WILTON — The Wilton Select Board heard updates on the progress for the reconstruction of the town’s water transmission line at their Tuesday, March 15, meeting.

Jim Lord of Dirigo Engineering spoke before the board.

“The updates are not wonderful,” he said.

The town plans to replace the piping for its water transmission line because it is aging and currently made out of asbestos-cement, Lord said in July 2021.

Dirigo Engineering was awarded a contract to oversee replacement of the pipelines for the town’s water transmission line in April 2021.

Lord said he has completed 99% of the draft for the preliminary engineering report (PER) following completed reviews from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, comments from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).


The PER is submitted for any funding sources and contracts for building, Town Manager Rhonda Irish clarified in an interview.

While the necessary reviews are in and the town is “ready to finish” the PER, Lord said he had to update the cost estimates for the project.

Since they first conducted cost estimates in 2021, Lord said acquiring materials has become more complicated – material prices have increased and availability has decreased.

Lord said that costs for fuel and pipe have significantly increased – pipe by 40%.

Additionally, it will take 36 weeks to receive regular pipe for the transmission line, Lord said. Typically, it’d only take two weeks to receive the pipe, he added.

As a result, Lord now estimates to project’s cost estimate at $9 million dollars. He believes it will increase to $9.7 million if the town does not go out to bid for the project for another year.


Four months ago, the estimate was $7.6 million, Lord said. In July 2021, he told the board it would cost $7.3 million.

Currently, Dirigo is looking at two options for how, where the town replaces the transmission line.

One option would be to replace the transmission line as it is, follow it the whole way. This option would replace the intake system, raw-water transmission main, the finish-water transmission main in the same places they are now, Lord said.

The advantage to this option is that it would be 4% cheaper because the line is shorter.

Lord said the disadvantages include: difficulty accessing the line to address issues; impact on 16 wetlands, a stream crossing and a wading bird/waterfowl habitat; and requiring someone to turn on the pumps manually at the treatment plant any time there is a fire “to keep up with fire flow demand” because the system is not automatic.

Additionally, Lord told the board in July 2021 that this option would require the town to dig up lawns on private property.


The other option would reroute the pipeline along the roads. The line would reroute from the Water Treatment Plant, down North Pond Road to Colby Miller Road to Weld Road and connect back at a station across from the town office. The intake and raw water pipeline would remain in “essentially the same location.”

The benefits to the second option include: increasing availability to more customers along those roads in the future; a reduction in environmental impact; a decrease in insurance costs for property/home owners along the rerouted line; easier access for repairs, etc.

The second option would increase costs by 4%, Lord said.

However, he feels the cost increase with the second option would be “advantageous” because of the aforementioned benefits.

“I think it’s a great improvement. But again, it’s expensive,” Lord said.

To address the impact on the fire department, Lord and Dirigo also want to add a jockey pump and back-pressure sustaining belt so that water pressure is automatically maintained when the fire department is using its hoses.


Lord told the board the town’s biggest funding options for the project are the USDA and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) administered by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Maine Municipal Bond Bank.

With the USDA, Lord said the town can expect up to a 25% loan grant with a current 2.25% interest rate that could continue to increase.

Lord feels the SRF principal-forgiveness program is the town’s best option because there is a lower, capped interest rate on the grant and more money available due to $60 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

He estimates the town will pay $33,000 less in annual debt service with the SRF funding.

Lord said an application had already been submitted for the SRF grant last September and Wilton is currently on the “backup list.”

Additionally, he said he expects SRF will offer a 100% principal-forgiveness loan to pay for the design and environmental review of the project since the second option has immense environmental benefits.


Lord recommended the town still submit the loan application with the USDA. If the town is awarded a 50% grant – as opposed to 25% — he recommends the town move forward. If not, he recommends the board wait to apply for the SRF funding in September.

What is the timeline for the SRF grant, Select Board Chair David Leavitt asked.

Lord anticipates if the town applies for the SRF funding in September, they could have a letter of offer by January 2023.

It’s been a slower year for DHHS’s grant program due to a fuller plate, Lord said.

Lord said the next steps are to finalize the PER, await response from the USDA on the project’s environmental review, obtain environmental permits, apply for funding, obtain an easement by the treatment plant and move forward with design plans for the project.

Lord said due to a backlog, the project likely won’t acquire permitting for at least six months.


As a result, Lord said “construction this year is unrealistic” and the town should target for construction in 2023.

“I think we’ve got a good shot to be there [in 2023] and be ready,” Lord said.

The board did not need to take action on the transmission line reconstruction at the meeting.

“We just simply are taking it step by step and letting you tell us when to proceed to the next one knowing that these things take time,” Lord finished.

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