By SUZANNE MOORE
---- — KEENE — Federal funding will pay to restore the weir on the East Branch of the Ausable River in Keene that held back water for the town beach.
The weir, a kind of dam made of spruce and hemlock logs and planks, was destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded about $190,000 to the town, Supervisor Bill Ferebee said Friday.
At a meeting earlier this month, he told the Town Council that he sent out some letters of interest to engineering firms that might bid on the project and applied to FEMA for a time extension.
Once replies start coming in, Ferebee told the Press-Republican, “I’ll put a little committee together, hire an engineer and move forward.”
There wasn’t much of a swimming hole at the spot across from Marcy Field after the storm ripped through, he said.
The water is normally more than 6 feet deep, but, without the weir, it dropped to about 2 feet. It’s a popular location for both residents and those passing through Keene, he noted.
“It’s a nice little picnic area, as well.”
FEMA directed the town to replace the weir as it was before, with wood construction, but that may change, the supervisor said.
Feedback from such groups as Trout Unlimited and the Ausable River Association prompted the idea of using rock for the weir, which would still hold back water for swimming but would also include a passage for fish.
“We didn’t have that before,” he said.
Ferebee believes FEMA would allow the alteration, he said, “as long as it’s designed properly.”
The supervisor said, either way, he doesn’t expect the project to cost the full $190,000 — “not in my wildest dreams.”
The town is eager to start the work, too, because the shattered remains of the weir, he said, make for “an eyesore.”
The State Department of Environmental Conservation, Ferebee said, “will more than likely allow us to go in and do this project in late July or August, when the water is at its lowest.”
Here are some other matters addressed by the Town Council at the recent session:
Library Board: The council appointed Linda Rasco to another term on the Keene Public Library Board, with her new term ending Dec. 31, 2017.
Also named to the board were Regina DeZalia, to an unexpired term that ends Dec. 31, 2013; and Geanetta Quinn to another vacant spot that ends Dec. 31, 2014.
Water rates: Ferebee said he’d check with other towns to see what water rates they have set for businesses after discussion by the council on possible restructure of what is charged now.
Councilor Jerry Smith brought up the topic, saying he doesn’t feel businesses pay enough and that “a one-person house shouldn’t pay the same as a five-person house,” meeting minutes said.
Councilor Robert Biesemeyer felt “making changes would stir up a huge can of worms,” the minutes said.
The council discussed metering, and Ferebee pointed out that a water district can’t bring in more money than it costs to operate it.
Ditch blower: Smith also brought up the possibility of the Highway Department buying a blower to clear ditches, as he believes the piece of equipment is needed.
Highway Superintendent Bruce Reed said he checked prices, and a blower would cost about $5,600, though the council tossed around the figure $6,000. Reed was asked to get more information for the council.
The Keene Town Council meets at 5:30 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Town Hall, 10892 Route 9N, with the next one set for Feb. 26.
Meetings held at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month are when most council business takes place.
All meetings are open to the public.
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