Southwest Harbor public works crews repair water lines last summer. ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

Race to repair water lines before spring paving

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — According to Punxsutawney Phil, we are in for an early spring. Water and sewer district manager Steve Kenney is crossing his fingers that is true so repairs to parts of the public water and sewer lines can be done before paving season begins.

In a letter given to selectmen at their Jan. 28 meeting, Kenney requested $87,000 for repairs and upgrades to approximately 35 service lines, rerouting a sewer line from 3 Rod Road and lining manholes to slow groundwater infiltration.

Selectmen unanimously approved the request for the full amount, which is scheduled to come out of the water and sewer infrastructure reserve account.

“We have nothing in the budget,” Kenney said about the Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District’s budget. “We weren’t prepared for this … We’re breaking even right now.”

Construction was expected to begin at the beginning of this week on the nearly two miles of water lines but was delayed by rain until mid-week.

“They didn’t jump all the old services off the six-inch main after they put in the 12-inch main,” said Kenney about the pipe replacement that took place at least 40 years ago. “They run parallel and they’re both on. One side of the street is tied in to the six. The other side is tied into the 12. The hydrants are tied into the 12-inch [main].

“We’re not the only town,” Kenney added. “Thirty-five years I’ve been doing this. It’s not uncommon.”

Lines being switched are in the area of Main Street beginning at 3 Rod Road, going south until Seawall Road, where the line continues until Seawall Road intersects with Kings Lane.

For each service switch, the road will have to be dug up, closing one lane of traffic, and water shut off in the area of the lines being worked on. Kenney is unsure why the switch didn’t happen when the 12-inch line was installed but understands there is ledge in some areas that may need to be cut and/or removed in order to make the switch.

“We’re going to just do them one or two at a time and keep hopscotching down the road,” he said.

In the last three years that Kenney has been at the district, there have been two to three breaks in the six-inch water main each year. When this happens, water is shut off to houses and businesses in the area of the breaks until it is repaired.

“We’re trying to eliminate that problem and get people better water pressure and better water quality,” said Kenney. “Hopefully, we can do a couple a day and get 20 out of the money they gave us.”

Typically, the state’s Department of Transportation doesn’t allow for digging up roads from Nov. 15 to April 15. Southwest Harbor is being allowed to work on the roads because they are scheduled to have the state road – Route 102 – paved this year. State roads are paved every seven years.

“Once they pave it, they’re not touching it for another eight years,” said Kenney about why they need to get the lines switched prior to the road being repaved. “They gave us special permission because this is in preparation for their project in the spring.”

Line repairs and paving are not scheduled to be done on the stretch of Main Street where a sidewalk is slated to be widened — another state and town collaboration project. That area is from Apple Lane to Village at Ocean’s End.

Selectmen almost opted not to have the state repave the road but were told the only way to shift traffic lanes on Main Street was by repaving it. There will be several parking spaces eliminated on Main Street and the traffic lanes widened with the intention of making it safer for pedestrians and people on bicycles.

When the 5/8ths inch coat of pavement is put down, there are 42 manhole covers that will need to be adjusted to account for the different height of the road, according to Kenney. He expects the district will need to request more funds for that work.

Recently approved funds will focus on lining some of the town’s manholes that are susceptible to stormwater infiltration.

“They’re all over town,” said Kenney about ones that need to be sealed or repaired. “The ones we’re concentrating on are in the Norwood Cove area.”

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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