Members of the Thompson Lake Dam Advisory Committee meet at the Oxford Municipal Center in Oxford on July 16. From left, are Otisfield Selectman Hal Ferguson, Casco Selectman Holly Hancock and Casco representative Joe Stella. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

OXFORD — The Thompson Lake Dam Advisory Committee — nine members representing four towns — will meet again in the fall in hopes of reaching a consensus on a plan to repair the dam and who will pay for it.

When the committee met this month at the Oxford Municipal Center there was clear disagreement on those issues.

Oxford owns the dam, which empties into the Little Androscoggin River, and has about 40% of the lake’s shoreline within its boundaries. The remainder of the frontage on the nearly 8-mile long lake is in Otisfield, Poland and Casco.

In June, Oxford selectmen approved a plan to make major repairs to the east gate, one of three on the dam. They also approved other maintenance estimated at $521,350.

That decision is at odds with what representatives from the other towns had anticipated.

The committee is chaired by Oxford Town Manager Butch Asselin, who is a nonvoting member, unless there is a tie. He is joined by Oxford representatives Peter Leverdiere and Samantha Hewey, Otisfield representatives Hal Ferguson and Jim Hughes, Poland representative Stan Tetenman, and Casco representatives Holly Hancock and Joseph Stella. There is one vacancy.

In discussions going back several years, the larger center gate had been targeted as the priority for replacement or repair, but engineers said the east gate was in the most precarious condition.

Previously, Oxford selectmen had considered starting repairs on the center gate for less than $100,000 while they also pursued estimates to compare with the cost of replacing the dam.

Engineer Myron Petrovsky of MBP Consulting told selectmen earlier this year that repairing the center gate would extend the life of the dam about five years and repairing the east gate – at least five times more costly – would extend it by 50 years.

Another benefit of focusing repairs on the east gate is that it and the west gate can be powered by 220 volts, which is available at the site. The center gate, which can be operated by hand, would require 440 volts.

Ferguson presented the group with a plan that two other Maine towns use to maintain a dam owned by only one of them. As recently as a year ago Otisfield called for joint ownership of the Thompson Lake dam but at the July 16 meeting Ferguson said the town was no longer interested in it.

Representatives from Casco and Poland indicated they would consider a similar agreement.

But all three towns balked at contributing any money to repair the east gate without knowing the cost of replacing the dam.

“I guess if you needed to have a motto (from Otisfield) it would be ‘no say, no pay,’” Ferguson said.

Asselin pointed out that the role of the committee was to advise, not approve spending. He said Oxford selectmen were receptive to ideas from other towns, but Oxford owns the dam and has final say.

“To say you won’t help fund the dam because you disagree on how we proceed to make those repairs, I don’t think that is right,” Asselin told Ferguson. “And that is me talking. That is not the board.”

Ferguson countered that the committee recommended either aluminum or stainless steel boards to reinforce the east gate rather than replace the whole unit but Oxford never solicited a bid for it to be done.

“Those stop logs are readily available in aluminum or stainless steel,” Ferguson said. “I don’t know how much it would cost but I guarantee it would be a lot less than $500,000 or $600,000.”

Representatives also took issue with a perceived lack of communication from Oxford selectmen. Ferguson pointed out that an underwater video documenting the dam’s inspection had never been available for the committee to view before a March workshop by Oxford selectmen.

Stella questioned why a memo he sent months ago to Oxford board Chairman Scott Hunter, which listed a number of ideas for repairing the dam, had never been shared with Asselin or other officials.

Even with no consensus and Oxford willing to proceed with the east gate repair with no financial support from other towns, members agreed to continue meeting. However, settling on a date proved problematic.

When Asselin later suggested in an email scheduling a meeting for Aug. 13, Ferguson replied Otisfield’s three selectmen would attend. Tetenman said he is unavailable that day and would not attend any meeting unless officials wore face coverings.

“In the Poland Town Office it is mandatory that staff and visitors wear masks and it is also mandatory at our Select Board meetings,” he wrote. “In my opinion, the leaders of a community should be setting a good example for the public … Unless masks are mandatory I will not in good conscience be able to attend future meetings.”

Asselin said Friday evening the committee will meet next on Thurday, Oct. 22, at the Oxford Municipal Center.


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