Merrimack attorney encourages expanded timeline for water company transferBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
March 19. 2018 9:55PM
MERRIMACK — The town’s legal counsel is encouraging petitioners to expand the timeline of a warrant article that seeks to dissolve the Merrimack Village District and allow the town to take over the water entity.
Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water has presented the MVD with three separate warrant articles for its annual meeting next week that could potentially give the town more authority and oversight of the water being distributed to more the 25,000 customers.
The most significant warrant article seeks to disband the MVD municipal entity and its Board of Commissioners and transfer management to the town by engaging in a transition plan with town councilors. If approved at the MVD town meeting on March 27, and again supported at a subsequent townwide election possibly in April 2019, the date of transfer is to occur by April 15, 2019, according to the warrant article.
“The dissolution is contingent upon the town agreeing to take it over,” said Attorney Matt Upton, stressing local voters would have to support the initiative.
As the warrant article is written, Upton said it would be difficult to have that acquisition ready to go within one year. He noted that it took the city of Nashua several years to acquire Pennichuck Corp.
“It is a lot of work, a lot of due diligence … I am not sure that a year is going to be sufficient,” he said, asking the petitioners to perhaps reconsider the deadline and extend it by at least another year.
Town Manager Eileen Cabanel said it will take time and money to ensure that the transfer, if it is supported by voters, takes place properly and that the town is protected.
Upton agreed, saying the sale will include environmental assessments, a possible remedial action plan and more. A forensic auditor would need to be hired to review MVD’s finances, as well as environmental engineers, according to Upton.
It has been nearly two years since contamination was discovered in private and public wells in the vicinity of Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Merrimack, which has left many families in Merrimack, Bedford and Litchfield drinking bottled water.
On Monday, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services announced that it will host a public information meeting on Wednesday to discuss the status of negotiations between NHDES and Saint-Gobain.
“There is potential for discussion of a major announcement at the meeting,” said a statement from DES. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Campbell High School in Litchfield.
In addition, attorneys for both Saint-Gobain and the MVD have been working on a proposed settlement to facilitate construction of a water treatment facility for two MVD wells that have been offline since contamination was discovered.
According to Upton, the state Secretary of State’s Office would likely support voters if they sought to dissolve MVD and allow the town to accept responsibility for its operations and maintenance, adding the courts would likely honor the intent of the warrant article as well.
“They have plenty of assets to cover their debt,” Paul Micali, the town’s finance director, said of MVD.
According to Micali, MVD has roughly $6.9 million in outstanding bonds, with an unrestricted fund balance of about $7.4 million.