Leave Well Enough Alone, Selectmen Say

Written by Administrator
 | Sunday, 27 January 2008 20:05
Duxbury selectmen this week voted unanimously not to support a town meeting proposal to pay for an area of the Delano open space property for a future well, claiming it amounted to buying the same land twice. Duxbury selectmen this week voted unanimously not to support a town meeting proposal to pay for an area of the Delano open space property for a future well, claiming it amounted to buying the same land twice.

The Community Preservation Committee’s Article 33 will ask Town Meeting voters to pay $117,600 for 10.49 acres of land that is part of the 32-acre Delano property off Old Cordwood Path. Special Town Meeting bought this land in 2002 for $1.65 million.

The land was purchased for open space, aquifer protection, affordable housing and a possible new well. Supporters of the purchase said the land would protect the town’s drinking water because it sits in a Zone II aquifer protection district located above five future wells, two of which are under development. Voters at the 2002 Special Town Meeting were also told that if the water department determined it could build a new 500,000-gallon-a-day well on the site, it would obtain 14 to 16 acres of the land and pay for it with water revenue.

The Community Preservation Committee is asking the water department to use its enterprise account to buy the land for two reasons: first, it is a way of repaying the CPA funds used to buy the land, and second, since not all Duxbury residents pay for town water, the rate payers should fund this purchase, said Conservation Administrator Joe Grady.

Selectmen disagreed.

“Tell me, how are we not asking the citizens of Duxbury to pay for this land twice?” asked Selectmen Chairman Betsy Sullivan.

Residents pay a 3 percent surcharge on their real estate tax bills to fund Community Preservation Act projects for open space, historic preservation and affordable housing. Protecting and developing new drinking water wells is also allowed under this state law.

Selectman John Tuffy said he thought that approximately 96 percent of residents use town water, and if so, then what was the point of asking the water rate payers to fund the well site purchase, especially if creating a new well was years in the future.

Grady said that for the 10 acres to be a well, the state requires the water department to have complete control over the area, either by owning it or by having deeded access to it. The water department must prevent trespassers, he said. The CPC had debated whether it should subdivide the land to carve out this parcel or do it using easements.

George Wadsworth of the CPC and water advisory board said the water department should buy the land using water revenue to keep the accounting record straight.

“The water department should pay for its costs as much as it can,” said Wadsworth.

He said the water department did testing and found the site had some capacity for a drinking water well. Protecting well sites when they may not be developed for 20 to 30 years is not uncommon, he added.

Finance Committee Chairman Frank Mangione suggested that the CPC should consider selling the land to the water department for $1.

“It would be a nice gift to the people of Duxbury to sell it for one dollar,” said Tuffy.

CPC chairman Holly Morris said the board of assessors helped the committee set the purchase price for the land.

Selectmen did vote their approval of the CPC’s two other town meeting articles. They supported Article 31, which will allocate 10 percent of the Community Preservation Act tax surcharge to each of its three purposes: affordable housing, open space and historical preservation. The 10 percent amounts to $186,500 for each use. Morris said the town received $922,706 in its state match and has already taken in $522,131 in surcharge receipts this fiscal year. She said the town accountant estimated the town will collect another $420,163 before the fiscal year ends June 30. The 2004 total is expected to be $1.865 million, she said.  Of the three specific accounts, only the historical preservation account shows a balance, $177,000, carried over from previous years, said Morris. The remaining 70 percent of CPC money goes into a general account to be used on projects in any of those three categories.

Selectmen also unanimously supported Article 32, which will establish a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) map for $13,800. This project will take the assessors maps and digitize them. It will also integrate the assessor’s database of information on properties. Deputy Assessor Dick Finnegan called the project a good first step in the effort to bring GIS to town government.