Sutton Selectmen approve Manchaug Dam acceptance
Town comes out with $350,000
BY TOM REILLY
With the acceptance of the Manchaug Dam by the Sutton Board of Selectmen, the town will now explore hydropower options at the location. Photo Kevin Koczwara Sutton Town Administrator Jim Smith asked the Sutton Board of Selectmen to sign the acceptance of deed for Manchaug Pond and the dam. He said he would also be asking them to sign the agreement with Interface, the parent company of the Manchaug Pond Reservoir Corporation, which would allow the town to purchase the dam for a dollar. Smith noted that once the agreement was completed the town would receive $350,000 to fund the ongoing maintenance of the dam. The town administrator said he intended to fund the biannual dam inspections out of the town’s operating budget and thus allow the $350,000 to be invested and grow.
“I want to make sure that the town’s longterm interests are protected by that maintenance fund,” said Smith.
Selectman John Hebert said he read all of the literature associated with the dam acceptance and that it had been quite rewarding for him as a member of the Board of Selectmen. He noted that the controversy on the dam went way back. He talked about “accusations that Torrey Road was going to get blown up and the water was going to be down to nothing,” recalling how Interface petitioned the state back in 2009 for permission to breach the dam. Hebert said that the selectmen, Smith, the Conservation Commission and the Manchaug Pond Association “took a lot of heat” from people in both Sutton and Douglas who felt that that the town was following the wrong course in its dam negotiations with Interface.
“Sometimes if you just stick things out and go with your first feelings on what’s the right thing to do, that things are going to come out fine and tonight we’re signing an agreement for $350,000,” said Hebert.
Hebert agreed with Smith on letting the money grow to $500,000 and use it to protect the 330 acre Manchaug Pond. “It’s the recreational value; it’s the boat ramp; it’s the people that invest in the lake in Douglas and Sutton along our shore-fronts” that needed to be preserved, said Hebert. He said that by signing the agreement that the selectmen were ensuring that was exactly what was going to happen. He also applauded Smith for looking to use the dam’s hydro-power as a means of generating electricity. “That’s going to be a plus,” said Hebert.
Selectman Ken Stuart repeated what he had said at the spring town meeting—that he didn’t understand what the fuss was all about because to him the issue was a “nobrainer.” He said Manchaug was a treasure that the town needed to protect and what better way to protect it than to take ownership of it? He added that because of the escrow fund, the taxpayers really weren’t going to be affected by taking ownership of the dam. “The money is there to protect the dam long past anybody in this room is going to be around,” said Stuart. He also told his listeners that he would have approved the agreement even without the additional money. He praised the Manchaug Pond Association for pressing hard, even when there was lots of opposition. Finally, he thanked Smith for his work on this project.
Selectman Rick Hersom said he echoed what the first two selectmen had already said. He called this an issue that had not been “a very popular situation.” However, like Stuart, he said he would have done the deal even without the $350,000.
“Any time that we can preserve a natural resource that is as important as I think Manchaug Pond is to our residents, we should do it,” said Hersom. He said that he believed that subsequent generations would look back at this agreement and thank those who had gotten it done.
Selectman Mike Chizy said it was a “tough seven years…because we were threatened by the people who owned the dam, they’re going to break up the dam, Torrey Road is gone, it’s going to be a brook.” He said the town was threatened multiple times and that “it was scary for a while because when somebody threatens to breach a dam and destroy a pond like Manchaug… and they would have done it.” He said Smith “stood up to these people and he called their bluff.” Chizy added that people in Sutton and Douglas “couldn’t believe” that the town came out of the negotiations with $350,000.
“I’m glad that it’s finally done and over with, believe me,” said Chizy.
The Board then voted to approve the transfer and support agreement for the dam for the cost of one dollar. The Board also voted to sign the bond for the dam.