Bridgton has case of bathroom blues

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

No one in town disputes that Bridgton sorely needs good public bathroom facilities. But when it comes to planning for them, hardly anyone agrees.

This year’s Community Development Block Grant includes two bathroom projects, at Highland Lake Beach and at the Bridgton Community Center. Many present at Tuesday’s Bridgton Selectmen meeting thought the $85,000 price tag for the beach bathrooms was way too high — and that not enough money was being set aside to properly install a public bathroom at the Community Center.

Selectman Paul Hoyt was concerned that specs hadn’t been drawn up for the beach bathrooms, but Planning, Economic and Community Development Director Anne Krieg said she had the specs from the Naples beach bathroom project, which would need to be scaled back because Bridgton’s facility would be smaller.

“My head spins when I hear $80,000 for bathrooms,” said Mark Lopez, as the lively debate got underway. He said he’s building a clubhouse for a housing project on South High Street for far less than that. “Let’s get it done right, but let’s do it on the cheap,” he said, by using local labor and not having to pay high Davis-Bacon wages to contractors, as the CDBG program requires.

Glen “Bear” Zaidman said he had gone around to get prices on the project, and the total came in around $25,000 or so, without labor — which led Town Manager Bob Peabody to throw up his hands.

When called on his action, Peabody said he wasn’t disputing the efforts to reduce the cost, but needed to remind everyone of the need.

“I think it’s important to build (the bathrooms), whatever the cost,” Peabody said. Selectman Ken Murphy agreed, calling the condition of the existing facility at the beach “disgusting.”

Zaidman, however, said that just like with the Town Hall project, the town needs to have a steering committee to research the costs and specs before money is earmarked for a project.

Krieg pointed out that the clock is ticking, and CDBG officials at the county level need the town to tell them how they plan to spend the money by April 10.

At the Community Center. Around $7,000 in CDBG funds would be spent to provide interior access to a public bathroom, but Hoyt thinks it’s better to wait until there’s enough money to provide public bathrooms accessible from the outside.

Selectmen agreed to meet again on Tuesday, April 7, to finalize all of the CDBG projects.

Funding the furnace

Although she’d like to see selectmen review their policy decision not to replace Town Hall, Krieg gave selectmen a proposal on how they might fund the furnace replacement and move forward with the stabilization project as is. She said the $80,000 cost could be funded by taking $45,000 from the Ecomaine reimbursement, $25,000 from the Depot Street paving project and $10,000 from the sidewalk budget. Taking the funds from Depot Street paving would require the town to find another way to do the paving, and she suggested a redirection of Community Development Block Grant funding or assignment of TIF funds as a solution. The town could also use this year’s CDBG money for the new furnace, which would push all but $40,000 in funds to the following year.

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