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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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Yes! Another Water Vote!


By AnnMarie Harmon

When I was asked to sign a petition for a revote I felt proud to live in a town where the citizens get involved with an extremely important issue for the health and well-being of the town. It is very clear that this is a citizen-driven initiative, not a political, divisive us-versus-them initiative. This is an initiative not for a project that only a few can benefit from -- we ALL would benefit from providing clean, safe water to our homes, businesses and elementary school.

Before signing the petition, the first question I asked was: Can we legally have a revote according to state statutes? Can we have it before the window of opportunity of coordinating it with the sidewalk project ends? Can we have the vote before we lose the opportunity to take advantage of the loans? Can we coordinate the water vote with another vote so it is not just a vote for the water? The answer was YES -- if the required number of signatures were provided, a revote could take place on the same day as our state of Vermont primary vote for governor and other state positions -- September 9! Now that makes sense!

Why have a revote when the water has already been turned down twice before? Because each time the votes were extremely close -- each time we are learning more and more about the critical importance of providing clean, reliable water to the people who need it the most. And in addition, for the second vote the structure of the vote was changed to address the concerns of the voters.

Why provide water? Currently, we have a situation where everyone has to have their own well. Several buildings may share a well, like the buildings that make up the Bridge Street Marketplace, but for the most part there is one well per building. State law requires all buildings that serve the public and provide water for toilet rooms must have a certified water operator who is responsible for the upkeep and testing of the water. When my husband and I owned the Waitsfield House, in order to save at least a thousand dollars a year, I decided to become a certified water operator. After 40 hours of classroom time and a four-hour exam, I became a certified water operator-in-training. After six months of working alongside a certified operator would I finally be able to run the water system for our well. Now consider that every well in Waitsfield that serves as a public water supply has to have a certified water operator! What a waste of resources to have so many certified water operators in this town when we could have ONE!

Why provide water? Why can't Waitsfield Elementary School provide hot lunch for their students and have to have lunch made every day in the Fayston Elementary School kitchen? Because the water supply from the well is not adequate. The PTA would LOVE to have fundraisers to raise the money for upgrading the kitchen but they can't due to the water issue. Why do the WES kids have to bring in their own water bottles to school? Because there was a "Boil Water Alert" so often that many parents stopped trusting the drinking fountains. It is generally not known that the WES is currently required to upgrade their water system that is estimated to cost over $25,000. This state requirement has been put on hold to see if the water vote can be approved.

Why provide water? The wells in Waitsfield are probably producing excellent water naturally -- right? Wrong. The days of getting pure clean water right from the well are long gone. There are so many potential ways to contaminate each and every individual water supply! Many of the wells and the piping that support them are so old that bacteria are gathering. So the water has to get "shocked" again and again dispersing bleach into our septic systems so that now our septic systems are getting a beating.

Why provide water? For our future sustainability. Please vote YES on this critical, life supporting important issue.

AnnMarie Harmon lives in Waitsfield.

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