Cumberland, Falmouth mull meeting in middle on water line

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CUMBERLAND — The town and Falmouth, both planning Middle Road reconstruction projects, are exploring how they can extend public water lines to the border.

The Town Council is scheduled to vote Monday, Feb. 13, on hiring a contractor to rebuild most of its section of Middle Road.

Although the town has planned to extend its Middle Road water line by 4,200 feet, reaching within 100 feet of the Falmouth border, some Cumberland councilors on Jan. 23 balked over completing the project if Falmouth is not planning the same effort.

The Falmouth Town Council last summer decided not to add the estimated $750,000 cost to extend water down Middle Road to its own road reconstruction project, which will run from Johnson Road to the Cumberland line.

But at a recent meeting, Falmouth councilors agreed that perhaps they should re-consider, particularly in the light of strong resident interest in extending public water access.

The council in Falmouth is expected to get the additional information at its meeting on Feb. 13.

Cumberland Councilor Mike Edes on Jan. 23 noted that his town’s intent was for the two towns to connect. He suggested that perhaps Cumberland should save money and not extend its line that far.

Expressing disappointment, Councilor Shirley Storey-King said, “The amount of water line that they would be needing to extend would be less than a half a mile from the Cumberland line to their last fire hydrant.”

Fire protection has been her chief concern regarding the project, she added, noting the importance of at least extending Cumberland’s line to Evergreen Lane.

“This would be a good collaboration,” Storey-King said.

The water main would have to end about 400-500 feet before the town line – roughly 500 feet closer than Evergreen Lane – to ensure proper water protection to the town line, Shane said.

Councilor Pete Bingham felt the planned line extension should be left as is and not pulled back, noting, “you never build enough water lines,” and pointing out the development potential on the Cumberland side of the border that could be made more attractive by public water access.

“We’ve kind of made commitments to those folks beyond Evergreen, that we were going to do this,” Bingham added.

At the Jan. 25 Falmouth Council meeting, Chairwoman Karen Farber said residents have continued to express enough interest in extending public water that she felt the subject worth bringing back to the council.

Still, adding water lines to Falmouth’s Middle Road project could delay the work for three years, Town Manager Nathan Poore told the council. He also said the town must gain more information on several factors before deciding on the water extension.

Those include the likely build-out of homes in the extension area over the next 25 years, water quality testing from private wells, and a legal opinion on whether Falmouth could extend the water line and rebuild the road without triggering a $1 million threshold, necessitating a referendum.

Poore said he hoped to have the needed information in hand by his council’s Feb. 13 meeting – the same night as the Cumberland council votes on a contractor.

Contractor selection

Cumberland’s Middle Road project will cover the stretch of Middle Road that runs from Tuttle Road to the Falmouth town line, approximately 8,200 feet running parallel to U.S. Route 1 and Interstate 295. Pavement will be removed in some sections and gravel will be added. In other sections of the road, all material will be removed down to the sub-grade.

The entire road will have 5-foot paved shoulders – compared to the intermittent  gravel shoulders now in place – and 11-foot travel lanes, for an entire width of 32 feet. The travel lane widths will be about the same.

Also installed could be 4,200 feet of water line – extending the Middle Road line coming south off Tuttle Road – as well as the natural gas piping for the full extent of the stretch, to be funded by Summit Natural Gas.

The Cumberland Council last February unanimously approved borrowing up to $3.2 million for the project, a cost that included Sevee & Mahar’s $127,000 contract, as well as inspection, change orders and contingency.

The town in mid-January opened the eight bids received, and Town Manager Bill Shane is recommending the council hire Cumberland company Storey Brothers, whose bid of $3.1 million – the lowest qualified bid among the eight contractors – includes $2 million for road construction and $600,000 for a new water main.

Also included is about $127,000 in improvements to the existing water main, which the Portland Water District will fund, as well as nearly $337,000 in potential natural gas piping, for which Summit Natural Gas would pay.

Storey Brothers’ bid, which came in at about $150,000 less than the town had anticipated, “gave us a bit more breathing room with contingency,” Shane said in an interview Jan. 24.

Construction is to begin in April, with base paving complete by October. Final paving would occur in spring 2018.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Reconstruction of a stretch of Middle Road in Cumberland, running from Tuttle Road south to the Falmouth town line, is scheduled for this year.

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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.