HERMON, Maine — Although a proposed sidewalk project was supposed to be the main focus of a public meeting Thursday night, some property owners turned up to hold the town’s feet to the fire for construction work done about 15 years ago that has resulted in growing water problems.
Thursday’s gathering at the public safety building was the second of two held this year to gauge the community’s thoughts on plans to build sidewalks and crosswalks and add such amenities as lighting, street trees and benches in the town’s village center.
Economic Development Director Ron Harriman said Thursday night that the sidewalks, among other things, would link Hermon High School and Hermon Middle School, making it easier for youngsters to walk to and from school. Sidewalks on the opposite side of Route 2 would create a pedestrian connection between Camden National Bank to the Baptist Church.
The sidewalk project is part of a roughly $1.2 million overhaul of the village center that town officials hope to complete by the summer of 2014, when Hermon marks its bicentennial, Town Manager Roger Raymond said. The overhaul also would include the reconstruction of the intersection of Route 2 and Billings Road and the stretch of roadway leading up to it and an overlay of fresh pavement.
The ultimate scope of the overhaul hinges on how much the town receives in funding from the Maine Department of Transportation and several grants the town has applied for, he said.
Like the first public meeting on the project in May, however, Thursday’s meeting was dominated by discussion about existing drainage problems — and concerns that the planned work could add to them.
Hermon resident Dave Demmons and his neighbor, Julie Harris, editor-at-large for the Bangor Daily News, were among those who raised concerns about the water problems during the May session.
They and others at Thursday’s meeting said the construction of Hermon High School and related road widening 15 years ago — and the athletic fields and shopping plaza built since then — all have contributed to the water problem.
Scott Braley, an engineer with Plymouth Engineers, said that work to address the draining problems created by those projects are beyond the scope of the sidewalk project. He also said that part of the fault lies with work done by the Maine Department of Transportation and with private construction projects.
He also said, however, that town councilors, many of whom attended the May session, since have amended the town’s contract with his company to include hydrologic studies and computer modeling aimed at making sure what the town does in the next few years doesn’t contribute to the problem.
Demmons said that while he was not opposed to the sidewalk project or other beautification plans, he was not convinced existing drainage problems won’t be made worse by the planned construction.
“Before we put the cart in front of the horse, the town should address what it can do and what the state doesn’t want to. The town should step forward and say maybe we need to put a couple of [retention] ponds to catch the water coming down,” he said. “I know that’s beyond your scope but it’s something that the council needs to address before this project goes forward.”