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A Case Study for Why We Need Municipal Water in Windham?

The costs of developing commercial property are increased significantly due to our lack of municipal water. The lack of this important utility has been identified as the top reason that commercial development in Windham has been so slow. Currently 92% of Windham’s taxes are collected from homeowners, with very little commercial development to take up that burden, unlike other communities such as Andover, MA and Bedford, NH. 

A case study that demonstrates what Windham businesses must do to operate here is found in The Warde Health Care Center, a not-for-profit health care facility and large employer in Windham. WHCC had to make substantial upgrades to their existing water system in order to install a sprinkler system as mandated by the Feds.  The Center is serviced by a well, which had to be dug 1,000 feet deep and which utilizes a powerful pumping system to help fill a 50,000 gallon storage tank, which all had to be installed at the business owner’s expense. In addition, many other costly upgrades to the existing system were required, including installation of larger piping, and dredging of a small pond to provide an additional source of water for the WFD.   

This was a very expensive undertaking for the Center to take on and when completed, additional maintenance costs were incurred as well.  They are also now required to maintain the system to some very strict State standards. The Center believes that a municipal water supply may have been a simpler and less expensive process.  

Many commercial developers are not willing to take on these exorbitant and unpredictable costs and as a result, it is no surprise that commercial development is Windham has been stifled, slowing any relief of the tax burden for Windham residents. The WEDC believes that the study of municipal water options for Windham may be worth taking a closer look at. 

The Windham Economic Development Committee – Keeping you informed and remaining dedicated to enhancing the vitality of the local economy to balance the tax base for all Windham residents. Visit us on line at: www.windhamnewhampshire.com/committees/economic-development-committee

Dave (The Original) December 02, 2013 at 10:06 AM
Can you elaborate whether you are envisioning a municipal water supply for the entire town, or to supply a commercial zone along route 111?
soc December 03, 2013 at 02:28 PM
The big question is the funding model for the system. Here is a real example. I own property in a MA town that would like to bring expand public sewer to another section of town that will cost X million dollars. How the funding will go is the following. A betterment fee will be accessed with a 30 year payoff on every property owner that benefits from the system, a mandatory tie in period of 12 months and a connection fee to physically connect. The numbers $30k per property in benefit with a 1% interest paid as a betterment over 30 years, $3-8K to connect. So what is the proposed funding model or is this another tax grab like London Bridge Rd extension?
Al Letizio December 18, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Dave, there is no proposal for municipal water at this time. However, discussions have been for a source of supply along key commercial zones in an effort to remove constraints that currently exist on economic development in those areas. The goal is to bring in new sources of tax revenue to ease the current burden on residential taxpayers.
Al Letizio December 18, 2013 at 04:23 PM
SOC: We are not even close to municipal water in Windham and it is not being proposed to residents at this time or any time in the near future. What IS potentially being proposed is a study that would get us factual information on the costs and benefits of such a system and answers to questions such as yours. With that information available, town planners and residents could make a more informed decision on whether municipal water is worthwhile. Feel free to call me if I can answer any questions on this or any other matter.
GrassisGreener December 19, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Al, Why doesn't the WEDC work with the Commercial Developer's that stand to make Millions off the commercial property to "donate" the $35K in funding for this study?
Al Letizio December 20, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Dear GrassisGreener, That's a good question. Currently there are many parcels in Windham that could be developed for Commercial use, but several remain undeveloped. The lack of development of these parcels has a huge impact on the taxes that we all pay as residents. Many of these parcels are privately owned but a significant amount of this property is owned by the State of the Town. These parcels have been zoned for commercial use and what can be built on these parcels has been carefully planned and regulated through our town's building and planning ordinances, including the type of zone (i.e. Commercial A, Professional, Business & Technology, Neighborhood Business, etc.) They may also be subject to certain restrictions if they are in special zones (such as Canobie Lake Watershed Protection District, Wetlands & Watershed Protection District, Village Center District, etc.) Any potential developer would need to consider the combinations of restrictions on the use of any particular parcel before considering purchasing or development. The additional and significant deterrent to development is the lack of a municipal water supply. Without a known and quantifiable understanding of the cost associated with development of a particular parcel, or the understanding of the additional cost to provide water from a well, this has rendered much of the property less desirable than developing in neighboring communities where the water resource is available. The result is what we have in Windham today, with resident shouldering 92% of the tax burden and commercial properties lying empty and undeveloped. We all pay the price for the lack of commercial development and if we are OK with the level of taxes we are paying then we don't have a problem. If we want to see tax relief, encouraging positive economic development, is a way that way can do that and the lack of water resource is unquestionably the number one thing stopping that development. Perspective buyers or sellers of these properties are not necessarily concerned with building resources in the community. Instead, they'll just develop elsewhere, which is what we have seen. The Windham Economic Development Committee is a group of people just like us who advises the Board of Selectmen, other town Boards and us residents on matters that encourage positive development that contributes to lowering residents' tax burden. Windham residents would stand to receive the "millions off the commercial property" that you referenced in your question and those residents are who the WEDC has in mind with its mission. I don't know who you mean by the commercial developers you referenced, but if you know of someone or can point me/us in the right direction on who we can talk to who would be willing to donate funds toward the cost of a water study, by all means let me know and I'll pass it along. I'm sorry for the long response, but I hope it answers your question and clarifies this for anyone else reading. I apologize that I cant always respond to these messages in a timely manner, but anyone reading can feel free to contact me personally at my Selectman's email address of aletizio@windhamnewhampshire.com or by calling me directly at 603-894-4445 x24. It's a privilege for me to represent you on the BOS.
GrassisGreener December 20, 2013 at 02:25 PM
Appreciate the response and one thing that is more clear that much of the land is still State/Town owned. I probably used the wrong term with regards to commercial developers. Thinking more on the lines of the commercial real estate co's and the actual commercial property owners that put up their big signs that advertise "Build on 30 +/- acres". I would think it's a much easier sell for them 30 +/- acres without water vs. 30 +/- acres with water.
soc December 21, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Al, I realize that only a study is being proposed. For me, it might be worth the price of a six pack to be entertained by debate that follows. If approved and produced, the first and only section people will be interested is is the implementation funding. This is all about a value proposition just as presented for Warde Health in this article. In reality a 1000 ft well, large storage tank and the operating costs might be chicken feed when compared to extending existing systems to Windham locations. I just don't see this going forward unless there is some government grants or something that takes the sting out of the speculative investment part of the costs as the customers really don't exist as it is vacant land we desire to be developed. IMO the only model that will get approval to move forward will put the burden on the consumers of the 'utility'.

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