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Abutters question sewage facility
OXFORD — Abutters to potential sites of a proposed waste water treatment facility in town expressed a handful of concerns during a public hearing November 20.
While Brent Bridges, vice president of Woodard and Curran, the engineering firm that designed the plant and Paul Rodriguez, a senior project engineer, gave a presentation detailing the project, residents asked questions about the environmental impact, costs and how the plant would operate overall.
Abutters said they were apprehensive about a facility being constructed mostly for environmental reasons, including water quality, and aesthetics. They also worried the facility would have a negative effect on property values.
The town is looking at two sites for the facility near Welchville Dam, at the intersection of Routes 26 and 121.
One woman who lives along Route 26 questioned whether the facility would generate any noise. Rodriguez said, "you might hear a little hum."
Another who would be directly across from the site on Route 121 asked how visible the facility would be from the Little Androscoggin River. "You will be able to see it," Rodriguez admitted.
"Right now it's woodland out there," said the abutter who lives near Carter's X-Ski Center in Oxford. "My concern is I'm going to be staring out at this brick building and see pipes coming out of it pouring [waste] water into the river," she said.
Rodriguez explained the plant can be built to suit the environment and assured her that it would not be too much of an eyesore. The facility would be no larger than 40-by-80 feet in size and would be enclosed, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez and Bridges explained to residents that the facility would have minimal environmental impact.
Sewage would not be treated with chemicals and there would be virtually no odor – sludge would be constantly aerated and would not affect water quality, Bridges said.
No cost to taxpayers
Phase I of the project is planned within the town's Tax Increment Financing District, said Bridges, which aims at funding about half the $20-plus million project.
It would also be paid for with low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Economic and Community Development, he said, as well as user fees, estimated between $350 and $450 a year.
It would be completed without using taxpayer money, said Town Manager Michael Chammings – about 70 percent of the system would be paid for with TIF funding, grants and user fees.
According to Chammings, large businesses, including restaurants and motels have expressed interest in opening in Oxford and it would be more ecologically safe to add them to a municipal sewer system versus being hooked up to their own.
"We don't want to end up like Windham and have our nitrate levels high," he said.
Phase I of the project, estimated at $13.75 million, would include construction of the plant and extension of a sewer system along Route 26 – it would begin at the Mechanic Falls town line and end at the Skeetfield Road intersection, Bridges explained.
Phase II, estimated to cost $9.29 million, would expand the system from Skeetfield Road to central Oxford, he said.
At a special town meeting December 12, residents will be asked if Oxford's zoning ordinance should be amended to allow the construction of the proposed waste water treatment facility in the town's general development zone.
According to Chammings, voters will also be asked to allow the town's treasurer and chairperson to issue a general obligation bond not to exceed $20.2 million, used to fund the treatment facility and a municipal sewer system.
A facility of this kind would be the first in the state, he explained.
Chammings said that the November 20 meeting was not intended for debate; instead, it was meant to inform the public about the project and answer any questions the public had about the system.
Residents will have the chance to share their concerns at the special town meeting December 12 at 6:30 p.m. The location is to be determined.