CAMDEN, Maine — The town has agreed to use $52,300 in leftover Snow Bowl bond and reserve funds to pay for an improvement project at Hosmer Pond, not only to help mitigate erosion caused by the town but as a way to pay back state Department of Environmental Protection penalties the town accrued earlier this year.
In February, the Maine DEP fined the town and an excavation company more than $50,000 — $44,400 from the town, and $7,500 from the excavation company — for damage to the Ragged Mountain recreational area and adjacent Hosmer Pond as a result of sloppy excavation work that led to the pollution of the small pond. The excavation work was part of a $6.5-million dollar upgrade for the recreational ski area.
The town and Jefferson-based BCD Excavation and Forestry, which was hired by the town for the project, together were fined $51,900 by the DEP. Violations cited by the agency included clearing more trees from wet meadow and forested wetland area than what DEP previously sanctioned, “severely disturbing soils without the use of erosion and sedimentation controls” and causing a mudslide that emptied into Hosmer Pond, according to the drafted consent agreement.
“We know that there are problems with the Snow Bowl and what happened and the erosion, and everybody is working really hard to fix that,” Select Board member Marc Ratner said Wednesday.
The town plans to pave and elevate the gravel boat ramp that leads from the Snow Bowl parking lot into Hosmer Pond by 2½ feet to better prevent flooding and runoff into the pond and to increase handicap access to the water. It also plans to add a concrete boat landing and a separate kayak float at the end of an existing dock to accommodate boaters and swimmers, and to plant more than 30 wetland shrubs in the adjacent wetlands to prevent erosion into the pond.
Per DEP regulations, the town can repay 80 percent of the monetary fine by implementing new wetland mitigation and erosion controls in the affected area. Once the consent agreement is final, the Select Board will hold a special public meeting to vote on the agreement.
The anticipated cost of the project is well over $35,500, which represents the 80 percent of the fines that the town can resolve through remediation work. The remaining 20 percent of the town’s $44,400 fine, or $8,880, must be paid directly to the DEP.
David Madore, director of communications for the DEP, said Wednesday that with the board’s approval of the mitigation project, the department’s consent agreement with the town likely will be finalized by the beginning of July.
The DEP penalty is not the only problem that has arisen from the Ragged Mountain expansion project. An audit released last month was highly critical of how the town has overseen the $6.5 million effort. In January, two officials — Town Manager Pat Finnigan and Landon Fake, general manager of the Snow Bowl and the town’s parks and recreations director — resigned after mismanagement of the project came to light.
On Tuesday night, the Select Board unanimously selected Rockport-based Farley & Son, Inc. as the winning bidder for the $52,300 remediation project.
Engineer Will Gartley, of Gartley & Dorsky Engineering and Surveying in Camden, presented a site plan of the project at the meeting and said the goal is for the project to be completed by July 1.
Gartley, whose firm is being reimbursed about $6,000 for its services on this project, has been involved in at least four meetings between the town and the DEP as both parties figure out how the town can satisfy the DEP’s penalties and remediation expectations.
“We’re fixing an erosion problem and mitigating some wetland impacts, but also providing a benefit to the users of the pond and the community,” Gartley said Wednesday morning. That, he said, “was really the goal of the supplemental environmental project — have an environmental benefit, but also stay in the town.”
Select Board Chairman John French, reading from a memo from interim Town Manager Roberta Smith, said at the May 16 meeting that approximately $70,600 is available for this project — $35,741 from the Ragged Mountain Recreational Area redevelopment bond fund, which voters approved in 2013, and $34,905 from the Snow Bowl reserve balance. The leftover money after the remediation project is paid for — approximately $18,300 — will cover the remaining $8,800 (20 percent of the fine), as well as the $6,000 owed to Gartley for his firm’s services.
The entire situation has presented the opportunity to build something the community “would want, anyway,” Ratner said, regardless of the DEP penalty.
“Having something like that is a great situation, regardless of whether we are doing it based on the fine,” he said. “We’re lucky enough to be able to take it [and] do something wonderful for the citizens and at the same time take care of a fine.”