OXFORD — A move by casino developer Black Bear Entertainment to expand the town's water up Pigeon Hill to the casino site doesn't mean they've given up on drilling a well at the site, according to the group's community development director.
“We're open to considering a public solution,” Scott Smith said Wednesday. “But we're confident either way.”
The town has proposed expanding water service along Route 26 to the southern border, and Black Bear has offered to pay $500,000 toward the estimated $1.5 million project.
According to Town Manager Michael Chammings, Black Bear investor and developer Bob Bahre is willing to front the town the remaining $1 million, to be paid back when the town receives Tax Increment Financing funds for the project.
Black Bear would also let the town keep a 500,000 gallon water reserve tank on casino property under a deeded easement to the town. Chammings said the town currently has a 300,000 gallon reserve tank, and the expansion would be important as the town seeks to expand water services to other areas.
Next Thursday, Oxford will hold a special town meeting asking voters to approve the capital improvement project. Water currently runs just beyond Welchville to the base of Pigeon Hill. The project would expand the water line another 6,500 feet.
Chammings said an expanded water line is “a win-win all around,” as it would benefit not only Black Bear but residents on the hill and potential commercial developers interested in moving to the Route 26 corridor. He said the town could set fire hydrants farther up the road, keeping Pigeon Hill residents safer.
When the Maine Department of Environmental Protection approved a site plan permit for the casino, one of several conditions stipulated that the casino must prove the site could supply the estimated 22,000 gallons per day required for the casino to operate.
On June 15, in response to an appeal by the Androscoggin River Alliance, the Board of Environmental Protection made a more stringent demand, giving Black Bear 90 days to prove there was sufficient water at the site.
Smith said Black Bear is confident with the amount of water measured with the first test well, but that the developers would connect to town water if it became available.
“A public water solution would be very positive for the whole community,” Smith said.
Smith said voter approval of the town meeting warrant next week wouldn't guarantee Black Bear would be connecting to the public water line. “All the engineering and technical aspects are still being worked out.”