HERMON – If the town’s opinion of a proposed public water and sewer extension to the village area was accurately represented by the resident turnout at Wednesday night’s public meeting, the June vote will be close.
Approximately 60 percent of the 30 residents who gathered in the high school auditorium Wednesday night to learn more about the extension proposal supported the project. Meanwhile, those who opposed the plan predominantly voiced concerns about the town’s rapid development.
“If this is what the community is saying, and they want to limit growth, then not bringing water and sewer to town is the way to do it,” said Ron Harriman, the town’s economic development director. Public water and sewer lines are great incentives to draw businesses to town, he said.
Last year, the Town Council identified extending public water and sewer to the village area as a priority, Town Manager Clint Deschene said. Public lines currently run along Route 2 from the town border to Vafiades Avenue, and along the Cold Brook Road from the town line to the Coldbrook Business Park. A main objective of the feasibility study, which is being conducted by Millett Associates of Hermon, is to determine whether it is more cost-effective to extend the Cold Brook Road system or the Route 2 lines into the village.
Extending the Cold Brook Road lines would require 1,000 less feet of pipe than the Route 2 option, said Mike Millet of Millett Associates. If the project goes smoothly it could be completed within two years, he said.
After a small audience poll, most people in attendance preferred the Cold Brook Road route because it also contains more usable land.
While the feasibility study of the project is not complete, Millett said he would know the cost of both options by the second and final public meeting on April 4. Deschene estimated the price tag at $3 million, based on local communities that have recently completed similar projects. Residents will be asked in a June ballot vote whether to proceed with the project and its price tag, Deschene said.
Residents who hook up to the public utilities would pay for the infrastructure. However, if not enough homes and businesses use the lines, the town would pay the debt service, which would fall back to taxpayers, Deschene said.
If public water and sewer lines run by a home, the owners will not be required to use the utilities, but once existing septic systems fail, residents would not be allowed to replace their system and would be required to hook up to the public utilities, Deschene said.
Residents and businesses must use the lines in order to make the project cost-effective, he said.
The town wanted to install the public lines before the Maine Department of Transportation reconstructed Route 2. The Maine DOT now estimates it will not embark on the construction until 2010, which gives the town a window within which to work.
If the town votes to proceed with the project, the public safety building, proposed for Route 2, would be delayed by approximately six months, Deschene said.
But he added that the delay would end up saving the town in the long run, because there would be no need to construct a septic system and well for the facility.