Water district voters to revisit fund request

Posted Jan. 11, 2009, at 10:14 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:03 a.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — It’s a matter of pay now or later, but for Dover and Foxcroft Water District customers the pay-later option will reach deeper into their wallets, according to water district officials.

Registered voters within the water district’s boundaries will go to the polls Jan. 27 to act on a request by the water district to increase its borrowing authority from $1.5 million to $3.5 million. This will allow the district to make improvements along Route 15-West Main Street and give the district the ability to draw funds should major repairs be required elsewhere. It will be the same referendum voters turned down in November.

If residents approve the request, about $510,000 in grants and low- and no-interest loans will help pay to replace the 120-year-old water mains and install about 50 service connections from Monument Square to the Foxcroft Academy tennis courts. The work will be done at the same time the Department of Transportation does its reconstruction of Route 15-West Main Street.

If the measure is defeated, the scope of the water project will be reduced and some of the federal and state grant funds awarded for the project will be used for projects elsewhere in the state, according to Walter Field, the water district’s chief operator. Future problems can be expected on the unimproved part of the main because of its age, and those repairs will be costly to fix, he said.

“The entire water main to be replaced is 120 years old and is beginning to suffer age-related failures,” Field said Friday. The DOT has a five-year moratorium on road work after any road competition which prohibits any work except emergency work, he said. The cost of that emergency repair, should an old main break, increases significantly because of the state’s stringent repair standards, he said.

Regardless of the vote, the district must move the aging water mains and services for the DOT to do its planned reconstruction of the rutted and potholed Route 15. It was the grants and loans the water district received that spurred the DOT to revive the road project that was designed in 1992, according to Field.

“We will go forward because we’re not going to lose the highway reconstruction due to the fact the voters won’t raise our debt limit,” Field said. “This highway project was essentially dead; it was resurrected as a result of the district having funds to access and available to replace the water main which convinced the DOT to reinstate this project.”

Field said the district has entered into a contractual agreement with the DOT to exercise one of two options regarding the road project scheduled for spring.

If residents approve the referendum later this month, the district will replace 5,100 feet of water main and about 50 service connections at a cost of about $1.1 million. The district’s estimated yearly payment will be $20,000, or about 2.5 cents a day on the average residential customer bill, or $2.22 a quarter, Field said.

If the referendum fails, the project will be reduced to the replacement of 1,500 feet of water main and 23 service connections at a cost of about $557,000. This will be funded by a $248,000 grant and a no-interest loan of $309,000. The loan will exhaust the district’s remaining borrowing authority, which will prohibit any further major work until the debt limit is raised by the consumers, according to Field. Under this option, the district’s annual payment will be about $10,000, or about $1.10 on the average residential quarterly bill.

“The cost-benefit ratio is much better under option one, as option two will accomplish less than one-third the amount of work, but will cost at least half as much as the full-length project,” Field said.

Field hopes customers will approve the referendum so the full $1.1 million project can be completed. In addition to new mains and services, the project will provide new fire hydrants and a larger water pipe, which will enhance water quality and improve fire protection services, he said.

“The Dover and Foxcroft Water District believes option one represents the most responsible option for the ratepayers, businesses and the community in general,” Field said.

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