Museum sewer request ok’d, Avesta request denied

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Selectmen on Tuesday agreed to let the Rufus Porter Museum hook up to the town’s sewer system as part of its plan to relocate its museum from North High Street to a more central downtown location at 121 Main Street.

The board denied, however, a request from Avesta Housing, Inc. for a sewer allocation of 2,415 gallons a day to service its planned 21-unit housing project at 247 Main Street. In that case, the sewer field at the lower ballfield, serving that part of downtown, is already at maximum capacity, and cannot handle any more allocations until improvements are made.

The museum’s request for an allocation of 124 gallons per day was approved because it would hook up to the town’s other sewer field, off Wayside Avenue. Museum Board of Directors Secretary, Judy Graham, wrote in her request that the large single-family home they bought from the Gallinari family at 121 Main Street is currently served by a 28-year-old septic system. However, in order to make the red house museum tie in properly with the home, it needs to be sited over the existing leach field.

“We have tried several scenarios to avoid this, but in all situations, the leach field would be compromised,” Graham wrote.

The Sewer Committee met last Thursday to discuss options for increasing the capacity of the lower ballfield leach field. According to Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz, the town has begun testing the so-called “strength” of the effluent entering the field, and those tests need to be done in both the low water conditions that exist now, as well as the high water conditions expected this fall. That way, those separate tests can be compared, and the results may allow for the town to request an increase in capacity over current limits of 12,600 gallons per day.

Looking to the future, the committee talked about adding a third field to the system. Possible locations include a piece of town-owned property behind the Memorial School off Depot Street, Berkowitz said. The committee plans to recommend at the April 24 selectmen’s meeting that the contract with the town’s engineers, Wright-Pierce, be amended to include an analysis of the topography and soils of the property, which is located adjacent to where the town dumps its snow.

They also briefly discussed citing a third field at another piece of town-owned property across from the cemetery on the Kansas Road. That site would be more expensive to create, Berkowitz said, because of the need to extend the sewer line from where it ends at the corner of Kansas Road and Lower Main Street.

Berkowitz told selectmen that the Department of Environmental Protection appears poised to grant its appeal of a conditional order reducing minimum lot sizes in the General Development II District. “What this means is that we got almost the home run” the town was looking for, Berkowitz said, referring to an April 9 letter from DEP Assistant Shoreland Zoning Coordinator Mike Morse. Morse said documentation provided in the town’s appeal “does support” a reduction to 5,000 square feet from the former 50,000-square-foot standard, but added, “the matter of interpretation is still outstanding.” Morse said the town would need to amend its current Shoreland Zoning Ordinance again to include the new language.

One of the sticking points, said Berkowitz, is that the DEP still isn’t willing to allow the “per bedroom” language as it appeared in the amendment voters approved last November.

“We’re still working through the language, so it will be ready in time to go before the voters in June,” Berkowitz said. The federal funds that have been approved for the Avesta project must be used this year, and it is unclear whether the agency will submit formal plans for the project if it has to wait for the outcome of the June vote. The project depends on assurances that minimum lot sizes will be lowered, but it also depends on plans for an adequate wastewater disposal system, and may also depend on the outcome of a June referendum that, if passed, would require them to reserve the entire ground level for commercial use.

“They may, or may not (submit an application), Berkowitz said. “That’s something that Avesta has to decide for themselves.”

In other action, the board:

• Approved a request from Fire Chief Glen Garland to begin negotiating the purchase of a new tanker to replace the current tanker, which he said is “on its last legs.” The town has $75,000 in reserve funding, with another $75,000 in the budget and $50,000 that can be applied to the purchase. The $215,000 tanker is a demonstration model, only a year old, which would cost around $300,000 if purchased new.

• Agreed to grant the Bridgton Economic Development Corporation the $23,000 it needs for current marketing efforts, with $14,800 immediately available and the balance to be drawn down as needed. The funds will come from $1,000 earmarked for marketing within the economic development department, with the balance to come from the contingency account.

• Agreed to allow the town to apply for several grants, as follows: 1) The Safe Routes to School Program, an undetermined amount, to assist in planning the Depot Street sidewalk improvements; 2) The Bureau of Highway Safety’s “Click It or Ticket” program, to seek $1,922 to pay for overtime for a police officer to perform extra traffic enforcement details.

• Agreed to Police Chief Kevin Schofield’s request to begin a daily check-in program for elderly residents called the Bridgton “Good Morning” Check-in Program. Schofield said the program would be run by volunteers, in collaboration with the Bridgton Community Center and the Southern Maine Agency on Aging. Only if the person could not be reached would a police officer be dispatched to do a well-being check, he said.

• Agreed to support a request by Recreation Director Tom Tash to provide assistance in scholarship funding for children signed up for the new Lake Region Children’s Theater. Tash said around 100 children signed up during a recent open house at the William Perry House, where the theater will be located.

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