OXFORD — Shortly following a $23.7 million influx in federal funding to expand the reach of the town’s sewer system project, dozens of residents packed the town office Thursday evening, eager to learn about – or condemn – the impact the project will have on their properties.

Nearly 30 residents, most of them homeowners affected by the beginning stages of a plan to construct a state-ofthe- art waste-water treatment facility connected to miles of pipes along Route 26, gathered at the Oxford Town Office last week to receive information from engineers overseeing the project.

Just days before, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pledged $23.7 million to fully fund the project’s expansion into Oxford Village and other rural parts of town.

The sewer project is broken into two phases, distinct in their source of funding.

Phase I, which voters agreed to fully-fund in 2012 after authorizing selectmen to borrow $13.7 million from a Maine Department of Environmental Protection, calls for the construction of the sewage treatment plant at the Welchville dam, near the intersection of Routes 26 and 121.

Sewer lines will be installed east and west along Route 26, mainly to serve commercial users: a planned Hampton Inn and adjoining restaurant across the road from the Oxford Casino have timed their openings to coincide with the launch of the system.

The casino, which has a local contractor pump and haul away sewage from its 45,000 gallon septic tank on a monthly basis, will determine whether to connect to the sewer once construction is completed, according to Advertising Coordinator Jane McClay Hoyt.

The pipes will be place up to private property lines, according to Woodard & Curran vice-president Brent Bridges.

Debt incurred from the DEP’s loan will be serviced from home and businesses usage fees plus tax revenues captured and reimbursed through funding captured in Oxford’s Tax Increment Financing district.

Phase II of the project, which would have been impossible without USDA’s rural development grants and loans according to Town Manager Michael Chammings, will extend sewer lines, collection points and pump stations into King Street and other residential areas.

The engineering firm, which is overseeing the design process and soliciting bids for the project, will drill underground tunnels below the road to connect homes  situated along the eastbound lane of route 26.

Bridges answered only a handful of general questions from residents before spending more than an hour pouring over schematic drawings and maps with them on an individual basis.

Standing patiently in line for his turn with engineers, Mike Thompson said he was ‘excited’ for what the project would portend for his business, Double T Fence of Oxford.

Thompson, who operates his fencing business from the bottom floor of an old school house and rents apartments from the top, said the sewer will likely mean a long-term cost-savings, which runs on an over-sized septic tank.

‘I’m probably going to hook up as soon as possible,’ Thompson said.

Many details over the plan are still in the works. Home owners will not immediately be required to connect to the sewer pipes if they choose not to. However, when current home septic systems fail, residents will be required to go online with the system, which will include fees for the cost of installation.

According to Bridges, engineers are calculating the household and businesses user rate – the price per volume of water – which will be determined by population and household density: the more potential users which can be connected, the lower the rate, he said.

A forthcoming town ordinance, expected this summer, will drive the usage rate and set the parameters for when users are forced to connect to the system, according to Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Floyd Thayer.

In the interim, the town is looking to secure grants to reimburse homeowners for their connection fees, Town Manager Michael Chammings said.

Still, some residents balked at the notion they might one day be forced to connect.

At 397 Main Street, Nick and Darcy Morse live a third of a mile from where the new sewer plant is to be built.

The Morses said they draw ‘beautiful’ water from a well dug behind the house, and despite signing an easement with the town for the project, are worried about how much it will cost them to connect to the system.

‘Our biggest concern is that we’ll have to hook up,’ Nick Morse said.

The construction process will involve the removal of trees, rocks, and other landscaping, which will be replaced after completion. Bridges said engineers had already amassed a photo catalogue detailing how properties appeared prior to construction.

The news did not comfort Norma and Steve Crowell, who have spent the past 10 years situated along the banks of the Little Androscoggin River – just a stones throw directly across from where the sewer plant will go up.

The couple said they’re ‘very concerned’ that the station will be an eyesore, and hoses protruding from the ground will disturb the scenery.

Steve, who said he voted against the plan, understands the economic reasons why the town is installing the sewer.

‘If it was in someone else back yard I’d have voted for it,’ Crowell said.

A definitive launch date has not been set. Though the sewer pipes will likely be installed by November, Bridges was unsure when a $1.2 million state-of-the-art sewer station would be finished.

The station uses fine mesh membranes to slough off solids and sterilize the remaining water with ultraviolet light. Residents look to gain more information can join a mailing list by emailing Chammings at [email protected] roadrunner. com.

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