October 22, 2018
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A failed water system blocks jobs from flowing to a small Maine town. Voters there will decide if it’s worth fixing.

Courtesy of the town of Bridgton, Maine
Courtesy of the town of Bridgton, Maine
Voters in Bridgton will decide in November whether to fund an expanded wastewater system, because the current aging system is at capacity and holding up business growth.

Residents in Bridgton can essentially greenlight business growth in their community in November when they vote on whether to fund a replacement for the town’s aging wastewater system.

The town launched a marketing campaign in 2017 to attract new businesses and year-round residents, but has been forced to turn away several major retailers, restaurateurs and businesses because the wastewater system is operating at capacity and has been failing since 2014.

“We have plans to develop a senior living campus in Bridgton, but we cannot move forward unless the wastewater system is improved,” said Lon Walters, owner of Woodlands Senior Living, a Waterville-based senior and assisted living provider. Walters said in a statement that the communities to be built would serve 136 residents and create up to 80 permanent jobs in Bridgton.

The wastewater system is one of three infrastructure improvement projects up for a vote in November. The other two would repair and restore two sections of Main Street.

The town has been awarded $11.5 million for the three projects in state and federal grants including from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Of the total, $11 million is for the wastewater project.

The total cost of that project is $22.88 million. The portion not funded by grants would be paid for by bonds or notes issued in the name of the town of Bridgton. After the project is completed, the town will levy charges on those using the expanded system.

“We’ve known for some time that the wastewater system is in critical need of replacement and we are very relieved to get this large grant,” Bob Peabody, Bridgton’s town manager, said in a statement.

He said recent tests show that private systems are contaminating parts of Stevens Brook, threatening water quality and public safety. The town’s system needs significant repairs, and the DEP said it is at risk for license violations, he said.

Peabody said he is concerned that if voters don’t approve Question 1 in November the town will lose the grant funding, which covers almost half of the plant’s cost.

To complete all three projects, the cost per household would be less than $100 per year on a home valued at $150,000, according to Bridgton’s assessor’s agent.

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