NORTH SMITHFIELD – What began last year as a project to address deficiencies found at a single water storage tank used by the Slatersville Water Company has evolved into a larger effort to improve the system in North Smithfield, with help from federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
ARPA funds will be utilized to rehabilitate a tank on Comstock Road, install a booster pump to increase pressure to the entire system, and demolish two unused water tanks on Ridge and Comstock Roads, according to a memo to councilors last week from Water & Sewer Coordinator Maura Beck.
The focus on water system improvements and the elimination of the obsolete tanks began after the Rhode Island Department of Health notified the town of deficiencies found in the one million gallon tank on Comstock Road, the only storage unit providing water to some 3,000 residents on the Slatersville system.
Last June, the town hired engineering firm Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. of Burlington, Mass. to begin to address the issue, with the group to perform design and project management work at a cost of $54,500.
And last week, councilors increased the budget for Stantec’s engineering services to $228,500, expanding the scope of the contract to include for bid specs and oversight of the project.
“The cost to complete this project is estimated at $3.3 million, which includes the cost of the attached contract,” noted Beck. “The finance director has earmarked some ARPA money to complete these tasks, so financing will not be required.”
“It needs to be done. It’s maintenance,” Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski told councilors at the board’s meeting on Monday, June 6.
Zwolenski said the town has already received $1.8 million in federal ARPA funds that can be used to address the project, with two more disbursements still expected, for a total of $3.6 million.
Town officials first learned of deficiencies with the Comstock Road tank in 2017, but improvements proved cost-prohibitive prior to the recent federal allocations, aimed at helping communities across the country recover from the ongoing economic effects of the pandemic.
“There were minor issues with the tank,” Zwolenski said. “It did not affect the quality of the water.”
“While we have the APRA money, hopefully we can do this,” he said.
Councilor Paul Vadenais questioned if the tank on Country Way should be saved to create redundancy in the system, noting that it was put up in the early 1980s.
“That’s a fairly new tank in regards to water towers,” Vadenais said. “I just wonder: is it worth leaving there for storage?”
Zwolenski noted that the tank has been inoperable for many years.
“According to the water superintendent, it would not make sense to keep this,” he said, noting that even if the tank proved usable, significant funding would be needed to bring it up to current spec. “It’s not like we could just go out and fill it with water.”
“I believe it should be taken down,” Zwolenski said.
Vadenais also questioned if the town will have to wait until it receives the full funding expected through ARPA.
“We have the assurance of the United States federal government,” Zwolenski said of the money, noting that the town can have the project ready for when the full funding arrives. “I want to get out ahead of this, if we can.”
The administrator said that once the old water tank is removed, a small park could be built on the town-owned Country Way property.
Councilors unanimously approved payment of an additional $174,000 to Stantec for engineering services.