HERMON, Maine — Residents and business owners are invited to weigh in on proposals to extend public water and sewer services to the town’s village center during a community meeting set for Thursday.
During the gathering, set for 6:30 p.m. in the Public Safety Meeting Room, residents will have an opportunity to learn more about — and comment on — what town officials are considering in terms of expanding both utilities, given the growth the village center area has seen in recent years.
“We want to know [what level of] importance people place on this, if they are supportive of the town proceeding with trying to obtain funding,” Ron Harriman, the town’s economic development director, said Monday.
“It really is a big effort to identify funding sources, apply for grants, and it has to take place over a fairly long time period,” Harriman said.
“We need to begin preparing for that process now and if there isn’t enough community support then we may not move forward,” he said. “This should be a project that’s driven by the community, not me or the town manager, so we really want to get that direction from the town.”
Harriman and Town Manager Roger Raymond said earlier this year that town officials are considering the utility work in part because they were approached by several business owners in Danforth’s Plaza who said the poor quality of their well water was hurting them.
The businesses include a dental practice, a coffee shop, a pizzeria and a sandwich maker, Harriman said.
Another reason officials are looking to extend the utilities is that Hermon High School and Hermon Middle School likely will need to upgrade or replace their septic systems, Harriman said.
Town Manager Roger Raymond said earlier that the proposed $5.2 million utility expansion encompasses a more than three-mile stretch along Route 2 from Billings Road to Coldbrook Road, and along Coldbrook from Route 2 to Autocar Lane.
“That’s extremely expensive, so for a number of reasons, it makes sense to consider the possibility now,” Harriman said.
“But the real compelling reason to get that direction [from residents] is all the other improvements that are planned for the 2015 construction season,” he said.
Harriman and Raymond noted that Hermon is working to coordinate the timing of the proposed water and sewer work with several other improvements planned for the center of town.
Those improvements include sidewalks, crosswalks, road repair, paving and a new intersection at Billings Road. The majority of the cost for these improvements will be covered by the Maine Department of Transportation and grants that the town has already secured.
“We’re sure that there are a lot of questions from residents and from business people, so this is a forum to kind of identify what those questions are, what those concerns are,” Harriman said. “If we don’t have answers right now, we’ll certainly get the answers.”
Harriman said earlier this summer that the sidewalks are one aspect of the Village Master Plan residents adopted in 2009 as a way to create a pedestrian-friendly town center that complements the rural character that residents want to retain.
Harriman says the idea is to link the high school and middle school with sidewalks, making it easier for students to walk to and from school. Sidewalks on the opposite side of Route 2 would create a pedestrian connection between Camden National Bank and the Baptist Church.
In conjunction with the Route 2, water and sewer work, the town hopes to get Bangor Gas to install natural gas lines and is looking to convert fiber optic lines — now underground and encased in concrete — into aerial lines, Raymond said this spring. Getting the fiber optic lines above ground will give the town access to a side of Route 2 that is now off limits because of setback requirements.