FAIRFIELD — The town will receive $692,000 in federal pandemic relief money and officials this week discussed using some of the allotment to expand the town’s water system to help residents contending with contaminated wells.

The Town Council on Wednesday continued its discussion on using money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to finance an expansion of the water system to reach residents who have been affected by the PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” contamination of residential well water.

Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling Morning Sentinel file 

The contamination is the subject of an ongoing Maine Department of Environmental Protection investigation. In testing water the department has found numerous wells where the PFAS levels greatly surpass the new legal limit of 20 parts per trillion for the chemicals.

But in researching the allowed uses for the federal money, Town Manager Michelle Flewelling found that the money cannot be used as grant matches for federal grants.

“One of the things we had originally discussed was using it all toward public drinking water expansion. However, it can’t be used as a federal grant match,” Flewelling said. “So my thoughts are that we’re not going to need all of it for what we had originally planned for, which would have been grant matches.”

That means that if Fairfield were to get a grant for the water project for, say, $100,000 from the federal government, the town may be required to make a payment of 5% of the grant, in this case $5,000. The money from the American Rescue Plan cannot be used to pay that $5,000.

The town is receiving about $692,000 in federal aid.

Flewelling said it was unclear if the money could be used as a match for grants from the state.

The money can still be used for expenses on the project that aren’t covered by grants, like perhaps a land survey or design work by an engineering firm.

So likely some of the money can still be spent on the water expansion, but Flewelling said she wanted to have other potential options from the council just in case.

She suggested some sort of bonus for town workers who worked through the pandemic, and Councilor Stephanie Thibodeau suggested using the money for air quality improvements in town buildings — like an HVAC or UV lighting system.

Councilor Peter Lawrence suggested looking into purchasing an ambulance for the town, but the council was split on the idea.

After much discussion, Councilor Mark Cooper said the top priority for the money should be the water expansion.

“For me, I would think that’d be the No. 1 priority rather than some of the other items we have on the list,” Cooper said.

In other matters, nominations for November’s Town Council elections closed Sept. 3. Council Chairperson John Picchiotti and Lawrence’s seats are both up for election in the fall, and both have filed the paperwork to run for reelection. Also running are Matthew Townsend and Beverly Busque.

Candidates do not have to choose a specific seat to run for, and instead will be listed all together, in alphabetical order, and the top vote-getters will win the two seats. Residents can request an absentee ballot now, and the election will be held Nov. 2.

The council on Wednesday also heard from Gregory’s Disposal about a possible transfer station the company is in the process of starting.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: