ROCKPORT — On October 12, members of the Rockport Select Board voted unanimously to rescind their previous authorization of a $40,000 engineering study which would explore extending wastewater treatment facilities along Route 90.
Acting in their role as wastewater commissioners, the board withdrew their approval of the initial work on the project which engineering firm Woodard & Curran had been contracted to do. Town Manager Jon Duke recommended the board rescind their approval of the contract based after learning that adding the engineering report to the town’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant-funding application could put future funding in jeopardy.
Duke also included an update on the sewer extension work being performed along Route 1, and said that the upcoming months of colder weather may result in a portion of the project being completed in the spring of 2022, later than originally estimated.
Route 90 sewer study
Last month, the Select Board approved a proposal submitted by Woodard & Curran to conduct a study which would focus, “on the Route 90 corridor between the Camden Hills Regional High School [the western terminus of the existing collection system] and the intersection with Route 17 where several potential development projects have been recently discussed.”
The budget for the study contained a not-to-exceed lump sum of $40,000, which included an allowance of $10,000 to conduct ledge probes to determine the depth of bedrock and extract soil samples.
That information was to be examined alongside areas along the Route 90 corridor that could be used for gravity drainage and could support the construction of wastewater pump stations.
An initial cost estimated for the project was to be provided by W&C; Duke said a portion of the overall project cost for the sewer extension – as much as 80 percent – could be funded through EDA grants.
At the Oct. 12 meeting, Duke said that since their September meeting, the Town had been informed by members of the EDA that the report could jeopardize the opportunity to receive such grant funds.
“To contract with W&C could potentially put future funding in jeopardy because of who writes the report as opposed to who provides the design specifications for construction,” he told the board. “So it seemed easiest at this point to rescind and ask the board to reconsider their motion and rescind that contract. I’ve spoken to Nate [McLaughlin, W&C Principal] and has no issues with doing so; obviously he sees the value in us seeking the most possible benefit financially in that EDA process.”
“We are looking at alternatives as to how that report could be structured, who we could work with to provide that report; it needn’t be an engineer in some cases, but we need someone who can do that analysis and we need that as part of our application in March,” said Duke. “We are still working on that project, but obviously this contract would need to be rescinded for us to take it to the next steps.”
Last month, Duke said that he and Planning and Development Director Orion Thomas and McLaughlin, had discussed the project over the summer, but that the idea of a Route 90 sewer extension had been a topic of discussion among Rockport officials over the past 20 years.
McLaughlin said that the size and direction of the extension could be based around which current properties, such as Midcoast Recreation Center and the West Rockport Fire Station, and new developments, such as workforce housing, could use the wastewater system.
Finance Director Meghan Brackett said the Town had contingency money in the Capital Improvement Plan that could be used to fund the study, and that the study would be a document necessary to receive EDA funding for the sewer project itself. An application to receive EDA funding would need to be filed by March of 2022.
“EDA funding is typically only 50 percent of the project, but because the [American Rescue Plan Act] funds that are available, they are awarding projects up to 80 percent. Talking with [Thomas,] we feel confident that we could qualify up to that 80 percent because of job creation, because of workforce housing and some other potential services we could put in,” said Brackett, Sept. 14.
Route 1 sewer extension progress report
In February, the Select Board approved a $5.8 million sewer extension project which would extend the town’s sewer line from Sea Light Lane to South Street. The town received three bids for the project, and selected low bidder Nitram Excavation and General Contractor, Inc. of Benton, to perform the work for $5,846,748.
Referred to as the Route 1 Wastewater Project, the scope of work Nitram Excavation will be performing includes laying approximately 8,000 linear feet of gravity sewer line, 7,400 linear feet of sewer force main and 6,400 linear feet of water main. The project includes construction of two new wastewater pump stations.
After the board rescinded their contract for the study on a Route 90 sewer extension at the Oct. 12 meeting, Selectman Mark Kelley asked Duke about the work underway along Route 1. Duke said the project was “going well,” but that the onset of fall and winter weather may result in a delay in completion.
“The idea is effectively to complete both sides of the stretch that they’re working on, and there will be an area in the middle, roughly where Oakland Park bowling lanes are, Downeast, that area, that will probably not be completed this fall. The [sewer] lines may get in, may not get in, but the hope is that will at least be blasted and cleaned-out so all they have to do is lay the line in the spring,” said Duke.
“I think there are 45 or 50 days of contract left after [Nitram] wraps up, so the idea is that will be tacked-on in the spring. That will be the most disruptive part because that’s when they will be going across to do services on either side of Route 1. But hopefully when weather improves in the spring, that should provide opportunity – if it’s early enough– to get that done well before July 4 holiday.”
Duke said the Nitram crew are currently working near Rockville St. and near Plants Unlimited on the North end of Route 1, and near PenBay Medical Center on the south end of the extension.
“What I was hearing from the contractors...it seems that they did the test borings outside of the travel lanes...so it looks great but then you get over two feet and it’s ledge. So that’s not great, that’s not what you want to have happen, so that’s slowing things down a bit and there will be more blasting, unfortunately.”
The next meeting of the Rockport Select Board will be held Monday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.