Governor Peter Shumlin, federal officials, Berlin town leaders, and contractors marked the beginning of construction of the long-awaited Berlin Municipal Water System Tuesday during a ceremony at the Berlin Fire Department, one of the new system’s users. The project, under development for more than two decades, won voter approval in 2013 and secured a $5.8 million grant and loan package through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2014.
“Berlin’s new water system will provide residents and commercial users with safe, affordable drinking water and a reliable fire suppression system,” said USDA Rural Development Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady. “This investment from the federal government lowers the water rates both residents and commercial users will pay and positions a small rural community like Berlin with infrastructure that spurs economic development and job creation.”
“I’m honored to help kick off this wonderful community achievement. Decades of work and dedication have gone into making this a reality, and I congratulate all who have put so much effort into making today a reality. This is an important step that will not only provide this community with abundant, safe drinking water but also with additional economic opportunity for the area and its residents,” stated Governor Peter Shumlin.
Representatives of Vermont’s three member Congressional Delegation -- U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and U.S. Representative Peter Welch -- marked the occasion by praising the Town of Berlin for their determination to bring this vital economic development project to fruition. Leahy, Sanders and Welch have fought for federal funding for USDA Rural Development’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program in federal appropriations bills and the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill.
USDA Rural Development provided the town with a $1,825,024 grant and a $4,016,000 loan to help the town provide drinking water and fire protection through the greater Berlin Corners area. The area includes Airport Road, Industrial Lane, Fisher Road, Paine Turnpike, Crosstown Road, Shed Road and Granger Road. In addition, the project incorporates the Berlin Water Company’s 45 existing customers by converting the system into a public system. Users will pay approximately $600.00 a year for municipal water. Without the USDA grant, users would have paid $200.00 more annually.
Munson Earth-Moving of Williston was awarded the construction contract, which includes the construction of 32,000 feet of water mains, 40 new fire hydrants, a 400,000 gallon concrete water storage tank and a well pump station linking the town’s three newly tested and permitted deep bedrock wells. Otter Creek Engineering, Inc. of Rutland and Middlebury designed the system. Construction is expected to be completed in December.
Town officials noted that landowners in the Berlin Corners area have struggled to identify reliable drinking water sources. Landowners have reported deep and low yielding wells, while others have faced wells contaminated with road salt or other contaminants. In addition, some commercial properties have had to install extremely expensive individual fire protection systems due to the absence of municipal water services.
“The town is looking forward to operating this new water system before the end of the year,” said Berlin Selectboard Chairman Ture Nelson. “The town is proud to offer an affordable source of safe and reliable drinking water and fire suppression to a critical part of our town’s economic engine.”
USDA, through its RD mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $206 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas. For more information on Rural Development visit the Vermont Rural Development website (www.rd.usda.gov/vt) or contact USDA RD at 802-828-6000.