Panel votes to use $20,000 from sewer reserve despite concerns

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LIVERMORE FALLS – Selectmen unanimously voted this week to take $20,000 from the Sewer Department reserve account to pay for the replacement of a sewer line on Sewall Street, Chairwoman Jackie Knight said Tuesday.

The vote Monday went against concerns about reducing the sewer reserve account, but the move allows the town to obtain the $16,000 needed to pave Sewall Street from the Livermore Falls Water District’s share of paving costs.

It is estimated to cost $32,500 to pave Sewall, a one-way street off upper Depot Street and Cedar Street, with the water district picking up nearly half of it, Town Manager Martin Puckett said.

The approved water/sewer paving budget has a savings of $3,569.70 that could be put toward the town’s share of paving the road, as well as $9,500 that had been budgeted for Pearl Street, which is not being done this year.

The town would have $29,069.70 toward the paving, including the water district’s share, and would only need $3,431 more to do the paving job.

However, that does not cover the sewer line replacement cost, Puckett said, which is estimated at $20,000.

Voters approved borrowing $250,000 earlier this year to cover sewer replacement work on several streets. About $247,000 has already been spent, leaving about $3,000 in the bond as of Monday, Puckett said.

The water district planned to replace water lines on those roads and town officials agreed it would be best to have the same contractor do the sewer line replacement work at the same time.

Sewall Street was added to the mix after the district received a good price on the work, Puckett said.

“The problem is do we have enough money” to do the sewer line replacement on Sewall Street? Puckett asked.

The auditor recommends having three months of expenses in reserve for unexpected financial emergencies or extensive sewer work, he said.

Monthly sewer expenses are $30,000, so three months is $90,000, Puckett said.

“Taking into account the costs of recent sewer work and our share of paving costs, we currently have $89,000 in reserves, which is already $1,000 below the auditor’s recommendation,” Puckett said. “Removing an additional $20,000 would place the sewer department in a dangerous situation if any major sewer line breaks occurred, not to mention lost interest revenues.”

Puckett said he spoke with sewer department representatives and they were uncomfortable borrowing more money from the reserve.

“Do we want to do Sewall Street if it means borrowing from the reserve or should we wait until next year?” Puckett said. “The problem is we’d lose interest and $16,000 in paving money from the water district.”

Initially selectmen voted to table the issue until they received further information, but they decided to revisit it after resident Miriam Buchanan pointed out during public session that if there were a major break in the sewer system, the town probably wouldn’t have enough money in reserve to cover it anyway, Knight said.

Among concerns that were discussed Monday, Knight said, were losing nearly half the paving cost, digging up the road again next year, and unintended damage to the infrastructure during the process.

If the project isn’t done this year, the water district’s share of paving wouldn’t be available next year, Knight said.

Selectman Julie Deschesne made the motion to approve taking the money from the reserve, Knight said, and she seconded it.

It was also voted to take the additional $3,000 needed for paving from the Highway Department account, Knight said.

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