By Katina Caraganis
ASHBY -- Selectmen voted to accept a grant from the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission that will investigate what it would take to bring public water to the center of town and establish a water district.
The grant, administered through the district local technical assistance program, gives the town $5,000 and 40 hours of consulting work, to look at options available to the town for public water.
Currently, there is no town water in Ashby and every homeowner and business relies on wells.
Resident Alan Pease, who helped facilitate the town receiving the grant, said by accepting the grant, the town agrees to match the grant with $5,000 plus the use of its land use agent.
"This will help to address problems with our town well," Pease said. Currently, the well servicing the town-owned buildings is currently failing and the issues need to be addressed.
"This grant will look at the idea of public water for town. It should give us some solutions on what can be don, either for the town or just the village center," he said.
Pease said it's likely the grant will look at whether it makes sense to lay enough piping for just the center of town to have public water, or whether it would make sense to tie in to either Fitchburg or Townsend's water department.
If the town chose that option, everyone who chose to tie into the system in town would be a rate payer and would pay for upgrades to the system as needed, Pease said.
Selectmen Steve Ingerson said he was hesitant about accepting the grant because the proposal did not lay out how a future project would be funded.
"The proposal didn't get into what it will cost the average taxpayer. It seems to me it would make more sense to put a new well in at the legion hall," he said. "This seems like a long process to go through just to get water to the legion, the grange, and to the church."
Selectmen Mike McCallum said that the proposal would give approximate cost projects for each proposed project, and what the average homeowner would pay if they opted to tie into the system.
"This is just a paper exercise," he said. "No piece of pipe will be laid yet. We could just dig a well in the woods near the common and it may not even be a useable well."
It is an option, he said, to tie the three town buildings on the common tied into the well at Ashby Elementary School and not drain that. He said that the well at the school is suitable for 10,000 gallons a day, and the school only uses 2,000 gallons a day.
"There is risk tapping into the school well. If you draw too much of it that, it could put the school in jeopardy," Ingerson said.
He also said he was concerned about the number of pending projects the town will need to pay for, including the new windows and roof at the elementary school, a high school building project, a new police station, and road maintenance.
"We're going to look at a project that is going to cost a lot of money. It seems to me this project doesn't make sense for Ashby," he said.
Pease said that it also has been looked at whether it would be a good idea to bring town sewer to residents in Ashby. If that is a direction the town wanted to go in, it would need to be decided if it made more sense to do the sewer and water project together so the road would only have to be dug up once.
"Getting some real numbers is the only way to make a logical decision," Pease said.
Follow Katina Caraganis on Twitter @kcaraganis.