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Senator Shaheen praises collaboration on Peterborough/Jaffrey water project

The public and private partnership between Jaffrey, Peterborough and manufacturer MilliporeSigma to develop a new water supply to benefit all three is the kind of cooperation New Hampshire should be known for, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen said during a visit to Peterborough on Wednesday morning.

"I think this is a great example of the kind of coordination that goes on in New Hampshire," Shaheen said.

The collaborative's plan to purchase land in Jaffrey and Sharon that already has three drilled and permitted wells, known as Cold Stone Springs, and build a treatment plant and water infrastructure, is still about $500,000 in funding away from being a reality. But that's significant progress for a project project projected to cost a total of $12.6 million.

It’s been a long road for the two towns to get to this point. Peterborough was first approached about purchasing the wells in 2017. Because one of the wells was located in Jaffrey, which has also been searching for an additional water source, it became the obvious next step to suggest a collaboration, Peterborough Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett said.

Though the two towns are neighbors, they didn’t have a strong relationship, said Bartlett. But the water project likely couldn’t have happened if either town had tried to move forward on their own.

A significant amount of funding for the project is coming from state and federal grants and loans.

Jaffrey, which is in a lower economic category than Peterborough, as well as in a different county, despite being neighbors, was able to access grants not available to Peterborough, said Rodney Bartlett, the town administrator for Peterborough. That includes the most recent funding Jaffrey received from the Northern Border Regional Commission for $1 million, which was only available to Jaffrey as a Cheshire County town.

But the towns weren’t the only ones to have an interest in securing a water supply, nor are they the only contributors.

MilliporeSigma, one of Jaffrey’s largest employers, is currently planning a significant expansion of their Jaffrey facilities, accompanied by increasing their workforce by 500 employees in the next five years, said David Nichols, Senior Director of State and Local Corporate and Government Affairs for the company. They will need a significant increase in water usage to accomplish those goals.

"We knew we wouldn’t be able to support that with our water structure the way it is," said Jaffrey Town Manager Jon Frederick.

MilliporeSigma has guaranteed to pay for at least 80,000 gallons of water per day, whether they use that amount or not, and also agreed to contribute to the payments on one of Jaffrey’s loans to reduce it from a 20-year loan to a 10-year loan, agreeing to contribute more than $1 million to the project, though the facility and wells will only be owned by Jaffrey and Peterborough. Their anticipated job creation is also meeting the requirements for some of the loans aimed at rural development that Jaffrey has applied for.

"We’re very supportive of this," Nichols said.

With the costs split, and expectations of federal funding and support from MilliporeSigma, both towns were able to pass warrant articles funding the project with ease, Peterborough in 2019 and Jaffrey in 2020, both by very large margins.

Essentially, the key players told Shaheen, the project might never have gotten off the ground without all the parties being involved.

Christopher Way, the deputy director of the division of economic development for the NH Department of Business and Economic Affairs, called the collaboration "the perfect story."

One of the biggest roadblocks to potential residential and economic expansion is water and sewer, Way said. A partnership between municipalities to solve both their dilemmas and make the project affordable for both is the best approach.

"From our perspective, this has been a perfect project," Way said.

The towns are still awaiting approval of additional funding applications submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture to complete funding for the project, and hope to be able to officially purchase the property this fall.