Bethel again looking at extending sewerage into Mayville
The current Bethel Board of Selectmen is once again looking into moving on what it and past boards have long considered inevitable (and desirable), but have never quite figured how to push through – extending the town's sewer lines across the Androscoggin River and out through Mayville.
The matter last came to a head in 2006, when the developer of Twitchell Brook Estates offered to contribute $100,000 toward the cost -- then estimated at somewhere over half a million dollars -- of extending the line as far as the Bethel Irving.
If such a line were in place, and Twitchell Brook Estates could hook up to it, the developer would have been able to build 38 condominium units, rather than the 22 possible with private septic disposal.
The 2006 board agreed to study the matter.
“We would have been derelict if we didn't look at it,” said then Town Manager Scott Cole.
The Board commissioned a topographic and utility survey of the area in question (with the developer paying half the $10,000 cost), as well as a survey of property owners along the route – to see how many would be interested in connecting to the system, should it be built.
But the effort ultimately came to naught.
After looking further into the cost and the town's funding options, the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee demanded a larger contribution from the developer, who initially agreed, but then looked harder at his own numbers, and decided “it just didn't make sense. … The town really lost.”
There the matter stood until Monday evening, when Jeff Parsons, owner of Bethel Outdoor Adventure, approached the board with a fresh proposal, one which called for the town to construct a municipal pump station on the north (campground) side of the bridge, for use of the campground, and on land donated by its owners, he and his wife Pattie.
The campground waste would be fed into the pump by BOA's already installed grinding pump, and it would then cross the Androscoggin in the sewer line put in place when the recreational bridge was built in 2005.
(Parsons also presented two more elaborate options, both of which the board passed on.)
During discussion of the proposal there seemed general agreement that it could provide a needed first-step in the gradual expansion of the sewer system into Mayville.
But finding the necessary funding for any such expansion remains a long-term challenge.
“Obviously there's been an interest in expanding the sewer,” said Board Chair Stan Howe, “because there's been a restricted number of customers, and the more customers you get the better the revenue flow will be.
“But getting there is the big question: How do you get there without bankrupting the town?”
Selectman Bob Everett said he was more concerned with the possible impact on existing customers of the system.
“It's not necessarily the town you're going to bankrupt,” Everett said. “You're going to bankrupt the people who are on the system. The sewer district is like a self-sustaining thing. … And we've already got some of the highest sewer rates in the state.”
The three board members present Monday (Jack Cross and Dennis Doyon were absent) eventually voted unanimously to have Town Manager Jim Doar study the matter and report back to them.
Asked Tuesday to describe his mandate, Doar said: “The Selectmen authorized preliminary exploration of extending the sewer to Mayville. I’m going to start by getting cost estimates for the engineering and construction costs required to extend the sewer to Irving and install a municipal pump station in the vicinity of the recreational bridge. Then begin to put costs together for a plan to phase it in. Then start looking for money, then put some options in front of the selectmen. I hope to get that done before the spring. In the immediate term, since we’ve done some preliminary design work, I hope to get an idea for how much more a full-blown engineered design will cost and get that done.”