BAR HARBOR — Options for upgrading town water and sewer lines when Route 3 is rebuilt by the Maine Department of Transportation two years from now are being considered by town councilors.
Current plans include extending year-round water service west from Hulls Cove to the top of Ireson Hill at estimated potential costs of $1.7 to $3.8 million.
Plans to lay the groundwork for extending sewer service also will be considered. Councilors previously had discounted plans to extend town sewer service from Hulls Cove to Ireson Hill based on the idea that there are not enough potential customers in the area to make the investment worthwhile. Councilor David Bowden, however, at a council meeting earlier this month, convinced the others to at least consider laying pipes for potential future sewer expansion when the road is dug up in 2016.
“The room for expansion for this town is out Route 3, but there’s no sewer,” he said. “That road hasn’t been redone since the 1930s, and it’s not going to be redone in our lifetime… this is our opportunity to deal with it.”
A number of Route 3 businesses along the half-mile stretch from Hulls Cove to Ireson Hill have no public sewer service. These include the Bar Harbor Campground, Pirate’s Cove miniature golf course, the Log Cabin restaurant and the Sea Breeze Motel. Some of these businesses have exhausted space for leach fields on their own property and are piping waste water to leased fields on nearby land, Bowden said.
The cost of laying sewer pipes for future expansion is estimated at $500,000. Public works director Chip Reeves told councilors that the job “is not as simple as throwing pipe in the ground,” however. A lot of research is necessary on how to design a system for the area, and there are many questions as to how people now on septic would be convinced to join a public sewer.
Previous explorations of expanding sewer service to the area include upgrading and expanding the nearby sewer treatment plant at Degregoire Park at an estimated cost of $5.3 million. Reeves said that there are only 15 potential new customers on Ireson Hill, but Bowden maintains that when the hotels, restaurants, campground and other businesses are factored in, there are a substantial number of potential users.
Further, he said, there are large plots of land along the route that would make sensible areas for future residential growth should town sewer and water become available.
Plans to extend year-round water service are unanimously supported by councilors. At least $1.5 million in repair work on the current system is needed, according to estimates. Different options exist for extending water service with the goal of eliminating the Ireson Hill water tank, which is in need of replacement. Depending on which option is chosen, the price tag could be as high as $3.8 million, according to preliminary estimates.
Water system users would foot the bill for such service repair and extension. The debt service could increase water rates by as much as 17 percent, treasurer Stan Harmon said.
The engineering firm of HNTB is currently working to provide detailed cost analysis of the various water system options. Based on council action, Mr. Reeves said he would ask the firm to include estimates for laying the groundwork for sewer system expansion. Councilors expect the group to present information to them by late fall.