Bridgton creates new Waste Water Division

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen have created a new Waste Water Division within the Public Works Department as a first step toward becoming more organized and preparing for future expansion of the downtown sewer system.

The vote followed a recommendation by the Waste Water Committee to have a designated person within town government they can work with, who would oversee all operational aspects of the 73-user system and the ordinance that governs it.

The Waste Water Division will be staffed by a licensed sewer system operator who would act as the Sewer System Superintendant and report to Jim Kidder, director of public works. The person filling the full time position would spend much of the spring, summer and fall work hours working on sewer operations. During the winter, the person would perform other public works duties as needed.

For years, the town has relied on Bridgton engineer George Sawyer, who designed the system, to provide oversight. Over the past year the town also enlisted Wright-Pierce Engineering to help resolve questions over the extent of inflow and infiltration into the system, and what steps need to be taken to repair those weaknesses.

No decision has been made on who will serve as superintendant of the new division, but the board is hoping to hire someone as soon as possible. Once that person is in place, Sawyer has said he will step back from his role as the town’s contract engineer, according to Selectman Chairman Paul Hoyt.

Hoyt said the Waste Water Committee expressed the need for more consistency in record keeping, and that the new licensed operator would provide that. At Tuesday’s meeting, Committee member Glen “Bear” Zaidman said the town office does not have any record of the maps that Sawyer made when he designed the system that show the connection points of the main line to all of the buildings served by the system.

It was suggested at the meeting that an existing town employee might be suitable for the position but would need to wait until this fall to become licensed, as required by the state.

Zaidman said that because Sawyer designed the system, “he should get some consideration” to be the person heading up the Waste Water Division.

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said that another compelling reason to have a point person on board now is that the town is preparing a request for proposals for future sewer system expansion.

With a relatively small system such as Bridgton’s, he said, establishing a division within a town department is “more efficient and more cost effective” than creating another town department. It has the added advantage of leaving policy decisions still remaining in the hands of the board of selectmen, acting as the town’s Sewer Commissioners.

“Given the system right now and the discussions at committee and board levels on major expansions, this is an important policy discussion,” Berkowitz wrote, in a memo recommending the creation of the Waste Water Division. “This is one of the most important policy decisions the chief elected officials make, as it establishes the tax base for the community. It is important, then, to ensure this decision rests ultimately with the authority of the chief elected officials, and not segregated or delegated out to another authority,” he said.

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