Council opposes Poland Spring plans

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MECHANIC FALLS – The Town Council went on record recently opposing Poland Spring Water Co.’s plans to ask the Public Utilities Commission to allow the Auburn Water District to provide water directly to its Poland Spring plant.

The bottling company wants the water for in-plant processing purposes – everything from washing workers’ hands to washing trucks.

“The idea for the bottling plant is it comes out ahead if it can buy water for in-house use from Auburn at a half-cent a gallon rather than use water from its sources that it can sell for a buck a gallon. Makes sense to me,” Town Manager Dana Lee said.

Mechanic Falls’ objection arises from the fact that the Poland Spring bottling plant lies within the Mechanic Falls water department’s territory, and the Mechanic Falls Town Council doesn’t want to give away part of the system’s assets without some recompense to local water users and ratepayers.

“We’re not happy that Poland Spring bottling wants to arbitrarily take part of our territory, and we’re going to contest it at the PUC. It was a unanimous council vote,” said Bill Diehl, chairman of the Mechanic Falls Town Council.

The town water department’s territory includes most of Poland west of Worthley Brook, while the Auburn water district’s territory includes that portion of Poland to the east of Worthley Brook.

Lee noted that during the past few months of negotiations Poland Spring Water Co. has turned down two offers. With the first offer, Mechanic Falls would agree to a district boundary change, allowing Auburn Water District to run a water line to the bottling plant, if Poland Spring would help fund a water line from the Poland Regional High School along Route 26 to Poland Village.

In the second, Auburn would extend its service to where Worthley Brook crosses Empire Road. Mechanic Falls would set up a meter at Worthley Brook and extend the line to the bottling plant, paying Auburn for the water and selling to Poland Spring at a markup sufficient to cover the cost of the extension.

The total distance involved is about three miles, the first mile-and-a-half Auburn’s responsibility and the second mile-and-a-half, Mechanic Falls’.

Steve French, Mechanic Falls water department operator, agreed that while it would give Poland’s business district a bigger “bang for its buck,” such a project would be a step toward reliable water service on an even greater scale.

“Adding a main to the area of Poland’s town office gets the Mechanic Falls system closer to a connection to Auburn’s system. Water utilities welcome the chance to ‘loop’ their systems. It eliminates dead end mains and provides for greater fire flows and the opportunity to ‘back feed’ areas during maintenance,” said French.

Lee noted that the council has not closed the door on continuing negotiations.

but strongly opposes any measure going before the PUC that doesn’t benefit existing ratepayers.

Phone calls to Poland Spring Water Co. seeking comment were not returned.

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