Pittsfield residents vote no on village water district

  • The entrance to the Berry Pond reservoir off of Route 107 in Pittsfield. Residents will vote to form a water district in Pittsfield on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Saturday, December 16, 2017

The residents of Pittsfield have denied a plan to create a village water district, effectively killing any future efforts to buy the Pittsfield Aqueduct Company.

The card vote at a special town meeting Saturday morning was “very overwhelmingly not in favor,” according to an email from Pittsfield town clerk/tax collector Erica Anthony.

A group of residents want to buy the Aqueduct Company to create a locally controlled operation. Most of the town is on well water, but a little over 600 customers in the downtown area, including municipal buildings, are served by the aqueduct company, a subsidiary of Pennichuck, a publicly held corporation whose sole shareholder is the city of Nashua.

Fred Okrent, chairman of the Aqueduct Purchase Committee, said the committee had suggested the district’s border run from Berry Pond into town, encompassing those who are served by the water and the reservoir’s borders.

However, the selectboard, where the majority of members were against the project, voted to have the district encompass the entire town – which Okrent said essentially doomed the effort from the get-go, because it would make the whole town financially responsible for the system.

Jim Allard, chairman of the Pittsfield selectboard, had previously said he was against the idea because of its potential cost and a lack of infrastructure to handle a full-scale water system.

Purchasing the company would have cost between $3 million and $5 million, selectman Gerard LeDuc had previously said.

Larry Goodhue, CEO of Pennichuck, had previously said the company would entertain a sale of its Pittsfield subsidiary, which accounts for about 2 to 5 percent of Pennichuck’s total revenues.

Okrent, clearly disappointed by the vote’s outcome, said by phone after the meeting that the project was essentially dead. It would take too much time and effort, he said, to try and change people’s minds in time to revive the proposal for a citizens petition for the next town meeting.

He said the idea to buy the Aqueduct Company has existed since 2006, before he joined the Aqueduct Purchase Committee, but has had difficulty gaining traction in the town. Attendance at public information sessions held over the last two to three years have been “abysmal,” he said.