Survey says... $2 million in grant monies

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 9:00am

Filling out a simple survey may be the key to more than $2 million in funding for a Water Company project.

The Water Company will need at least a 69 percent response rate for a survey that will be mailed out to 188 Block Island households in the Water District on Friday, Feb. 2. (That’s 130 responses.) If the survey response rate reaches that 69 percent benchmark, the Water Company will be eligible to apply for $2.26 million in grant and loan funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal Loan Program and Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank to replace a 3,800 foot section of its water main. The survey is a six-question, one-page document that seeks to determine the median income of water district households, and other basic household information.

“This is a big deal,” said Water Company Supt. John Breunig. The water main that needs replacing runs from the Eureka on High Street to the Payne’s Farm driveway. The water main was installed in 1974 and Breunig hopes to have it replaced no later than 2024. He brought the proposed project to the joint monthly meeting of the New Shoreham Water and Sewer Commissions on Monday, Jan. 22.

Breunig stressed that the non-profit advocacy group conducting the survey, Resources for Communities and People Solutions, will process the results anonymously at its Worcester office. RCAP specializes in technical assistance to small drinking water and wastewater systems, like on Block Island. 

“The important thing about this is that it will be completely confidential,” said Breunig of the survey. “We just care about determining the Island’s median income to apply for the loans.”

RCAP Technical Assistance Provider Mia McDonald, who gave a presentation at the meeting, said information from residents that is contained in the survey will “not be used to raise rates,” or for any other reason besides determining the median income for applying for grants, and low-interest loans.

As for installation, Breunig said the new water main could be installed alongside the old Asbestos Concrete pipe, precluding the need for providing a temporary water connection. He told the Commissioners that he has been consulting with Town Engineer Jim Geremia regarding the project.

In other news, Breunig said the Water Company has been busy dealing with burst pipes, and “most, if not all, were preventable.” He did note that the cold snap in December was “relentless.” Breunig urges Island homeowners to turn the heat up to 50 degrees when leaving their property for an extended time during the winter months.

At the meeting, the Water Commission voted unanimously (4-0) in favor of granting a $10,700 sewer abatement to owners of the Narragansett Inn for a 386,000 gallon water leak from a private well that ran through the water meter that was billed.  

“The leak was known about since May 2017, but no one could locate it due to its difficult location in an inaccessible crawl space under the building,” Breunig told The Times. “It was thought to be underground in between buildings. The Narragansett Inn made the Water and Sewer Companies aware of this in May. After the season was over, the leak was large enough to be located. With the smart meter I was able to get grab data from the meter to identify a fair abatement amount. It’s the largest one that I’ve ever done.”