Chesterville Selectpersons signed the contract for work on the Sandy River Road Thursday, July 2. Severely undersized culverts that easily clog with debris make this site highly susceptible to failure during a flood event. File photo

CHESTERVILLE — Selectpersons voted 3 to 2 in favor of moving forward with the Sandy River Road project Thursday, July 2, and signed a contract with CH Stevenson.

Selectpersons John Archer, Linda Bauer and Guy Iverson voted yes. Selectpersons Scott Gray and Tiffany Estabrook were opposed.

“For me, the town hasn’t gotten answers from the attorneys yet. It has nothing to do with the project,” Estabrook said.

A site visit was held on Monday, June 29, with selectpersons, the highway road foreman, Lidie Robbins from 30 Mile Watershed Association and engineer Eric Labelle from Main-Land Development Consultants, Inc.

“As a result of today’s meeting with the 30 Mile Watershed and the engineer for the project, the board has decided to contact the towns attorney for clarification on who is responsible for the grant, dispersing of funds, etc. The board hopes to have answers for our regular scheduled meeting July 2nd,” Estabrook said in an email.

“If I offended anybody by asking questions, that wasn’t my intention. Any intention to stop this project is far from the truth,” Estabrook said. “No information was handed from the previous board to this board. This one is trying to get information.”

“Two of you were on the previous board,” Robbins said Thursday. “Why didn’t that information follow through? I didn’t understand why there wasn’t communication between meetings.”

“That’s an internal board issue,” Estabrook said.

There are two separate projects involved, Robbins said.

The estimated cost of the projects is $307,800.

The 30 Mile River Watershed Association has been awarded two grants to help fund them:

• $95,000 grant provided by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for Stream Crossing Public Infrastructure Improvements Projects

• $80,000 grant provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

The Town of Chesterville will need to provide the remainder of the matching funds for the projects, estimated to be $132,800.

“The road project is more straightforward, doesn’t have the complexity of the culvert project, doesn’t need an engineer,” Robbins said. “The town is responsible for executing that project.

“As the grantee, money from the DEP comes to the 30 Mile River Watershed Association. We give the money to Chesterville to use. You get the invoice to me for the check to be written.”

“Why can’t the matching funds from Chesterville be given to the Association and they assume responsibility,” Estabrook asked.

“It’s not our road, it’s your road,” Robbins said. The 319 Grant is a lot bigger than this Chesterville project. There’s a bunch of other places involved. It made sense for us to be the grantee of both grants. We did most of the grant work.”

“I have a hard time signing the contract when the town is only responsible for the match part of it,” Estabrook noted.

“It’s guaranteed money. The money is available,” Robbins said.

“We went to town meeting to expend $130,000 for matching dollars. Are we still covered by the catchall article,” Estabrook asked.

“Yes. This is a really great opportunity for Chesterville,” Treasurer Erin Norton said. “In other towns I’ve never had any hiccups with similar grants.”

Chesterville will need to obtain some easements for the project.

“A lot of residents usually support and applaud the work because you’re investing a lot of money in that location,” Labelle said. “The reality is the stream has flowed there for hundreds of years. The alterations we are making aren’t really impactful to property owners.

“We can accommodate things as part of our design. The goal is to make things better. We’re not looking to adversely impact anyone.”

An audio recording of the April 16, board meeting is found on the Town of Chesterville website.

On April 16, then-selectpersons Archer, Allan Mackey and Matt Welch approved spending $33,000 for Main-Land Development Consultants, Inc. of Livermore Falls to complete preliminary work on the Sandy River Road project. Estabrook did not attend the meeting that was held via Zoom.

“This stream crossing on the Sandy River Road has been a chronic problem for many years. The stream connects the outlet of David Pond with the inlet of Parker Pond,” Robbins said in an April 22, email. “The road is situated on a narrow causeway that was a former saw and grist mill. The narrowness of the road and inadequate foundation from the remnant mill have contributed to the road’s instability. The road shoulders are nearly vertical and have been collapsing and chronically eroding into the stream for many years. In addition, the existing culverts are severely undersized, clog easily and cannot accommodate the 100-year flood event or larger storms associated with climate change. It is estimated that the culvert/crossing will have a complete failure, a complete collapse, or total washout within one to three years.

“The existing culvert is hazardous for the public, undersized to handle floods and a barrier to fish and other aquatic organisms.

“Benefits to the town by fixing the culvert include:

“Public safety. The narrow roadway at the culvert presents a significant hazard and liability to the town. The current guardrails are insecure and the sides of the road continually wash out. At times, large sinkholes have developed that would seriously damage a vehicle or cause an accident if two cars are crossing in opposite directions at the same time.

“Public infrastructure. Sandy River Road is a main access route north to Farmington, south to Mt. Vernon/Augusta and west to Livermore Falls, used by not only residents of the road but many other nearby residents.

“Protecting the tax base. Both the road and the culvert contribute large amounts of polluted runoff into Parker Pond every year. This site is likely the largest polluter to the lake. Protecting water quality in Parker Pond protects property values and therefore the tax base.

“This opportunity to complete these projects with this large amount of grant funding will likely never come again. Experts estimate that this culvert will fail, collapse, or totally washout within the next 1-3 years. If the project is not completed now with grant funds, it will need to be in the near future, without grant funds.”

At the June 1, town meeting, voters approved $300,000 for capital roads projects.

 


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