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Water flow questions extend beyond school; Fire protection and supply in Guelphwood area weighed.

Byline: Brian Lee

SOUTHBRIDGE - Town officials have expressed concerns about water needs of the planned middle-high school off Torrey Road.

The school will put demand on a system in an area of town that already has high pressure on it, officials said.

The 200,000-square-foot, three-story building will be on a relatively high point in town, so there's concern about sufficient water pressure, according to Department of Public Works Director Kenneth Kalinowski.

The Department of Fire Services has an engineer assisting the town to assess options for how to best provide water pressure and volume to serve immediate and possible future needs for potable water and fire suppression at the school, said Jennifer Mieth, spokeswoman for the state fire marshal's office. The engineer met July 22 with town officials.

Mr. Kalinowski, Fire Chief Richard J. Ciesla Jr. and Thomas W. Cutler of White Water Inc., Southbridge water division operations manager, requested another meeting with the project's architects and engineers, and the state fire engineer. More information is needed to make a judgment.

A water main from Guelphwood Road will run to the school, which is scheduled for a September groundbreaking, Mr. Kalinowski said.

Coupled with the concern about demand is the fact that the town also supplies water to Charlton, he said.

Southbridge will consider an updated model of its water-distribution network "to try to guesstimate what the impacts could be," Mr. Kalinowski said.

The town doesn't have a storage tank in that area. It has tanks on Breakneck and Dennison roads and others proposed at the Hunter's Ridge, a community of single-family homes, and the industrial park access road off Route 169 that is under construction.

In February, town councilors unanimously approved borrowing $76.5 million for the school, with the Massachusetts School Building Authority agreeing to pay 80 percent.

The MSBA loan does not cover any off-site improvements.

The school plan calls for a pair of 35,000-gallon below-ground water tanks, which the school engineers say is enough to supply firefighting flows to the school for an hour.

Mr. Kalinowski said he wasn't trying to spark concern about public safety.

"Their engineers and fire protection engineers are confident they can, and will, meet all of the state codes, and I have no reason to doubt them," he said.

The new school would seem to be a potential location for a storage tank and Mr. Kalinowski asked to look at supplying water in that section of town "beyond just the school."

Homes in that area have wells and septic systems.

Mr. Kalinowski said he didn't know what the additional cost would be for broadening the infrastructure, but he said it could be significant if the town needs a pump station to increase the pressure.

Not long ago, a sign popped up near Torrey Road announcing 50 acres are for sale, Mr. Kalinowski pointed out. He said he expects there would be more development opportunities.

"I'd look at it as a pragmatic, practical question," he continued. "If we're going to spend X dollars on those tanks, should the town think about spending Y dollars for putting in something that will have more broad-reaching effect in years to come?"

School Committee member Scott S. Lazo agreed the town should try to tie in homes in that area of town if it can.

Early indications are the school project will come in under budget and be finished in 2012, a year earlier than expected, said Mr. Lazo, who also chairs the School Building Committee.

"We'd love to take a creative approach with the state to see if we can use some of our surplus from the building to offset some of our infrastructure," he said. "Nothing's impossible."

Although he lives at that end of town, Mr. Lazo said his house is more than two miles up the road, too far away to benefit. "There's no gain," he said, "for Scotty Lazo."
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 29, 2010
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