PITTSFIELD — The Town Council has approved using a loan for water and sewer projects on Birchwood Terrace and Hunnewell Avenue and to appropriate money to purchase Fire Department equipment.

The council agreed Tuesday to use loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund for the improvements along Birchwood and Hunnewell, but declined to use a loan for other work on Library Street.

The town applied for the program in March and was awarded loans with low interest rates for all three projects, according to Town Manager Kathryn Ruth. In past years, the town has received approval for just one project, and officials had not expected to get all three.

The water and sewer systems on Birchwood need considerable work, Ruth said, and the water line has had several breaks in the last year, prompting complaints from residents.

On Hunnewell, the sewer pipes are too small, Ruth said. Some Cianbro Corp. facilities are located on the road, and the pipes are not suitable for industrial use. This has caused sewer backups in the area, including in some of the homes on the road.

Work had been proposed on Library Street, as well, because there are concerns that the town soon will need to pave the roads. Any sewer and water work would need to be done under the road before paving occurs. An added element are concerns that Maine Central Institute could change the school’s traffic patterns, resulting in more traffic on Library.

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However, there are not any significant issues with the water or sewer lines along that street and councilors said it was not worth the money. They agreed to move forward without that work being done.

“If we’re seeing no issues now whatsoever, why put $1 million of burden on the citizens of Pittsfield for no reason,” Councilor Ron Jester said.

The total for the Birchwood and Hunnewell projects comes to around $2.5 million, and the loan will be repaid over 20 years, at a 1% interest rate. The town will almost certainly have to raise the sewer rates in order to pay back the loan.

Ruth said sewer rates have not increased since 2009, although there was a significant increase that year because prior to that, the sewer rates had not been raised since the 1970s.

The money from the loans should become available in the fall, Ruth said, so the projects would begin next year.

Councilors also approved the use of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for self-contained breathing equipment for the Fire Department. Councilors have discussed the need for the equipment and the best way to pay for it for several months.

The council approved the purchase of the equipment from Fire Tech and Safety of New England for roughly $148,000. Of that cost $13,000 will come from money that was set aside by the Fire Department in past years for the purchase, and the other $135,000 will come from American Rescue Plan Act money.

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