Bow’s water proposal for Concord includes financial incentives for city

Monitor staff
Published: 2/10/2019 5:08:22 PM

Officials in Bow have crafted a new proposal asking Concord to extend its water services to Bow Junction, an area where groundwater lacks in quality.

The plan includes incentives for the city that Bow’s leadership believes both municipalities can be happy with, including a 50-50 split of the increase in property tax assessments for properties hooked up to Concord’s water system.

Bow also proposed to pay a premium of up to 10 percent over the current water rates that Concord charges its commercial users.

“There’s a willingness to share that value with Concord,” Bow select board Chairman Christopher Nicolopoulos said. “We’re trying to find a mechanism to make this a win-win.”

The board sent its proposal to each member of Concord’s city council in January. The city council’s next meeting is Monday.

For years, Bow’s leaders have been trying to convince the city to extend its water services to the junction of Interstates 93 and 89, an area that has seen significant growth in business development over that last 40-plus years.

The benefit for Bow is obvious: clean water helps attract business or incentivises current businesses to expand their footprint. Town Manager David Stack said several businesses in the area have to continuously spend money treating the water they use.

The proposed agreement would last up to 20 years and Bow would be required to have an alternative system in place before the deal ends. The town would bear all costs relating to water lines and their maintenance.

“We’re trying to find a way to get businesses access to water without spending several million dollars in upgrades,” Nicolopoulos said. “We want water for Bow Junction so there is good, healthy water available to employees in that area. That’s what this is about. It’s not just about getting property value.”

As for Concord, the city’s leadership has in the past expressed a desire to keep this economic advantage within the city limits.

“We rely on property taxes to fund our services, and water is one of those things that command a tax base,” Concord Mayor Jim Bouley told the Monitor in 2017. “As we see costs (to provide services) increase and look at the challenges we have, I’m not sure regionalization is something we need to be thinking about.”

Bouley did not return messages seeking comment for this story.

Concord’s city manager, Tom Aspell, told the Monitor last week that the issue of supply has long been a concern for the city when this topic has come up in the past. The economic dynamics of the two municipalities have also changed, he said.

“At one time, Concord had a relatively high tax rate for the region. Now, that is not the case anymore,” Aspell said. “If you cut (water) supply too close, do you preclude yourself from bringing in types of industrial users? ... Would existing businesses move?”

Aspell shared his thoughts after having seen this issue come up a few times in his 20 years working for the city. It’s up to Concord’s elected councilors to decide how they want to move forward, if at all.

In the early 1970s, when Concord was pursuing a $2.25 million federal grant to upgrade its water treatment plant, former city manager John Henchey envisioned the plant as “the nucleus of the regional water system,” serving Bow, Boscawen and the Pembroke-Allenstown water districts, according to previous Monitor reporting.

Such sentiment appears to have changed over time as demand for water within Concord has expanded. Bow’s leaders hope their proposal restarts the conversation.

“I don’t think every community should be on an island by themselves,” Nicolopoulos said. “We should not be recreating a whole infrastructure in every community. I understand we are different municipal bodies, but we can work together.”

To read Bow’s full proposal, visit ConcordMonitor.com.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3321, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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