OXFORD — With repairs on the Thompson Lake dam progressing, selectmen Thursday tackled how to proceed with the Welchville dam on the Little Androscoggin River.

The outlet to Hogan and Whitney ponds connects to the river, so the dam affects the water levels in those two bodies of water.

Town Manager Butch Asselin said of 340 surveys sent to property owners with frontage on the two ponds, 40% were returned. The survey asked for feedback on the options available to repair or replace the dam. One option would be add grade controls to the outlet channels. The installation would cost $45,000 and the engineering design another $50,000.

Another option is to repair the dam, which is estimated to cost more than it would to replace it for about $1.6 million.

Adding grade controls, which would stabilize water levels naturally, was the preferred method, along with replacing the dam.

The poor condition of Welchville Dam in Oxford threatens water levels in Hogan and Whitney ponds. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

Dave Cloutier, a hydraulic engineer with VHB Inc. of South Portland, attended a selectmen meeting last winter to explain how grade controls would be installed and work. He also advised the board that Oxford would have a better chance of receiving grant assistance if the dam was removed because it would improve access for native fish breeding.

Board Vice Chairwoman Samantha Hewey said Thursday that while grade controls would be less expensive, she did not support removing the dam just in case grade controls did not function properly.

She made a motion to authorize the grade control study be done, which was unanimously approved.

Myron Petrovsky of MBP Consulting, who is the project manager overseeing the Thompson Lake dam rehabilitation, addressed the board to recommend adding some extra repairs to shore up the dam gate. It will add $20,000 to the cost of the project but not cause any cost overruns.

Oxford residents approved $521,350 for the project at last summer’s town meeting. About 40% of the shoreland is in Oxford; the rest is in Otisfield, Poland and Casco.

The dam, which is more than 150 years old, controls water from Thompson Lake flowing into the Little Androscoggin River. The town took ownership of it about 10 years ago.

Repairs to the east gate and other maintenance began in September by Bancroft Contracting of Paris and are expected to be completed before the end of the year.

Asselin advised selectmen that the town was approved for a Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund grant of $23,389 to replace fish screens in the dam, which will help lower the total expense.

In other business, selectmen returned to the topic of whether to build a new municipal office, rent space elsewhere, or rehabilitate the current office on Pleasant Street. The elevator has mechanical issues and the building needs a new heating and electrical systems.

Oxford’s Building Committee has recommended building a new office on land just north of the Public Safety Building on Route 26. The top pick for leased space is the former SAD 17 administrative offices at Oxford Plaza.

Selectman Caldwell Jackson favored letting taxpayers make the decision about the town office’s future.

Hewey disagreed, saying the committee has spent two years working on the issues and their recommendations should be respected.

Selectman Sharon Jackson agreed, adding that they do not have current numbers for any of the options for voters to consider.

“We would need to hold a referendum on all three choices and each needs to include accurate and current costs for building or rehabiliting,” Sharon Jackson said. “We need to send out requests for proposal to design and build a new office. And those need to stipulate that the bid is good for up to 90 days and contingent on town meeting approval.

“Then we should also do an (request for proposals) for repairing the current building,” Caldwell Jackson countered.

The board voted to send request for proposals for both projects.

Later, the board entered executive session to discuss and review town manager resumes.

Asselin announced he will retire at the end of the year.

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