RUMFORD — Selectmen learned Thursday night that this summer's Prospect Avenue/Eaton Hill Road sewer pipe replacement project is expected to top $300,000.
The good news is that taxpayers won't be stuck with the bill because the town raised and appropriated more than $800,000 over the years for Rumford's Sewer System Capital Improvement Fund, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said.
"We had built a surplus up, but we never earmarked it for anything," he said.
"This town was very prudent in appropriating that reserves money over the years," Puiia said after the meeting. "Rumford's past town managers and boards were wise in doing that and the citizens, too, in approving it."
The cost issue, which wasn't on the agenda, came up in Public Works Superintendent Andy Russell's report, when he updated the board on his crews' completed and ongoing projects.
Russell said the sewer pipe replacement project's total cost as of Thursday night was $291,080. He said that would increase to more than $300,000 with the upcoming project to pave the affected area. He said his crew has been doing pre-paving work at the site.
Russell also said that a leak had been discovered in the newly fixed area that is allowing sand to again enter the sewer pipe. However, he said contractor Ted Berry of Livermore would soon install an 8-foot patch on the affected pipe by relining it with cured-in-place pipe lining.
Responding to a selectman's question, Russell said they don't have to dig it up again because the patch can be applied via insertion of a resin material between manholes.
The problem began June 8 with a sinkhole about 10 feet by 15 feet and a foot deep in the road. It was expected to be a two-day job at most to replace the failed pipe section and broken manhole.
But when the crew started excavating to determine where the dirt went, it learned the pipe section and manhole were within a huge aquifer more than 18 feet below street level.
They couldn't reach it because of the abnormal volume of water and sandy soil in the dig site that kept collapsing toward the trench cage.
All along, Russell said it would be a two-day job if they could only drain the work site long enough to replace the broken pipe and manhole that were installed during the 1960s or 1970s under former Route 2.
So what began as a one- or two-day, $54,000 project quickly escalated to beyond the scope of the department’s resources to the point where Russell had to hire additional contractors to de-water the site and create a safe work space.
Rental equipment and materials alone totaled $181,438, labor was $68,145, and equipment totaled $41,496, according to two itemized spreadsheets Russell gave to selectmen per their request from a previous meeting.
Among the other Public Works project updates, Russell said the crew installed overflow culverts on Swain and Milton roads, swept out and cleaned catch basins and paved areas around town that have recurring pothole problems. They also did ditching work and trimmed and removed overgrown brush, improving sight distance for drivers on affected roads.
Some other roads "in pretty rough shape" will be fixed with overlay and a 4,500-foot stretch on Whippoorwill Road will be reconstructed to solve drainage issues.