SALISBURY — Members of the tiny Ring's Island Water District have a big decision to make tomorrow night, when they decide whether to spend $1.7 million to replace their problematic old water mains on Bridge Road.
Depending on how the decision goes, it could raise water rates by 40 percent on the island's homeowners and businesses.
The discussion and subsequent vote on the project takes place at the 7 p.m. meeting at the Community House on Fourth Street. The water district commission and its manager, Paul Colby, will be on hand to discuss the pros and cons of the proposal and other alternatives. But according to Commission Chairwoman Nancy Sanders, even if the project isn't approved, the need to replace Bridge Road's aging water mains is critical.
"No matter whether (members) agree on the project, it's an issue that has to be faced," Sanders said. "We're hoping for a good turnout on Thursday because this issue isn't going to get any better."
The Ring's Island neighborhood sits on the bank of the Merrimack River, directly opposite downtown Newburyport. It's not an island per se, but it is separated from the rest of town by salt marshes.
To be replaced are 8,400 linear feet of water mains that were laid in 1938, Colby said. Since 1999, there have been 30 incidents along the piping that have needed to be addressed, costing about $100,000. If simple age weren't enough, the mains exist in a corrosive environment, which makes them more vulnerable to breaks and equipment failures, Colby said.
The present opportunity before the members comes from a loan/grant opportunity through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meant specifically for small water districts. It's money the town of Salisbury wouldn't qualify for because it's too big for the program.