Published in the April 27, 2017 edition
By BILL LAFORME
NORTH READING – The town is continuing to take steps toward joining the MWRA water system, with one of those steps being a June town meeting warrant article to fund a new pump station for that project.
Town Administrator Mike Gilleberto updated selectmen on the town’s long-term water plans at Monday night’s meeting, adding that permitting activities for the pump station are also set to begin later this spring, with an eye on construction running through later this season into early 2019, assuming town meeting approval.
Gilleberto also reported that he and other town officials had met recently with counterparts in Andover to discuss that town’s renewed interest in providing for North Reading’s long-term water needs. The town administrator added that there is still skepticism among North Reading officials about the cost of water from Andover as well as the long-term reliability of its supply. In contrast, noted Gilleberto, joining the MWRA water system would be a permanent solution for the town. Despite the ongoing move toward the MWRA, Gilleberto added that North Reading officials would be meeting again soon with their counterparts in Andover, in part just to keep a working dialogue open with that town. Andover uses the Merrimack River for its water supply.
In a follow up phone conversation with the Transcript, Gilleberto said that Andover currently provides about 60% of North Reading’s water, with the rest coming from wells in town. Andover informed North Reading back in 2014 it would not be able to provide for all of its long term water needs, added Gilleberto, which helped spur the current move toward the MWRA. Since then, the town has apparently changed that position of course. That said, Gilleberto added that the town is looking for a water solution that will last for generations, not just for the short term, and he estimated that the cost of the MWRA water supply could be 25 percent lower than Andover’s.
Notwithstanding the cost savings, there will still be some upfront expenditures required for the town to join the MWRA, noted the town administrator. The costs associated with getting into the MWRA would be about $7 million, said Gilleberto, along with about $9 million for the pump station, with much of that cost to be sought at June town meeting. There could be some incentives from the state to help defray these costs, he added, such as grant funding and interest-free payback on the $7 million.