Bridgton awarded $11.5M in grants to complete three critical infrastructure improvements

When Town Manager Robert Peabody received word regarding grant funding for the proposed wastewater system expansion, he said, “The stars have aligned for Bridgton.”

Bridgton has been awarded significant funding to offset the costs for three major infrastructure improvements needed in town. The first is a replacement of the aging wastewater system, which has been failing since 2014. The other two projects include restoration and repair of two sections of Main Street.

Municipal leaders applied for grants and loans from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Rural Development, United States  Development of Agriculture (USDA) and have successfully reduced overall burden to taxpayers with a grant award for $11 million for the wastewater project.

The Maine Department of Transportation awarded the town $500,000 for the Main Street project.

“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,” Peabody 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 says it’s at risk for license violations. Peabody is concerned that if voters don’t approve Question 1 in November, the town will lose the federal funding and residents will end up footing the entire $22.8 million price tag. The grant funding currently in place will cover 48 percent of this project’s total.

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

“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 says the communities to be built would serve 136 residents and create up to 80 new, permanent jobs in Bridgton.

Two other questions on Bridgton’s November ballot have also received significant state grant money. Two Main Street projects that will improve drainage systems and lighting, implement traffic calming measures, restore crumbling, legally noncompliant sidewalks on both Lower and Upper Main Street have received $500,000 from the Maine Department of Transportation. The improvements are dually aimed at improving safety and accessibility, while stimulating aesthetics to improve economic development. A petition supporting the projects circulated Main Street businesses and garnered several dozens of signatures.

For Deb Snyder, PhD, needed improvements on lower Main Street are a safety concern, adding that “it’s challenging and sometimes dangerous” for her wheelchair-bound daughter to get around on lower Main Street. Snyder, founding director of the HeartGlow Center, a special needs nonprofit on Lower Main says the road and sidewalks have been neglected for years and repairs need to be done.

“Storm drains are crumbling, potholes are problematic and the walk signals are too short to make it across Route 302 fast enough,” she said.

The town put all three questions on the ballot in hopes that voters will approve all three together. Project engineers say simultaneous construction will create efficiencies that save money in labor and paving costs, and will minimize construction disruptions.

Voters will decide each question individually.

To complete all three projects, the cost per household will be less than $100 dollars per year on a home valued at $150,000, according to Bridgton’s assessor’s agent. The cost breakdown, per $150,000 of value is $53 for Question 1; $31 for Question 2 (Upper Main) and $14 for Question 3 (Lower Main).

“The stars have aligned in Bridgton, as we have this impressive financial assistance package in place so for less than $100 dollars per year, residents will get more than $27 million in capital improvements,” Peabody added, “the time is now for us to complete these long-discussed projects.”

Town officials, along with engineers for both the wastewater and streetscape projects, will be making public presentations regarding the projects to provide both information and answer questions. Selectmen will hold a workshop at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 10 in the board meeting room.

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