Towns talk about engineer proposal for Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond dam

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The selectmen of the towns of Casco and Otisfield want to make sure that the public is provided with a boatload of information about the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond dam that is in need of repairs or replacement.

The selectmen also want to “be in the same boat” when it comes to understanding and sharing the information about the dam when the expense appears as a warrant article at town meetings.

For one, the dam is failing. While it isn’t likely to cause flooding or property damage downstream, the uncontrolled flow of water might temporarily reduce water levels on the lakes.

So, the dam must be repaired or replaced to be in compliance with Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations, and to protect the waterfront property owners and recreation-based businesses, the selectmen said.

The best approach is a two-phase project.

This year, at town meetings, the residents of the two towns will be asked to fund the official engineer’s package, which should include permitting, Computer Assisted Drawings (CAD), and hydrological studies.

The engineering job could go out to bid if the money is approved.

Then, next year, with the engineer’s proposal in hand, the towns could approve funding for replacement or repair of the dam. That construction phase would go out to bid in the summer of 2016.

As summed up by Otisfield Chairman Hal Ferguson, “This year is the money for engineering plans. Next year is the hard stuff — replacing or repairing the dam.”

However, there is a double-edged sword when it comes to allocating money for a project and putting it out to bid, according to Town Manager Dave Morton.

He said that if residents voted on a specific monetary number to cover the cost of an engineer’s proposal, then that public knowledge would jeopardize the competitive bidding process.

“We don’t want to go to town meeting with numbers. Then bidders will know that. That is where those bids are going to add up,” he said.

To counter this, the warrant article will be put forward as “a cost range,” Morton said.

A specific cost would not be known until the bids are opened, and the board awards the project, he said.

On Tuesday, the Casco and Otisfield boards of selectmen met jointly at the Casco Community Center. Otisfield resident Lew Wetzel was present as a representative from the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Association.

The group reviewed packets of paperwork supplied by Myron Petrovsky, the owner of MBP Consulting in Portland.

Currently, the selectmen did not have a reliable cost range.

The total cost would be divided equally between the towns. Additionally, the language in the warrant articles will be pretty much identical.

Going forward, the towns will work with MBP Consulting to get that cost range nailed down. Also, the boards directed Morton to contact Petrovsky regarding a precise cost of MBP’s services.

According to Morton, the firm owes the towns one more consultation and likely a few more should be scheduled.

For the past three-quarters of a year, a subcommittee with people from both towns and the lake association has dealt with the details of the dam.

Otisfield Selectmen Rick Mickon suggested that everyone should attend any future meetings with MBP Consulting.

“When it comes to spending that kind of money, we should all be there. If we are spending money, we should all be aware,” he said.

Mickon also favored the idea of inviting Petrovsky to town meetings to answer questions.

Morton agreed.

“We need to explain to people why we are giving ranges. We are going to give them all this information. We need people to feel confident that this is a good process and done well,” he said.

Another worthwhile pursuit upon which the group agreed — researching similar-sized dam projects that have been completed in the past couple years.

Micklon suggested locating a similar dam project in Maine or New Hampshire.

It was agreed that the Maine Department of Transportation and DEP would be contacted regarding recent dam construction.

“We could talk to someone from that town.

It would help to have real-life numbers, rather than bid numbers. When we were in the market for a town garage that is what we did,” Micklon said.

Selectman Holly Hancock nodded in agreement.

“That helps the taxpayers to see the cost based on real projects,” Hancock said.

The structure, which is located near the Hancock Lumber offices off Meadow Road (Route 121), was a bottom draw, gated dam. It has been converted into a spill dam.

Studies show the current location is the best spot.

Both towns will send notification to landowners on Parker Pond and Pleasant Lake to inform them of the dam’s failure and the upcoming project to remedy that.

Also, as noted by Casco Chairman Grant Plummer, people need to know that the DEP will not change the water-level mandates. The state’s water-level ruling will remain the same, he said.

However, the bodies of water might be lower this summer because the town has no way to control the dam, Plummer said.

 

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