Paris sewer plan adjusted, climate plan nixed

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PARIS — Town Manager Vic Hodgkins decided to nix one part of the stormwater separation project bond application because the requirement for loan forgiveness is basically a wash.

He announced the revised plan at the Tuesday, Dec. 28 Paris selectmen’s meeting. The project requires the removal of 22 catch basins from the sewer system so the Paris Utility District no longer unnecessarily treats stormwater.

As part of the $737,000 bond from the Maine Municipal Bond Bank, there was an option to create a climate adaptation plan in exchange for $20,000 in principal loan forgiveness. Hodgkins said he has talked with PUD Manager Penny Lowe and Rob Prue of Pine Tree Engineering, the company hired to conduct the engineering work for the project, on the matter.

“The climate plan is really not for a town. It’s more for the PUD,” Hodgkins said, adding through these conversations he discovered it’s a “convoluted plan of having the town pay for the PUD’s climate plan and still get the loan forgiveness.”

In a phone interview, Lowe explained what a climate adaptation plan is.

“It identifies hazards associated with climate change. It would evaluate impacts on our critical assets and identify them … then they would give us an implementation plan,” she said. Some factors the plan would examine include rising sea levels, air and water temperature changes, storms and ice jams.

Lowe went out to bid for the plan and they came back ranging between $15,000 and $20,000.

Hodgkins said the loan forgiveness and climate adaptation plan “seemed like a good deal on paper.”

“Penny and I decided to let it go,” he said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t make sense to spend $20,000 so the PUD can have a climate plan to get $20,000 in loan forgiveness.”

In October, voters at a special town meeting approved the town borrowing up to $737,000 for the project, which has a 1 percent interest rate. They also approved paying $64,000 to Prue for engineering costs. A little bit of the project work can be done in-house by the town’s Highway Department crew.

“If this catch basin [project] in the end costs $500,000, if we don’t borrow this full [$737,000], there is no guarantee we get the $20,000 in loan forgiveness,” Hodgkins added.

In early 2015, the state Department of Environmental Protection mandated the PUD stop treating excess stormwater by 2019 or face fines. The PUD’s license is up for renewal that year and it could be denied if the project is not complete by then.

Hodgkins previously said the town pays the PUD roughly $45,000 a year to treat stormwater. Once the project is complete, the PUD would no longer charge the town that money and it would be reallocated to pay off the bond. The project should go out to bid in the spring and work begin in midsummer 2017.

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