RUMFORD — The $5.8 million project to install new sewer and water lines on The Island business district is roughly three-quarters done and may be more than $1.3 million overbudget, interim Town Manager Scott Cole told selectmen Thursday night.

“Right now, based on nothing more than the engineer’s rough thumbnail comment, probably the town’s question is: From where is another $1.3 or $1.4 million going to come? That number could go in either direction, higher or lower,” he said.

Reasons for the cost overrun, he said, could include the project design, unexpected expenses and the large amount of rock that had to be removed.

Sargent Corp. of Old Town began replacing sewer lines, storm drains and water mains under several streets on April 30, 2018.

The job, which also included replacing sidewalks, was expected to be finished Dec. 15, on-site inspector Gary Violette said in July.

However, work stopped in November due to cold weather and is expected to resume in April and take four months to finish.

Cole, of Bethel, is the third town manager to deal with the project.

Selectmen suspended Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs on Dec. 14, 2018, in the first year of her three-year contract and appointed Police Chief Stacy Carter as interim. Briggs was fired Jan. 2, and Cole was appointed interim manager a week later.

He told selectmen Thursday that he spoke to project engineers at Main-Land Development of Livermore Falls, who said roughly 25 percent of the project remains to be completed. The estimated cost is $1.78 million, which would bring the total project to $7.58 million. 

The town’s cash flow is probably “a little more stressed than in past years” because of project, Cole said.

It can be replenished in April when the second half of property taxes are due.

“But the bigger question is figuring out the overall answer to the project deficit,” Cole said.

He said he will look for more funding.

“Any grant opportunity is going to be identified within the next 60 days,” he said.

The construction project wasn’t the only money issue before the board. Selectmen voted 3-2 to increase the sewer rate by $68, bringing it to $244 for 2019.

Selectmen John Pepin and Peter Chase voted against the increase, while Chairman Chris Brennick, James Windover and Mark Belanger voted for it.

Cole said the increase was necessary because the Rumford-Mexico Sewerage District had to replace equipment.

The increase will also provide $50,000 for the sewer capital fund, which has no balance.

Tax Collector Tom Bourret said Rumford has had the lowest sewer rate in the state.

“Why should my tax bill be affected by the sewer rate when the users should be funding their own expansion, their own maintenance, whatever?” Chase asked.

Board Chairman Chris Brennick told the board, “We need to have a workshop on this.”

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Workers from Sargent Corp. of Old Town replace sewer mains and water lines on The Island business district in downtown Rumford in September 2018. Interim Town Manager Scott Cole of Bethel told selectmen Thursday that the $5.8 million project may be more than $1.3 million overbudget, with a quarter of the work left to do this spring. (Rumford Falls Times file photo)