Bay Park among potential Topsham projects for 2010

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TOPSHAM — While the town has major work that needs to be done in its Bay Park neighborhood and on its many miles of roads, Topsham, like many Maine communities, faces the challenge of meeting its needs in the shadow of tough economic times.

Voters could decide at the Town Meeting in May whether the first phase of the Bay Park drainage improvement project gets budgeted, should the Board of Selectmen opt to place it on the warrant.

The approximately $120,000 phase would come out of the capital budget, said Town Manager Jim Ashe last week. All three phases of mitigating the drainage issues could cost about $480,000, according to information Snowden Consulting Engineers presented in October.

In the first phase, the levels of two ponds at the transfer station would each be lowered by about 4 feet. A constant level would be established for those ponds. Instead of flowing down to Bay Park, groundwater would instead run from high points in town down toward those ponds. The water would then outlet from those ponds.

With town approval, that phase could begin in July.

Replacement of under-drain lines at Hunter Lane and Loon Drive would follow, possibly in 2011, and completion of the pond-lowering phase is intended to more easily facilitate installation of those lines.

This past year saw about $200,000-worth of road reconstruction, Ashe said, and he may request the same or more for the coming year. Most of that money, which comes from the capital budget, went toward improving Elm Street.

The scope and location of next year’s work has yet to be determined, Ashe noted.

“We need to do more at the present time, but like in our own budgets, we’ve got to try to get through this very difficult [economic] time first,” he said.

Ashe said he was pleased the town was able to get through 2009 without many major changes, noting that “people were very supportive of the budget [at Town Meeting] back last May. … That was very positive with the people supporting what we’re trying to do.”

Topsham converted to single-sort recycling this year, making it easier for people to recycle and generating less waste, he said.

“We weren’t sure how that was going to be received, how well that was going to work,” Ashe remarked. “So far it’s worked very, very well, so we feel great about that.”

One challenge for Ashe and his staff will be framing their budgets at a time when less financial assistance from the state is expected. He plans to present a draft fiscal 2011 budget to the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee on Feb. 11.

“We’ll just be very conservative in our spending; we have been, anyway,” Ashe said.

He added later, concerning mitigating energy cost increases, that “over the last couple years we’ve done our very best to review all the things we’re doing, from the way we purchase electricity, to becoming more green.”

Along with the poor economy, the impending closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station and lack of new development in town also provide challenges in the year ahead.

“We’ve got to get through this time,” Ashe said. “But I’m optimistic. I just think things will get better. … What I see is people working hard, and I’m proud of what’s going on here.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

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.