MOUNT DESERT — The Mount Desert Water District will replace the water main beneath Main Street in Northeast Harbor in connection with the town’s Main Street improvement project, which includes burying electric, cable and internet lines on one side of the street.
Replacing the water main has not been high on the water district’s list of priorities because it is in good condition and hasn’t experienced any breaks, according to water district Manager Paul Slack.
So, why is it being replaced now?
“Once you put electricity [lines] into the ground, it makes it extremely difficult to do any digging in Main Street,” Slack said.
The town’s original plan for the Main Street project called for burying utility lines on both sides of the street, but a number of business owners and others complained about the amount of disruption it would cause, as well as the cost. Under the revised plan approved by the Board of Selectmen in November, utility lines will be buried on the west side of the street and strung from new poles on the east side.
Slack said he applauded the town for revising its plan and not putting as much electricity underground.
“But even still, it would make it extremely difficult if we ever had to replace the water main in the future,” he said.
The water main replacement will extend the length of Main Street, from Neighborhood Road to Summit Road, and about 80 feet up Summit Road. The price quote the water district got last year from R.F. Jordan & Sons for replacing the water main just on Main Street was $352,000. Slack said he expects the Summit Road extension to add about $10,000 to the cost.
R.F. Jordan also is the general contractor for the town’s portion of the Main Street project.
Slack said the exact timing and other details of the water main replacement project are still being worked out.
“But I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a chunk of the water main, on the northern end of Main Street, that we would try to get done this spring,” he said.
Tony Smith, the town’s public works director, said he hopes work on the town’s portion of the Main Street project can begin in early March and continue until May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day. After a break for the summer season, work would resume in October and continue until late May 2020. The plan is for all the work to be finished in the fall of 2020.
Slack said of the work schedule, “I think we’re going to be doing whatever makes the most sense for the town and for the water district.”
As for the project overall, he said, “I think we worked out a very good arrangement with the town. The town was very encouraging of us trying to be part of the project.”
Voters at the 2018 town meeting authorized the town to borrow up to $3.96 million to improve “the appearance, functionality and vitality of the Main Street area.” That included burying utility lines on both sides of the street. The revised project is expected to cost less, but Smith said Tuesday he is still working with R.F. Jordan and Sons on a revised price.
Selectman Martha Dudman noted at Tuesday’s board meeting that some Main Street business owners had expressed serious concern about the disruption they expected the original improvement plan to cause. She asked Smith what the street will look like when the water main is being replaced.
“No different than originally,” he said. “It’ll look like a bomb went off no matter what we’re working on. But there will be one-way traffic. And it will start being cleaned up before Memorial Day weekend.”