Citing cost, selectmen halt waste water plans

By Stephanie Grinnell | Mar 13, 2018
Courtesy of: Wright-Pierce This map shows location of the area (center) targeted for economic development along Route 1 in Stockton Springs. Existing downtown area is to the left.

Stockton Springs — During a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen Feb. 26, a decision was made to abandon exploring construction options for a waste water treatment system meant to attract economic development.

According to a statement posted on the town website, selectmen "do not believe at this time that it is in the town's best interest to move this project forward. We believe the cost would be too high for the town to absorb despite potential funding options." The statement goes on to say no vote is planned on the topic at this time.

Town Manager Courtney O'Donnell said the special board meeting was called in advance of the regular March 1 meeting so selectmen could make their position public prior to her planned vacation.

"We knew there was an article out there about the presentation, and with me going on vacation, we wanted to make sure the citizens were aware of where the board stood on the issue, rather than waiting," she said in an email March 12.

Feedback from residents on the study — which cost the town up to $12,000 — is welcome, O'Donnell said. The full study as well as the statement from selectmen and an executive summary are posted on the town website under public notices.

Residents narrowly approved funding for the feasibility study in June 2017, with those opposed citing a similar study completed nearly a decade ago that projected a $10 million price tag for a larger waste water treatment system. Residents also argued at the time that businesses do not choose a location based on the availability of sewer service; questioned whether, where the service passes by a residence, that house would be required to connect; and expressed concern that by-products could contaminate Stockton Harbor.

Selectmen argued the infrastructure could attract more business to an area of town ripe for commercial development, thus bolstering tax revenue and lowering residential property taxes.

The current study looked at a much smaller area that excluded Main Street and Cape Jellison for a projected cost of between $4 million and $8 million. Wright-Pierce engineers authored both and presented the smaller study to selectmen Feb. 15.

At that meeting, selectmen questioned how operating and maintenance fees would be distributed among users as well as the process for contacting property owners within the study area. No property owners were contacted for the study, including one who owns the land engineers used as the treatment plant and disposal site to project all costs.

Previously, town officials considered connecting to Searsport's system, but the distance and size of the treatment plant in Searsport were a problem, according to engineers.

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Stephanie Grinnell
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Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.

Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.

Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.

Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.

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