MACHIAS, Maine — Although heavy snow kept attendance at the selectmen’s meeting to four selectmen, the town manager and the manager of the Machias Sewer Treatment Plant, there were enough votes Wednesday night to approve a major loan to upgrade the town’s sewer treatment facility.
The amount to be borrowed — $520,000 — may seem large at first blush, Town Manager Chris Loughlin said Thursday, but in actuality the town has to repay only $4,000. The remaining $516,000 is being paid through federal stimulus grants that the town qualified for because of its high number of low-income families combined with its high sewer rates.
For the past 30 years, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has been pushing Machias to upgrade the plant. Despite upgrades in the late 1980s, Loughlin said the plant still overflows whenever there is a major rain event and the water runs into the Machias River estuary.
Area residents and fisheries experts have been extremely concerned about the overflow’s effect on the environment and, in particular, the clam population in Machias Bay.
Part of the project was completed last summer with the upgrade and repair of downtown sewer lines. That upgrade, including installation of a pumping station, cost $985,000, and was totally paid for through grants.
Selectmen Chairman Aubrey “Skip” Carter said Thursday that a project to reinvent the town’s tennis courts into an ice-skating rink should be ready early next week.
Carter said the town is checking with its insurance carrier to make sure the rink will be covered and local electricians are being sought to donate some time to get the existing lights connected.
The selectmen also approved a budget meeting schedule. All meetings will be at 7 p.m. at the Machias town office and all meetings will be on Wednesdays, except March 1 and April 5.
The schedule is:
• Feb. 16, ambulance and fire department budgets.
• Feb. 23, police budget.
• March 1, public works budget.
• March 9, animal control and third party requests.
• April 5, review of the school budget.
• April 13, review of the municipal budget.
• May 16-20, town reports to be distributed.
• June 7, voting.
• June 8, annual town meeting at Rose Gaffney School.