VASSALBORO: Town projects get attention of selectmen

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen spent most of their Sept. 3 meeting talking about spending money for town projects.

The meeting included a public hearing on TIF (Tax Increment Financing) fund requests from Maine Rivers, which runs the Alewife Restoration Project (ARI), and the Vassalboro Sanitary District (VSD). Maine Rivers is creating fish passage between the Sebasticook River and China Lake by removing or modifying dams on Outlet Stream. The VSD is connecting Vassalboro’s sewer system to Winslow’s and thence to the Waterville treatment plant.

Both groups have received TIF funds in the past, most recently part of their 2020 requests in the spring. Selectmen promised additional money as soon as taxes on the natural gas pipeline through Vassalboro replenished the TIF fund.

In the spring, Maine Rivers got $83,000 of its $143,000 request. The money is being used to install a fishway at the Box Mills dam in North Vassalboro.

The VSD received $72,265 of $166,000 requested. The project engineer, Richard Green, Senior Environmental Engineer with Hoyle, Tanner & Associates of Winthrop, said Sept. 3 that district trustees plan to use the money to repay loans that financed the extension to Winslow. Their alternative is to raise the money from user fees.

Town Manager Mary Sabins presented a TIF balance of $120,245. The total promised the two groups was $155,735, leaving a deficit of $33,290 if the TIF balance were drawn down to zero.

Selectmen unanimously approved the Maine Rivers request. Spokesman Landis Hudson said the technically complex Box Mills project is going well. The final fishway at Outlet Dam in East Vassalboro is planned for 2021.

Discussion focused on the Sanitary District request. The district is repaying two loans, one requiring more than $37,000 a year for 30 years and the other more than $72,000 a year for 40 years.

Sabins said Vassalboro’s 30-year TIF is about four years old.

Green said the sewer project is “pretty much done,” and therefore no more grants are available. Sewage is flowing to Winslow, he said, and an odor control issue is being addressed.

There was consensus that Vassalboro’s fewer than 200 households on the sewer already pay high rates compared to users in other similarly-sized Maine towns. However, selectmen refused to spend more money than was in the TIF fund; and they refused to reduce the fund to zero.

When new Selectman Barbara Redmond asked why maintain the proposed $10,000 balance, veteran board member Robert Browne replied, “Just in case. Something might happen” that would qualify as an economic development project eligible for TIF money.

After almost half an hour’s discussion, selectmen approved $50,000 from TIF funds for the Sanitary District.

Board members also heard updates on the Gray Road culvert replacement project and on the Vassalboro Volunteer Fire Department’s plan to buy a new fire engine, as authorized at town meeting in July (postponed from the usual June).

After discussion of timing of the Gray Road project, which will require closing the road, Gregory MacAlister, of Calderwood Engineering, proposed going out to bid in December, with plans to do in-water work in 2021 during the mid-July to mid-September window authorized by state environmental regulators.

Fire department spokesman Mike Vashon (who said he has been speccing fire trucks since 1983) described the new truck to be delivered in July 2021. He hopes to spend slightly less than voters approved, and is enthusiastic about the new engine’s larger pump and increased equipment storage space.

In other business Sept. 3, board Chairman John Melrose announced a Sept. 19 work day on the trails in the town forest north of the ballfields. Interested volunteers should contact him or town office staff.

Selectmen and Fire Chief Walker Thompson scheduled a selectmen’s tour of Vassalboro’s two fire stations for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Following up on the board’s Aug. 20 action, Sabins reported she sold the old police car to Ron’s Auto Parts on Main Street for $300, almost double the only bid selectmen received for the vehicle.

Melrose said East Vassalboro area residents would like selectmen to consider installing a fishing dock. Board members expressed interest in discussing the idea.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17.


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