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Work on Oxford sewer project expected 'before the snow flies'
OXFORD — Ground-breaking for the town's new waste water treatment facility will probably be pushed back until late fall, selectmen learned at a Monday afternoon workshop on the project.
In a presentation to selectmen and Town Manager Michael Chammings, Brent Bridges, a vice president with the engineering firm Woodard and Curran, said procurement for the project was ready to move ahead in the next few weeks.
Work on permitting and funding for the project, however, is moving more slowly than anticipated.
Responding to a question from Selectboard Chairman Floyd Thayer, Bridges couldn't give an exact date the town could start on the project – only that it could begin "before the snow flies."
The total project, which includes constructing a new sewer treatment plant an extending sewer lines along Route 26 and through residential areas, is expected to cost upwards of $20 million.
The first phase of the project, constructing the treatment plant and extending sewer lines through the town's commercial development zone on Route 26, was re-sized in May and is now expected to cost $9.2 million.
The larger second phase of the project, to extend sewer lines through residential areas of northern and central Oxford, will not begin until later and is expected to cost $13.7 million.
Bridges said funding for the second part of the project, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, could provide between 25 to 40-percent of total funding.
The problem, however, is contradictory requirements from DEP and Rural Development, said Town Manager Michael Chammings, at the meeting.
While Rural Development needs a firm engineering proposal to recommend funding, the town is still waiting on DEP to permit the size and type of facility the town can build, Chammings said. That, combined with a USDA funding hold-up in Washington, is delaying the process.
Bridges estimated the town wouldn't hear about the Rural Development funding until at least September.
Other possible funding avenues for the town include $400,000 in earmarked funding from DEP and a possible $200,000 grant from the Border Regional Commission, but neither option was guaranteed, Bridges said.
The town still intends to move ahead with the project and has been using town accounts to fund the project so far, Chammings said. Last December, voters approved borrowing $20.2 million for the project. In April, the selectboard directed Chammings to sign a $13.7 million loan agreement with the Maine Municipal Bank.
The town plans to repay the borrowing with funding from the its Tax Increment Financing zone, grants and user fees and does not intend to use taxpayer money on the project, Chammings has said at previous meetings.
Despite the hold-up in funding, the town and Woodard and Curran intend to move ahead with procurement for the treatment facility, Bridges told the board.
The proposed treatment facility uses a series of fine screens, or membranes, to slough off solids before treating the remaining waste with UV light instead of a conventional, chemically-treated systems. Chammings has previously said Oxford will be the first Maine municipality to construct a system of this type.
The equipment needed for the system, however, has to be procured from specialized vendors, Bridges explained. He anticipated three "legitimate" vendors and six other companies would bid on the project.
Bridges said he expected to send out bid requests within the next few weeks and to receive submissions by the end of the month. A public hearing on the project will be scheduled to review the preliminary engineering report when it is published, Bridges said.