Casco roads bond almost gone

 

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — This town’s elected officials are trying to stretch the remaining money from an infrastructure bond while still improving the roads that most need it.

Already bond money was used for Edwards and Johnson Hill roads, which have been rebuilt in sections with a top coat of pavement due this spring. Also, the necessary replacement of the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Dam was paid for with some of the bond funds.

The two jobs slated for this summer’s construction season are Tenney Hill and Cooks Mills Road. The Town of Casco put those out to bid separately. The deadline to submit the completed bid paperwork to the town passed in mid-March.

On March 27, the Casco Board of Selectmen awarded the road repair job on Cooks Mills Road to R.N. Willey and Sons, Inc., which is based in Casco. The projected cost is $228,000.

However, the selectmen stalled a decision on the Tenney Hill Road bid until they could get more information about what is absolutely necessary. In the coming weeks, the engineer, the contractor and the road commissioner will meet to discuss those particulars. The bid offer is $1.2 million for the Tenney Hill Road improvements.

Selectman Calvin Nutting was the most outspoken against using all of the remaining bond money.

“It is not the bid I have trouble with. Once we have paid for it, the bond money will be gone. I don’t want it [Tenney Hill Road] done, if our purse is gone. That is my two cents,” Nutting said.

It was pointed out that other sources like the town’s paving fund and the carry-forwards from the 2017–18 budget could be applied toward road improvements.

Nutting expressed his opinion about bonds.

“I personally think the whole issue of bonding for roads was flawed. There was no math. I think people were disillusioned and thought we were going to do half the town,” he said.

It was suggested by Town Manager Dave Morton that Tenney Hill Road could be done in sections, starting with the worst part first. Prior to taking out the bond, the town did reconstruction work on Libby Road in phases, over a period of three years.

During that time frame around 2010 to 2014, the selectmen had discussed a different approach: Instead of taking three years to finish a road project, a bond would allow the completion of one or two roads in one season. Secondly, the bond money would allow the town to continue to budget and bank its paving fund, relying on that account when the bond money was spent.

After hearing the bid amounts for the next two roads to be improved ($228,000 for 1,530 linear feet of Cooks Mills Road and $1.2 million for 12,050 linear feet of Tenney Hill Road), the board members expressed dismay that thoroughfares like Point Sebago Road and Raymond Cape Road might not get improved in the foreseeable future.

For years, Selectmen Grant Plummer has been pushing for a precise plan of which roads would be done and how much would continue to be budgeted in a road account before the bond money was gone.

During a previous selectmen’s meeting in late February, Plummer said, “There are some potential RFP’s going out. Do we have clarity on a plan for how we are going to do road construction in the Town of Casco?”

“I don’t want to send out RFPs until we have clarity, a plan,” he said.

Additionally, Plummer has favored road repair that would last a few decades versus skimping on costs to the point of having to go back and repair the same road again.

“Most of us sitting at the table, we had a general list of what was going to be done with the bond. Now, we are feeling like, ‘Holy Cow! Where did it go?’ In my mind, ‘Where should we be’ improving Tenney Hill Road? Should it be segmented? Where are the worse stretches?” Plummer asked.

Mary-Vienessa Fernandes agreed.

“Townspeople approved the bond expecting all these roads on a list to be done,” she said.

Contractor Jim Willey was asked for his opinion on Tenney Hill Road.

“Yep, you can certainly do it in sections. There are sections that don’t need the attention,” he said.

“When I am doing a road, I put my taxpayer hat on. We rebuilt Johnson Hill Road. I’ve worked on your roads for a good number of years. I don’t know the last time that (Tenney Hill Road) was paved. A lot of roads, you can grind, rebuild, repave and they’ll be good for a long time,” he said.

“The Town of Casco has to get better on paving its roads more often,” Willey said.

The good news is: this summer, the 1,530 linear feet of Cooks Mills will be under construction. Fifteen hundred feet is the entire length of the road within the Casco boundary line. These improvements will connect Cooks Mills to upgrades done by the Town of Naples a few years ago and Route 11, which got an overhaul (reclamation and a new top coat of pavement) by the Maine Department of Transportation in 2013 and 2014.

Prior to its regular meeting, the board held a workshop with roads engineer Owens McCullough, of Sebago Technics.

He provided the engineering plans for the two roads on the 2018 construction year plan. Each road budget has an added cost built in — if needed ten percent of the road length will receive full-depth reclamation.

The $2.5 million infrastructure bond was passed at Town Meeting 2015. The first three projects were: the replacement of the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Dam (a cost shared 50-50 with the Town of Otisfield) and the repairs and repaving of sections of Edwards and Johnson Hill roads.

According to Morton, the Edwards Road project cost $100,000 less than anticipated and Johnson Hill Road’s final cost was also $100,000 less than what was budgeted.

“The only project that came in more was the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Dam project,” he said.

“We are still on target with the funds we anticipated,” he said.

Morton said that $800,000 was the original cost estimate for Tenney Hill Road and with two road projects costing $200,000 less, the town could still be on target financially.

Also, Morton explained the town’s approach to deciding which roads needed to be put on the top of the improvement list.

“What we were looking at was road segments where we were spending the most money on maintenance year after year,” he said.

The first two have already been addressed: Edwards and Johnson Hill roads, both toward the Poland town boundary side of Casco.

“Tenney Hill Road and Cooks Mills Road were the second two that required the most maintenance costs,” Morton said.

“I don’t know if that was the best approach but that was the one that we used,” he said.

During the discussion, Willey also addressed why his bid was the only one. He told selectmen that the town’s bids have to go out sooner. Other road construction companies already had jobs lined up when the Town of Casco put its 2018 road projects out to bid, he said.

The roads projects will be front and center again during the next board meeting on Tuesday, April 10.

“Obviously, we will have roads on every agenda from now until the end of time,” Chairman Holly Hancock said.

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