BUCKSPORT, Maine — Town officials are seeking a state grant to improve the drainage in the Town Site neighborhood, and last week residents from that area turned out to support the project.
The poor drainage in the neighborhood, located near the Verso paper mill, has plagued homeowners for several years, according to Town Manager Roger Raymond. The Town Council held a public hearing Thursday on its application for a $385,000 public infrastructure grant to make improvements.
A survey of area residents showed strong support for the project, which Raymond said would be important in what is expected to be a very competitive grant process. And at the public hearing, homeowners backed the grant and explained some of the problems they have had with poor drainage.
“For years we were told that there was no problem with the drainage, that it was a problem with our basements,” homeowner Mary Durost said. “But we’ve had water shooting up through the drains. We had a couple of thousand dollars in damage this year.”
Gail Hallowell said that in recent years, the cellar of property she owns has flooded fairly regularly.
“I’ve spent many nights plunging out the drain,” she said.
Debbie Lancaster said that this year, 2 feet of water in her basement damaged equipment including freezers, a computer and a furnace.
The owners of two apartment buildings in Bucksport — Knoxview Apartments and Wenbell Apartments — also reported problems. Doug Wentworth said he has had 4 feet of water in the basement of his apartments which has damaged some of his tenants’ property.
“Some of those people lost everything,” he said.
Christopher Lee reported that he has had 5 feet of water in the basement of his home and that it has been “nothing but a horror” since they moved in. He blamed the town for delaying making repairs to the drainage.
“I’m ashamed to be living in a town that would let this happen,” he said.
Lee expressed concern about what will happen this spring when the snows melt and urged the town to clean the lines before that time.
Raymond said the problem is that the major storm drains are not within the public right of way and that the town has not had the right to go onto those properties to maintain the lines. In addition, he said, in some places, homeowners, over the 60 or so years the Town Site has existed, have changed the original drains.
The proposed project would locate all lines within the town right of way, Raymond said.
The total cost of the project is $525,000. The grant would cover $385,000 and require the town to provide a $140,000 match.
Some residents expressed concern that the town might do only part of the job if it did not receive the full grant amount, and urged officials to find a way to complete the project.
“To be adequate, the whole system has to be addressed,” Durost said.
If the project is funded, Raymond said, work could begin in July and be completed by the end of September.