DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — More than $500,000 in grants will be at stake when residents in the Dover-Foxcroft Water District vote in January on a request to increase the debt limit from $1.5 million to $3.5 million.
Voters rejected the same request in a referendum vote of 647-579 on Nov. 4, but water district officials consider the matter so urgent that a second vote will be presented when residents go to the polls on Jan. 27 to vote on a school administrative reorganization plan.
Only those who live within the boundaries of the water district can vote on the water district request.
“It’s very important for the infrastructure of Dover-Foxcroft to get the project done for future growth,” Scott Taylor of the water district said Sunday.
The Department of Transportation plans to reconstruct West Main Street, a part of Route 15, next year and part of the project will require the relocation of some of the century-old water mains, according to Linda Grant, district office manager. Since the road project is scheduled and considering the age of the mains, the district felt it best to piggyback with the state and replace the mains. If the mains break during the removal process they will have to be replaced anyway, she said.
Taylor said the road is the major artery from Guilford and the underground pipes were installed in 1887.
Although meetings were held and informational packets were mailed to those within the water district informing them of the project, Taylor thinks too many people were focused on the general election and were not as well-versed on the district’s project.
To pay for the estimated $1.1 million main replacement project, the district secured a state revolving loan-grant of $795,000. Of that, $437,250 is a loan with no interest and the remainder is a grant that requires no payback. In addition, the district received a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan of $147,000 as well as a $153,000 grant that requires no payback.
If Dover-Foxcroft doesn’t use the grants and loans, the funds will be offered to other communities.
The payment for the district on the $1.1 million project would be about $20,000 a year, according to Grant.
Grant said the water district has no plans to borrow the full $3.5 million but is asking for that limit in case of an emergency situation or if the state does another needed road improvement project in future years where mains might need to be replaced.
“That amount is to allow us a little leeway,” Grant said.
The district’s current debt is $1.2 million.
If residents reject the request again, the expense of moving the mains and replacing them will fall upon the water district users, who likely will face a much greater water bill, according to Grant.
“If we lose the grants and the state goes ahead and does that project, we’re going to have to find the money somewhere,” Grant said.
She said the district had planned on a small rate increase in 2010 to cover cost-of-living increases, but without the grants and low-interest loans awarded for the West Main Street project, that rate increase would likely be much higher.