The Manchester Town Council will consider an ordinance late this month to put a moratorium on building permits until the end of the town's current water shortage.
At a council meeting last night, Mayor Earl A. J. Warehime Jr. ordered Town Manager Terry L. Short, attorney Charles Fisher Jr. and council member Chris D'Amario to draft an ordinance for consideration and a possible vote July 27.
Mr. Warehime also told Mr. Short not to grant any building permits during the next two weeks while the ordinance is being written.
Mr. D'Amario, who leads the town's public works committee, proposed last night that the moratorium be put in place to end a "crisis" that forced Mayor Warehime to declare a ban on outdoor water use in residential areas last month. The council member said development in the town could further deplete Manchester's water supply.
"I can't in good conscience support any new business from coming into town when we can't provide enough water for the people we already have," he said.
Mr. D'Amario pushed for immediate action last night, but Councilman Jim Singer and others advocated delay.
At one point, Mr. D'Amario chastised the council for waiting and predicted a run on requests for building permits over the next two weeks.
But in an interview yesterday, Mr. Short said further development, if carefully planned, could help to increase the town's water reserves.
He said the new Blevins Claim housing development, for example, will include a new well that promises to bring twice as much water as is necessary for the new houses.
That extra water, Mr. Short said, would be available to other city residents.
"If a development is going to bring in more water than needed and wasn't going to affect a current source of water, it would make sense to bring the development in," he said.
But Mr. D'Amario said the city needs to look into ways to expand its current storage, which, according to the town manager, is limited to two tanks holding a total of roughly 260,000 gallons.
Both Mr. Short and Mr. D'Amario said they were concerned that a "major emergency" -- such as a large fire or a break in one of the town's water mains, some of which were built in 1934 -- could cause a dangerous drop in the supply.
They also agreed that the results of a town-commissioned study of the Manchester water system by a Delaware engineering firm, scheduled for completion in 60 days, will help the council formulate long-range plans to avoid future shortages.
In related business, the council also debated whether to replace old, inaccurate water meters that some members said are costing the town thousands of dollars per year.
Mr. Fisher, however, cut off a motion by council member Kathryn L. Riley that would have ordered Mayor Warehime to purchase new meters from a particular company.
The town attorney said such an order would violate Manchester law, and the council agreed to meet with Mr. Fisher in executive session late last night to discuss the matter.