ROCKPORT — Though the governor has vetoed legislation that would have reimbursed Rockport for its financial contribution to Millbrook Pond Dam’s restoration, the dam’s reconstruction will continue as planned.
The dam, originally built as an old mill dam, crashed down in the Mother’s Day Storm of 2006, allowing water to spill through Millbrook Meadow. The flooding destabilized a culvert and left the meadow a marsh. A report prepared by GEI Consultants estimated it would take about $719,000 to repair the dam.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency had agreed to fund 75 percent of the cost associated with repairing the dam and Rockport is to pay the other estimated $396,000, according to Hess.
The town Finance Committee had worked for years on budgeting the project and had appropriated all necessary money long before first hearing of the $350,000 in potential state funding about a week ago, according to Vice Chairman Wally Hess.
State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr had stepped up, pushing the legislation through the House and Senate, which approved the money in a $42.2 million supplemental budget July 31. Tarr’s drive was prompted by the state’s vow to provide state dollars for towns with flood damage. Tarr said Monday that he was disappointed and “somewhat frustrated” to see the legislation vetoed.
“This is an appropriation that the town clearly deserves,” Tarr said. “Clearly the town should be entitled to this funding.”
The timing of the veto, after the close of the legislative session, was unfortunate, according to the senator.
“If we were in a formal session we would make a formal attempt to override the veto,” Tarr said.
Tarr said he will again seek state money for the dam when Legislature returns to session in the new year. Still, Tarr applauds the town for its persistent effort to repair the damage.
“We hadn’t put it in any of our budgets. We hadn’t planned on it,” Hess said about the state money in a telephone interview Monday. “The decision was completely irrelevant.”
Town Meeting approved borrowing the $396,000 needed to fix the dam as a loan, according to Finance Committee member Frank Hassler. He said state-allotted money would have helped the town avoid the borrowed debt, but the loan is in line with what the town has borrowed in the past.
“It would have just been off of our long-term debt, that’s all,” Hassler said.
Crews began working at the dam site this month. Workers have built straw walls around the area to contain water, and will drain 5 feet of water from the pond Thursday, according to area resident Sam Coulbourn, a former Planning Board chairman.
The dam reconstruction is scheduled to be completely finished by winter, officials said.
“We’re looking forward to it, and it’s going to be a great addition to the town,” Coulbourn said. “There’s so many things that happen in the meadow. It’s something that the whole town can enjoy. We want to get it back.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or email@example.com.