The towns of Readfield and Winthrop may have to raise an additional $300,000 to repair and upgrade the dam that controls water levels on Maranacook Lake, a project that officials had hoped to complete last summer but delayed because its costs were higher than expected.

Both towns jointly manage the dam, which is located near the town beach in Winthrop, and together, they have raised about $197,000 so far for the repair and renovation.

Now officials from both communities say they probably will have to borrow additional money to cover the remainder of the cost. When the towns put the project out to bid last spring, two construction companies said it would cost more than $400,000, which was roughly twice the price that a consulting firm initially had estimated.

This week, Readfield selectmen and Winthrop town councilors met with each other and informally agreed to continue laying the groundwork for the project: applying for permits, researching what bonds could fund the project and drafting a timeline.

Given the funding cycle of the Maine Municipal Bond Bank, Eric Dyer, town manager of Readfield, said the construction might not be able to start until spring 2019.

The Winthrop and Readfield representatives didn’t make any final spending decisions during their meeting this week at the Readfield Town Office and said they would hold more meetings on the subject in their respective towns.

They also agreed it’s not worth postponing the repairs much longer. Besides the fact that one Winthrop resident’s home could be damaged as the land around the dam continues to erode, the cost of the work also could climb, officials said Tuesday.

“I’m a little leery of putting this too far out,” said Bruce Bourgoine, chairman of the Readfield Select Board. “I can only see costs escalating if we start talking beyond (Dyer’s timeline). I think it’s pie in the sky if we think it will be less expensive. I’m all for trying to get this done in this decade.”

Bourgoine said he would like to present the project to Readfield voters at Town Meeting in June.

While the project would benefit mainly waterfront property owners, Kathryn Mills Woodsum, a Readfield selectwoman, said those property owners already pay a large amount in taxes even though many are seasonal residents who don’t use the town’s services as much as year-round residents do.

Winthrop councilors also said they would like to see the project occur sooner rather than later.

“I think we should bond, but I agree that we shouldn’t wait,” said Linda Caprara, vice chairwoman of the Town Council. “It depends on the cost. I wouldn’t like the cost to get much higher.”

The construction project, which has been in the works since 2013, would repair parts of the dam that have deteriorated while also improving its ability to release lake water quickly into the outlet stream.

Maranacook Lake stretches from Winthrop to Readfield, and taxpayers from both towns must cover the bill for any repair and renovation on the dam. They became co-owners of it in 2006, after the bankruptcy of its former owner, Carleton Woolen Mills.

Both towns already have raised some of the money for the repair. They’re dividing the cost based on how much lake frontage is in each town — 10.2 miles in Winthrop, 11.6 miles in Readfield — such that Winthrop would pay for about 47 percent of the proposed work and Readfield would pay for about 53 percent.

The dam was built in its current form in 1995, but it has deteriorated in the last 20 years and cannot let water out of the lake fast enough to blunt the effects of flooding, Wendy Dennis, chairwoman of a committee that’s focused on the dam, has said in the past.

In the spring, Dennis has 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. 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, who is also a lake scientist for the Cobbossee Watershed District, said early this year. “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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