OXFORD — Efforts are continuing to persuade the owner of a local mobile home park to tie into the $28.5 million wastewater treatment plant.
“We just made contact yesterday and they are reluctant to connect as they replaced a couple of their systems recently and have a couple more that they are doing in the future,” said Brent Bridges, senior vice president of Woodard & Curran, in an email to the Advertiser Democrat Dec. 1.
Bridges said the town has not given up on the possible connection yet and will continue to try to find a mutually acceptable plan for the property owner and the town.
The effort is being made to enable the town to use between $400,000 to $500,000 in unused grant money left over from construction of the wastewater treatment plant. The money must be returned unless it is used to extend the project that is now winding down after nearly five years.
The hope is also to tie in another large scale user to increase the effluent going into the treatment plant. The plant is currently running at about 20 percent of its design capacity, Zhenya Shevchenko, chief operator, said Monday.
While the plant is no longer taking in effluent from neighboring Mechanic Falls to help supplement the lack of flow, it is running far below design capacity. The recent opening of the Oxford Casino Hotel is expected to help, said Shevchenko.
The mobile home park is the largest existing business that could tie in at this time.
Bridges told selectmen recently that the plan to tie in as many as 150 lots at the Oxford Pines Regency park from the pumping station on Route 26, would allow the residents to tie into a pump station that would be built near the mobile home park. That pumping station would be tied into Route 26. Both would be constructed at the town’s expense. Homeowners would then pay the cost of individually hooking into the system.
Efforts to bring on residential homeowners have not been as successful.
In June of this year, almost a year after the state’s first ultra-violet light wastewater treatment system opened near the intersection of routes 26 and 121 in the Welchville section of town, town officials said only 22 customers supported the wastewater treatment plant.
The lack of customers not only effected the gravity-fed plant’s operation but the financial operation of the plant.
In June, voters raised and appropriated $1,272,782 for the wastewater treatment account to pay back a portion of the bond that was used to finance the construction.
When the plant was dedicated in October 2016, with a high profile ceremony that included Gov. Paul LePage, U.S. Congressman Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel and others, several large users were already on line, including the Oxford Casino. Dunkin’ Donuts was the first business to come on line in July 2016. The Hampton Inn began using the system in late 2016.
Sewer flow from the Oxford Casino and the Hampton Inn (which opened in late December 2016) was considered critical to the operation of the plant.
But local officials had predicted that by the end of its first full year in operation, the project would be providing 297 residents and 383 total users with “a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible way” to manage waste.
That did not happen.
The town then offered a Sewer Connection Incentive program to help eliminate water quality and service problems from failing septic systems but many homeowners balked at the opportunity, saying there was no need to tie into the public system as long as their system worked properly.
Bridges said he hopes to have some positive news about the mobile home park tie in in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, work on phase 1 of the King Street sewer tie-in program has shut down for the winter. Sewer lines to tie in the Oxford Elementary School on Pleasant Street are expected to be put in next spring.