Sewer allocation dispute resolved

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

There’s been a meeting of the engineering minds concerning Bridgton’s sewer system, and the news is good, Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz reported Tuesday.

Based on flow meter reports, both George Sawyer, who designed the system, and engineers from Wright-Pierce Engineering agree that there exists a 30,833 gallon-per-day capacity at the town’s two septic fields — a figure that exceeds earlier estimates and which should put an end to concerns about underreporting of sewer allocations.

Berkowitz said the engineers determined that the Dodge field has a capacity of 18,180 gallons per day, while the Harmon field, or lower ballfield, has a capacity of about 12,666 gallons per day.

The controversy arose in January when Sawyer wrote to Berkowitz to tell him of a “definite error” in Wright-Pierce’s reported capacity at the two fields. Berkowitz said he was personally offended when allegations began circulating that he and former Director of Economic and Community Development, Alan Manoian, were “cooking the books” to make it appear there was sufficient sewer capacity to accommodate plans by Avesta Housing Inc. to build a 21-unit affordable housing complex on Main Street, on property served by the lower ballfield septic field.

Wright-Pierce has been testing septic connections among the system’s 65 or so users as part of an inflow and infiltration study. Berkowitz said second notices have gone out to about a dozen property owners requiring them to contact the town to state when they will begin repairing identified leaks in the system that are compromising its overall capacity. If the property owners do not respond to the second notices, Berkowitz said the town will seriously consider imposing penalties for noncompliance to the repair requests.

He also said it appears likely he will be recommending that the bulk of available Community Development Block Grant funds for 2012 go toward installation of a second Oxy-Pro unit at the lower ballfield, at an estimated cost of around $110,000. Although the revised sewer allocation numbers indicate a second unit isn’t crucial right now, he said he’s concerned about reductions in future CDBG funding and wants “to strike while the iron’s hot.” CDBG funding this year dropped by $70,000, from $240,000 in 2011 to $170,000 in 2012, and it could drop further, he said.

So it seems prudent to invest in the second Oxy-Pro unit sooner rather than later, he said. Of the $170,000 available for this year, $30,000 will be set aside to offset the costs of paying the salary of the new planning director, Anne Kreig, who will be paid $47,000 a year to start, with a raise to $50,000 by August following a six-month probationary period. Manoian’s salary was $46,000 when he left after three years.

The Sewer Committee will meet this Thursday, March 15, to go over the engineers’ allocation numbers and discuss the methods for planning to meet future needs.

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