HOULTON, Maine – For more than seven years, town officials have worked to find a way to expand water and sewer services on a section of U.S Route 1 known as North Street, which has blossomed over the past decade into the town’s major economic corridor.
The need has always been there, but the money to fund it has not.
But town councilors forged an agreement last week with the Houlton Water Co. to extend water and sewer lines farther up North Street paving the way for new businesses to set up shop along the route.
During the meeting, councilors agreed to pay for part of the expansion with money that was captured when a section of North Street was designated a tax increment financing development district. The Houlton Water Co. will borrow up to $425,000 to finance the project. The entire project is expected to cost less than that.
Town Manager Doug Hazlett said that HWC will provide the water and sewer services, but the business or developer will have to pay the expense of hooking up to it.
The water company now supplies water and sewer services on North Street as far as York’s of Houlton at 315 North St. Property owners beyond that must rely on individual wells and septic systems to serve their businesses.
The extension project, which will begin as soon as weather permits, will bring services as far up the roadway as PDQ Doors at 331 North St.
Some business owners had told councilors that the lack of town water was a deterrent to economic development, and they had asked town officials for assistance in solving the problem. The town has always been looking for a way to finance the project but wanted to complete the task without raising the mill rate or the rate that customers of the HWC have to pay.
“This is an exciting opportunity to us,” Hazlett said during the meeting, estimating that the town might have the opportunity to expand the lines even farther in the future.
Councilor Sue Tortello was equally pleased.
“This is one of the best things we have done in terms of economic development,” she said. “This will open up that whole area for development.”
The motion passed 5-0.