Fresh street look welcomed, but is a major unseen problem brewing?

Jan. 10 at 5 p.m., information meeting with business owners — open house style meeting at a Main Street business.
Jan. 15 to Feb. 5, prepare online visual preference survey to assist in identifying the most desired streetscape materials and amenities.
Jan. 31, public access cable TV program — a roundtable discussion and informational program regarding the streetscape project.
Date to be determined, 6:30 p.m., public presentation of the streetscape project — present 75% design plans to residents.
Date to be determined, 3:30 p.m. work session with Bridgton selectmen; 5 p.m. overview/presentation for home viewers — present 90% design plans to selectmen; final design plans and construction documents will be vetted to town staff and Maine DOT prior to the selectmen’s presentation.
Town website:
BridgtonMainStreet blog:
Town Office bulletin board

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

As civil engineer Colin Dinsmore talked about “bump outs” and clearer defined crosswalks as part of Bridgton’s proposed new streetscape, Selectman Bear Zaidman had a deeper concern.

While planting more trees, installing new lighting and adding benches to enhance the downtown’s visual appeal may be another big step in Bridgton’s revitalization effort, Zaidman pointed out there is a brewing problem people don’t see but should be very weary of.

Bridgton has a pollution problem, which Zaidman believes moves the proposed sewer expansion project at the top of the town’s “to do” list, ahead of streetscape.

While final costs for both the streetscape and sewer projects remain unclear, selectmen will eventually decide whether to present the items either as one major project, which will require bonding (grants will also be sought) or break them into two proposals.

Last Wednesday night, the public had a chance to hear Colin Dinsmore of HEB Engineers, as well as landscape architect Jeff Hyland of Ironwood of Newmarket, N.H., present an update regarding streetscape work.

Residents filled half of the Bridgton Community Center meeting room, and asked questions regarding parking along Main Street, as well as how the specialists would go about seeking more public input as plans are shaped.

Questions ranged from type of tree that might be used (likely a variety, thus avoiding what happened to many communities that used solely Dutch Elms, which were cut down due to disease) to creative landscaping that addresses stormwater runoff. Some wondered if utilities could be buried, but that option could be too pricy.

If the price is right, ideally the town would like to tackle both streetscape and sewer expansions at the same time. In fact, Public Works has held up improvements on some intown roads due to impending sewer line expansion. The goal would be to create just one big mess and address all issues at once.

Brewing problem

As Bridgton continues to grow, especially on the commercial front, the need to expand wastewater disposal is a necessity.

The urgency level moved up a few more ticks as the result of some recent testing.

Town officials hired an independent consultant (Woodard & Curran) to conduct a “contaminant sampling and testing program.” Testing targeted two forms of contaminants in stream water — E. coli, the bacteria whose presence of typically indicates contamination from human waste, but whose sources could include animals; and optical brighteners or compounds commonly found in laundry detergents, whose presence tend to confirm the sources as faulty wastewater discharges.

“Having for some time suspected that this type of infiltration was a potential problem in Steven’s Brook — a two-mile stream flowing from Highland Lake to Long Lake through downtown Bridgton — the town worked with Woodard & Curran to conduct a contaminant sampling and testing program,” according to a town press release issued last week.

Samples were collected during August and September from eight locations along Steven’s Brook, and “clearly showed the presence of both contaminants, with a spike in their levels between testing points located close to numerous private septic systems and increasing as the testing sites moved from near Highland Lake to Long Lake.”

“Bridgton holds the quality of its water as a top priority along with the health of its community,” the press release added. “The town and its engineers are confident that the sewer expansion and rehabilitation project being proposed will effectively mitigate these issues as more users are connected to the sewer system and discontinue use of their septic systems.”

For now, residents are encouraged to report any environmental concerns that would help “demonstrate the need for the project on the basis of health concerns,” as well as take part in the current income survey being conducted, which will determine the amount of grant money and long-term loans from multiple sources Bridgton might secure as part of funding the sewer expansion.

As for streetscape, conversation will continue and more public input — “taking ownership of the vision” the town wishes to develop — is encouraged. Streetscape information is available on the town’s website.

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