Bath council backs sewer bond, scraps property upkeep rules

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BATH — The City Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a $2 million bond for sewer improvements, and opted not to move forward with a proposed property maintenance ordinance.

If the bond receives final passage next month, the city will borrow $2 million to pay for sewer and storm water improvements, a response to problems in the Park Street area and other parts of the city plagued by sewer backups and overflows.

The projects would be implemented over the next three years. Replacement of the Harward Street pump station force main on Washington Street, estimated to cost $869,000, is proposed for this year, along with work on a Harward Street interceptor, estimated to cost $147,000.

The interceptor is a segment of the gravity pipeline that runs to the pump station, Public Works Director Peter Owen said, “where it’s preventing the capacity of that pipeline to get the flow to the pump station. As a result, it backs up into the Park Street area.”

On tap for next year would be a Winship Green storm water project costing about $138,000 and a Green Street storm drain separation that would cost about $160,000.

City Manager Bill Giroux said 55 percent of the bond payback would come from the Bath Iron Works tax increment financing district, while the rest would come from the city’s sewer utility fund.

“We’ve got raw sewage in people’s yards,” Giroux said. “We’ve got to fix (the issues) to the greatest extent possible. And that’s why the council sent us off to put this package together. We think it’s responsible spending at the best interest rate that we can get, and it’s the right way to do these improvements.”

Property maintenance

The property maintenance ordinance, which would have involved Bath’s Commercial IV zone, was drafted by City Solicitor Roger Therriault at the request of the City Council, Giroux said.

The council discussed the ordinance in a workshop and at its Jan. 5 meeting. Debate on changes to the language pushed the matter to a workshop Wednesday evening.

Although councilors considered amending the ordinance to make it clear the rule applied only to non-residential properties, on Wednesday they failed to reach consensus on the wording. They agreed that the ordinance would be difficult to enforce, and voted in a straw poll to reject the proposed language.

Giroux said he does not expect the ordinance to return to the council for a vote.

“There’s clearly concern with some of the councilors about the appearance of Route 1, which is a gateway to the city,” he said before the meeting. “And then the question is, how do you address that? It’s not easy to address, and property maintenance ordinances are one of the ways that communities in the United States have dealt with properties that have a poor appearance.”

Giroux said there has been a problem on Route 1 in Bath with abandoned buildings.

The ordinance would have set maintenance standards on issues like yards, weeds, sanitation and garbage, sidewalks and driveways, foundations and the exterior surface of structures, and it would have stipulated the kind of corrective action to address those concerns.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.