Casco to settle dam bill

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

CASCO – Oh, those dam bills.

On Tuesday, the Casco Board of Selectmen agreed to settle one debt – a $5,000 bill for work done in Oxford to maintain the Thompson Lake Dam.

But, the board voted unanimously that it would not pledge any money to future work planned on the dam and old mill.

Instead, selectmen will request that the break-down of the bill be done by percentage of land along the lake.

“I don’t mind paying the initial $5,000,” Selectman Ray Grant said.

“After that the money would be broken up by percentage of Casco property on Thompson Lake. They may count house lots or whatever but it’s not by linear footage on that lake,” Grant said.

Chairman Barbara York concurred, saying the town should pay the bill owed. She suggested contacting the two Casco residents who serve on the Thompson Lake Watershed Committee, and ask them how many miles of the lake lie within Casco’s borders compared to other towns.

Two weeks ago, by invitation from the Town of Casco, Oxford’s town manager provided a verbal tour of work that had been done and more repair plans on the horizon.

Oxford Town Manager Michael Chammings appeared before the Casco Board of Selectmen on March 27 to explain a $5,000 bill Oxford have sent Casco recently. In addition, he asked the board to consider a pledge of $5,000 more for revamping the mill and the dam – to mitigate flooding.

“I don’t need a nickel from the towns. I would still be doing that same work,” Chammings said.

“But, we wanted to see if other towns will help,” he said.

Although Oxford will be shouldering the majority of the reparation expense, Chammings had asked all towns bordering Thompson Lake to pitch in $5,000 to cover last year’s bill, and make a promise of $5,000 for next year.

“Oxford had a reserve (fund) in place to help cover costs. We are a very frugal town,” he said.

Chammings gave a history of ownership of the mill and dam.

The Town of Oxford took possession of the Robinson Mill two years ago. It has the only outlet to the lake available.

The dam was privately owned; and the person failed to make payments on that, and left the town in possession of the dam.

Last year, the Robinson Mill valve had cracked and the penstock (a gate inside the mill) wasn’t holding up.

“I had to replace that immediately. You would have an 8-foot rise in the lake,” Chammings said in reference to the $5,000 bill that Casco received from Oxford.

Since the town has taken possession of the dam, it has been forced to assess what maintenance work must be done, he said.

Chammings said he could only present rough cost estimates until the work goes out to bid.

“The catwalk is in real bad shape. One of the pillars had worn down. The engineer said the pillar is so worn it will likely crumble. We need to replace the booms, because they catch the water. Plastic booms last 20 years – a little more expensive than log booms, but they last longer,” he said.

The Town of Oxford has an employee who monitors water levels daily plus records temperatures and water flow down from the dam, he said.

Chammings invited selectmen to tour the dam and mill or view the underwater video of the dam, which was documented by a diver last year.

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