town has applied for a MassWorks state infrastructure grant to offset the construction costs.
“This is an important step in the (MWRA) process,” the T.A. added.
At the same time, the town is responding in good faith to a recent representation from the town of Andover that they would be interested in continuing to supply water to North Reading, Gilleberto said.
North Reading has a timeline to meet to in order to accomplish its goal of having MWRA water flow out of North Reading taps by July 1, 2019, when the Andover agreement expires. In order to meet that timeline, it was necessary to proceed with the Mill St. land purchase.
Selectman Stephen O’Leary said the 9 Mill St. location is a “critical piece and probably the most advantageous one for the town to acquire” because of its size and proximity and also because the land already has an easement on it which houses the water line that will be connected to Reading. This will minimize the impact on the neighborhood, he said.
In addition, the size of the parcel – over four acres – will allow the water department to situate the pumping station in an unobtrusive manner. It may be possible for the town to break off the single family home and sell it off to recoup some of the costs.
“This is the key parcel that serves our needs best.” O’Leary said the town did a market value analysis on the property before agreeing to the purchase. “It’s a fair deal.”
“It’s justifiable that we pulled the trigger on this,” said Selectman Michael Prisco because, it eliminates a substantial risk of not meeting the project timeline.
The goal all along was to acquire the property without resorting to eminent domain, O’Leary agreed.