Officials in Winthrop and Readfield were hoping to rebuild the dam at the outlet of Maranacook Lake this summer, a project that would allow the lake’s managers to control its water level better, and that a consulting firm estimated would cost $237,000.

But the construction bids for the project came in higher than expected, so it could be at least another year before the towns can go forward with it, said Wendy Dennis, chairwoman of a committee that’s focused on the dam.

Winthrop, in particular, is facing a difficult financial situation, Dennis said. To recover from a large deficit, officials there are delaying many capital improvements and considering borrowing $2 million.

Both of the bids for the dam repair were between $400,000 and $500,000. They came in high, Dennis said, partly because the contractors thought the project would take longer and require more labor than had been expected. It’s also a busy year for the construction industry, which can lead to higher project costs.

But Dennis also said those bids, even though they were higher than expected, were still relatively low for an infrastructure project that’s expected to last decades. She referred to a project on the Cobbossee Lake dam seven years ago, which cost more than $300,000 and replaced six gates.

“The bid price is not unreasonable,” said Dennis, who works as a lake scientist for the Cobbossee Watershed District. “It’s just more than what the towns are able to pay right now.”

The dam is at the outlet of Maranacook Lake, near the Winthrop Town Beach. The lake stretches from Winthrop to Readfield, and taxpayers from both towns must cover the bill for any repairs and renovations.

The construction project has been in the works since 2013. It would repair parts of the dam that have deteriorated while also improving its ability to release lake water quickly into the outlet stream. While the dam committee would prefer to stick with its original plan, it’s considering lower-cost repairs that could be made in the meantime, Dennis said.

Now that the larger repair is on hold, the committee also is considering a smaller project that would restore some of the land around the dam, which has been eroding.

Both towns already have raised some of the money for the dam repair. Based on how much lake frontage is in each town — 10.2 miles in Winthrop, 11.6 miles in Readfield — Winthrop would pay for about 47 percent of the proposed work and Readfield would pay for about 53 percent, Dennis has said.

In 2006, Winthrop and Readfield became co-owners of the dam after its former owner, Carleton Woolen Mills, had gone bankrupt a few years earlier. The dam was built in its current form in 1995, but it has deteriorated in the last 20 years and has proved itself incapable of letting water out of the lake fast enough to blunt the effects of flooding, Dennis said.

In the spring, Dennis said, lake levels can rise up to 2 feet, sending water onto lawns, causing erosion and damaging property such as docks.

The current dam lets water out through a gate that’s 5 feet wide, according to Dennis. The proposed modification would expand that width to 20 feet. The new gate also would be deeper than the current one, making it easier for the dam’s operators — currently the Winthrop Public Works Department — to release water ahead of rainstorms or spring melting.

“In between storms, it will also allow us to adjust lake levels to whatever is beneficial for that time of year,” Dennis said in February. “For summer, we could make it high enough for boating but not high enough that the waves create erosion. Some residents want more beachfront, but right now we can’t alter levels to reach those objectives.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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