Bridgton: Wastewater superintendent feels town is at “critical” juncture with existing system

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Michael Harris believes Bridgton is on borrowed time when it comes to the town’s wastewater system.

With 30 years of experience, Harris told selectmen Tuesday night that the present system is “functioning,” but is near its end in regards to capacity.

“Something has to happen if the town continues its economic growth,” said Harris of Harris Environmental Services, who serves as the town’s wastewater superintendent. “We’re pushing the limit right now. It is in need of expansion of some sort.”

Officials will propose in November to voters a major expansion that should address Bridgton’s needs for years to come. The two-year project will carry a price tag of over $20 million. While the town awaits word regarding funding sought through federal programs, selectmen posed several questions to Harris to paint a picture as to the current condition of the existing wastewater system.

While some rehab work has been done to present pump station infrastructure, Harris pointed out that original pumps — 30 years old — are being used.

“We’ve got a lot of years out of it (the system), but it’s time to look to the future,” he said.

When asked about the Harmon Field and Wayside Avenue disposal sites, Harris noted that Harmon (which takes in mostly residential waste) is close to capacity, while Wayside can take on more flow, but is “really loaded” in terms of type of “higher strength” waste from restaurants.

“When DEP sees a system at 85% capacity, you need to come up with a plan…We’re getting by flow-wise, but we’re not able to meet treatment standards to send it into the ground,” Harris said. “Economic development (here) is at risk because it is inhibited by the sewer system. You are at a critical juncture with this system, and you need to make a move soon.”

To help sell the project to the public, selectmen approved moving $15,000 from the Wastewater Unassigned Fund Balance to hire Black Fly Media to create awareness about the upcoming wastewater vote in November.

The town had good success using this approach to help gain approval for revisions of the wastewater ordinance.

The anticipated cost will be $3,000 per month for a three-month period starting Sept. 1, plus possible direct mailing expenses.

Black Fly’s work will include the proposed streetscape project, as well. The strategic plan includes media/opinion pieces, creating a “robust and engaged audience” on social media by drafting regular posts and sharable content, a direct mail (to every voting resident’s home) piece to explain the bond packages, and one public event.

In other meeting notes:

Willing to fill in. Presently, Bridgton is short one member to the SAD 61 School Board. Peter Mortenson, who formerly served as a Lake Region Middle School principal, volunteered to fill out the existing term.

Selectmen appreciated Mortenson stepping forward but, as a matter of procedure, they will advertise the opening, and make a decision at their next meeting.

No meeting…yet. Board Chairman Lee Eastman announced that the town was still working to schedule a meeting with Central Maine Healthcare president Jeff Brickman. At the moment, no firm date has been set.

There had been talk that Brickman would attend Tuesday’s meeting to address happenings at CMHC and Bridgton Hospital but, due to scheduling conflicts, another date will be sought.

Not impressed. Selectman Bear Zaidman has remained tenacious about finding a way to make the intersection of Portland and Sandy Creek Roads safer.

Finally, the town did receive a response from the Maine Department of Transportation about its request for another traffic survey. The answer — due to staffing levels, the next chance to do a survey is next summer, some weekend in July. The response did not sit well with Zaidman.

“I hope (Randy) that we don’t have an accident with a fatality between now and then,” he said.

The town plans to send MDOT another letter for an earlier date.

New home for Cruise Night. Faced with having to find a new site for their weekly car show, Wayne Warner, president of the Pleasant Mountain Chapter of Maine Obsolete Auto League (MOAL), approached selectmen to see if they had any good ideas.

Selectmen had an answer — use the town’s municipal complex parking lot. The timing works — Cruise Night is Wednesday, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., while the town office closes at 4 p.m. — and the site meets the group’s goal to being in a centrally-located spot, close to where attendees can access food establishments.

The Cruise Night bounced from the parking space between NAPA Auto Parts and what is now A La Mexicana to the lot, owned by Hayes True Value, adjacent to Mack’s Place.

Warner says Cruise Night attracts an average of 20 to 25 vehicles with a high of 35. It is held the last week of May into the second week of September.

Through 50/50 raffles, the nonprofit club has raised money to assist home heating programs in Bridgton, Denmark, Brownfield and Fryeburg, as well as to provide scholarships to local graduates.

Warner initially looked at Depot Street as a possible Cruise Night location, but liked what selectmen proposed. The show would use parking closer to the municipal complex, thus not posing problems for patrons of Bridgton House of Pizza, The Break Room and Chao Thai Restaurant.

Selectmen did ask for Warner to check in with the fire and police chiefs for their take on using the lot.

According to the group’s website, the Maine Obsolete Auto League was organized in 1948 and incorporated in 1965. Originally, it had four regions — Seacoast (Kittery to Portland), Dirigo (Bridgton to Damariscotta), Bunyan (Bangor to Calais) and Aroostock County. The Pleasant Mountain Chapter of Bridgton was the first chapter in the Dirigo area in the early 70s. Many of the original members are still with the club. As far back as the 50s, members met weekly at their homes and held monthly business meetings.

Staying cool. With temps pushing triple digits on Wednesday, a “cooling center” was set up at the Bridgton Community Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for “people to take refuge from the heat.”

It was a short opening day for local students. SAD 61 went with an early release due to the hot weather with high and middle school students dismissed at 11:30 a.m. and elementary kids at 12:30 p.m. All staff, however, remained for the rest of the day to do professional development work.

Personnel front. Public Works employee Daniel Nowell has submitted his resignation, effective Sept. 19. He worked for the town from 1987 to 2004, and returned in 2016.

The town is accepting applications for the position of laborer/operator/highway crew. Deadline is Friday, Sept. 14, at noon.

The search for a Community Development Director resumes. The position is being advertised, and the application deadline is Friday, Sept. 14 at 4 p.m.

Be patient. When it comes to reclaiming a piece of land and growing grass, it is a process, says Lucia Terry of Perennial Point of View.

In a letter to Public Works Director Jim Kidder (and forwarded to selectmen), Terry gave a quick overview of the Depot Street “green rescue mission.”

Rocks were dug out and removed in May, fresh loam and compost dumped, and seeding done. The seed is a fescue mix that is “very hardy, takes high traffic, uses little water, no fertilizer and needs less mowing than other grasses,” Terry said.

Terry admitted the process had a tough start due to challenges created by the weather and water system used.

“Germination was slow and spotty as the temps went way above ideal. Much and constant effort has gone into watering, weeding and overseeding, and the results are coming along,” she added. “Hopefully the cooler temps coming up will allow for better and quicker germination.”

The plan is to spread more seed in the coming weeks and also do a dormant seeding for spring.

At a previous selectmen’s meeting, chairman Lee Eastman felt the grass effort was coming up short.

“I believe this will be successful and we’ll have a nice grass turf next spring,” Terry said. “It’s a process…give it a chance.”

Terry complimented the efforts of Rolfe Corporation for giving the project a “good price” and taking on more excavation than expected. She also noted the PPV has put in uncountable, unrecoupable hours getting the grass to grow.

“We both are doing what needs to be done for our town, regardless of what it costs us,” she said.

Sending messages. As drivers made their way along Portland Road Wednesday morning, they were greeted with a message to have a safe Labor Day Weekend.

More messages will be forthcoming. The town purchased a new electronic portable sign board. It will be used to advertise events and meetings, and alert the public to any hazards, road work and street closures.

The town also placed fluorescent markers either along the centerline or to the side of various crosswalks, alerting motorists that it is the law to stop and allow pedestrians to cross.

Next meeting: The next selectmen’s meetings will be held Tuesday, Sept. 11 and Sept. 25, at 5 p.m.

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