Road rebuild could increase water bills

BAR HARBOR — Costs associated with the rebuilding of Route 3 in 2016 could mean big increases in sewer and water bills.

At the town council meeting on Tuesday, Director of Public Works Chip Reeves explained that engineers already have identified more than $300,000 in water system work needed to eliminate conflicts with the state’s plans.

He presented the council with a list of eight additional system upgrades at various locations along the five-mile length of the project. In some cases water mains under the area slated for reconstruction are more than 100 years old.

In total, completing all those projects would cost about $1.3 million more. Those projects and other water infrastructure work could push water rates up more than 10 percent. That also would have a slight affect on the property tax rate, as state law requires water companies to obtain a fixed portion of their revenues from rentals of fire hydrants.

Whether or not to approve the full list of projects occupied the council’s attentions.

“I think we need to do all eight,” said councilor Burt Barker in making a motion for approval. “We need to take the long view. This is for the future,” he said.

Councilor Gary Friedmann made a motion to amend the amount to cut the two lowest priority projects from the list. That would save about $310,000.

In response to council questions, Reeves said it was possible the new road would have to be torn up not long after it was finished for emergency repairs.

“I just want to avoid having people ask us five years down the road why didn’t we do it when we had the chance the first time,” Barker said.

Friedmann’s motion failed.

The council then voted four to three, with Friedmann, Clark Stivers and David Bowden against, and Paul Paradis, Barker, Peter St. Germain and Ann Greenlee in support.

Reeves warned that because the existing water system does not have a lot of shut-off valves, any work will involve shutting off water to large areas during construction. “We need to let folks know from the start we will be having significant water service disruptions,” he said.

Sewer improvements

Timing any potential sewer system upgrades or expansion to coincide with the Route 3 work was also discussed by the council. About $20,000 will be needed to eliminate design conflicts, Reeves said.

Reeves said a rough estimate for extending the existing system based in DeGregoire Park to businesses and properties at the top of Dreamwood Hill came in around $6 million.

The DeGregoire Park treatment plant soon will need $1 million in upgrades no matter what is decided, Reeves said. Any expansion there would require the acquisition of land, he noted.

Councilors noted that the revenue from connecting just a handful of additional users to the system would never service the debt required to do the work. The additional flow could be as much as 100,000 gallons a day in summer.

Under current rules, any property owner within 300 feet of a sewer must connect to it at their own expense. A business that recently spent $60,000 on a new septic system might balk at that, Bowden said.

Bowden, in acknowledging the numbers, said the town also needed to keep in mind the future development of the area and the value of diverting wastewater now flowing into the ground where it holds the potential for fouling wells in the area. “I’m sure when we put in DeGregoire Park, it didn’t make economic sense,” Bowden said. “We have to look at the larger benefit.”

They also asked if it might make sense to convert the DeGregoire Park plant into a pump station and send all the sewerage from that area to the treatment plant in Hulls Cove.

After a lengthy discussion of possible design options, Friedmann noted that the need to answer such questions “is exactly why the town needs a staff planner.”

The council took no action on sewer system changes.

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

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