May 24, 2020

SAD 28 debate focuses on cost of sewer line to proposed school

CAMDEN — How much will the sewer line to the proposed new middle school cost?

About $115,000, according to SAD 28 architect Steven Mohr.

About $250,000, according to Rockport Engineer James Fitch.

About $1 million, according to Frank Stearns, operator of the Camden treatment Plant.

SAD 28 voters gave a green light to the middle school at an informal “straw vote” on June 20 by a 140-35 vote. The $8 million project will come before voters again in a formal vote in November. The future health of the school may depend on ironing out problems with the sewer line from the Route 90 location to the proposed Route 1 main line.

Camden and Rockport selectmen will hold a joint meeting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10 at the Rockport town office to discuss sewer matters.

The effort to establish a new sewer line to the school may force negotiations of the interlocal sewer pact between Camden and Rockport, which took years to forge. The pact allowed Rockport to connect to Camden’s underutilized plant rather than build its own. But the agreement had strict limits on the daily flow Rockport could send to the Camden plant. Officials meeting on Tuesday indicated that pact may have to be renegotiated because of the middle school.

Opponents to the interlocal agreement warned that Rockport would be back eventually to expand the pact limits. But few expected the request to come this soon, before the sewer lines are in the ground.

The question was asked if the line from Route 1 should be “dedicated” to the middle school or open to residents of the area.

Fitch said that a “dedicated line,” which allowed no access to property abutters other than the school, probably would be approved by the Department of Environmental Protection. But an open line which allowed access to other property owners, thus sparking additional development in outlying areas, may have tough sledding, Fitch said.

Approving any access requests would set a bad precedent, officials said. The state Department of Transportation frowns on sewer extensions along highways unless they serve a quasi-public use, Fitch said.

Decisions should be made as soon as possible, since the DOT will now allow an excavation project for five years after a new paving surface has been completed. The Route 90 stretch by the school site is now under construction.

Rockport Town Attorney Paul Gibbons said Tuesday that Camden selectmen must determine if the added flow from the school will mean an impact fee, or other special cost. Normally, each gallon added to the sewer system requires the removal of three gallons of storm water. That requirement cannot be waived, Gibbons said. Even municipalities have to pay such “infiltration and inflow” charges, he said.

That decision will left up to Camden selectmen, according the Building Committee Chairman David Jackson.

The school building site is 3,850 feet from the planned Route 1 sewer line. The school property line is 3,500 feet from the sewer line.

The cost for that line has been estimated at $114,800 by Mohr.

But on Tuesday, Fitch computed the cost at $250,000, without any computation for removal of ledge. All concerned admitted that the likelihood of ledge in the area was very high.

Frank Stearns has been through all of this before in the Washington Street sewer line. That extension cost about $1 million per mile, and encountered ledge which required blasting. Ledge problems increases per mile cost by a factor of three to four, Stearns said.

If the sewer line were constructed solely for the use of the school, then SAD 28 would forever be responsible for maintenance, Stearns said. “It could be a significant item,” he said. If the line was open to abutters, then the maintenance would become a town responsibility.

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