WATERTOWN — The Town Council, meeting Monday, October 4, addressed a flooding issue at Ball Farm Road and Buckingham Street.
Town Attorney Paul Jessell told council members that the issue is not new and the town had advised owners to clean out a clogged pipe on site in 2015.
A brook behind the houses had been piped by a previous landowner, directing water under the building occupied by Ordinary Joe’s.
Mr. Jessell estimated the pipe was installed in the 1900s and stated that, if Watertown attempts to fix a problem that the town had not created, the town would then own the problem. “It’s a very serious issue.”
Water should be going to a collection area maintained by the state, but the water is not moving through the pipes and is going over the ground.
Chair Mary Ann Rosa confirmed that the town had no responsibility for the clogged pipe that is now causing the flooding. Mr. Jessell said Watertown could request indemnification from homeowners before attempting a repair.
An indemnification would hold the town harmless but, in the attorney’s opinion, not prevent future lawsuits.
Ms. Rosa also confirmed that the town might set a precedence of accepting responsibility for other private issues.
Mr. Jessell listed other water issues in town, specifically one where residents are combining funds to address issues.
The town has requested the residents prove all funding is in place before providing needed materials for the project; the town will not perform the work.
As the council discussed the matter, members noted the existing safety issue as the problem extends beyond the private property and across Buckingham Street.
Mr. Jessell pointed out that no study has been done to determine the scope of the problem and what needs to be done to correct the issue.
He was unaware of any cost estimates shared with the property owners in 2015.
The town attorney emphasized his role in the matter was to provide legal advice to the town as the council members expressed concern for both the homeowners and public using the roads. “I’m not here to talk about the moral right or wrong. I don’t mean to be cold and heartless. I’m here to protect the town from further liability. It’s a private water issue.”
In his report to the council, Town Manager Mark Raimo noted that the Government Finance Officers Association of the U.S. and Canada has presented an award of financial reporting achievement to Finance Director Susan Zappone for adhering to program standards.
He has discussed cyber security with the town’s insurance carrier to improve protocols as recommended by the carrier.
When the town manager presented the updated town organizational chart for the council’s approval, he noted that the jury committee and redevelopment agency were removed; the latter is described in a town ordinance.
The town clerk is now described as a department head and the building official was moved to the planning and zoning area of the chart.
The water and sewer superintendent is now a department head and was moved outside of the Public Works Department.
Data Processing was renamed to Information Technology.
The council approved the organization chart, with one suggestion to add a date on the document.
In other business, the council unanimously approved an appropriation of $17,075 for fencing for the Watertown Dog Park.
The bids for the park had been budgeted with a contingency, but that will not cover the increase in pricing.
The council also unanimously approved an appropriation of $9,500 for consultation services to prepare and present a safety improvement concept plan for Main Street and a $28,550 appropriation for repairs to the Watertown Animal Shelter.
Mr. Raimo pointed out that the Main Street work could qualify for state funding and a successful grant application could garner public support, which would help the town apply for and receive funding. “We’re getting ahead of the game.”
The animal shelter failed an inspection in July and a list of repairs includes making floors and walls impervious to water to allow for proper disinfection.
The work plan will include grinding the concrete floor to properly adhere an epoxy finish at $23,000 and latches and chain link fencing would be replaced at $2,200.
An additional $3,300 would complete fencing around the exterior of the building to allow dogs to leave the kennel. That expense is outside of the scope of repairs and a recommendation from the animal control officer.
Another recommendation is for air conditioning as temperatures reach the upper 80s during the summer. That work and a roof update would be budgeted through the upcoming town budget.
Rodents had damaged some wiring, which could be repaired when the electrical panel is upgraded for the air conditioning.