About fifty-nine voters packed the meeting room at the Damariscotta town office for a special town meeting Wednesday, July 10, where they approved a total transfer of $96,343 from surplus to help fund the Bristol Road sidewalk project.
Construction is scheduled to begin Sept. 3 and be complete by Nov. 15, according to Town Manager Matt Lutkus.
Voters first approved a transfer of $13,769 to cover the higher-than-anticipated town share of the overall project cost.
With only two objections, they then approved an additional transfer of $82,574, without a match, to pay for granite curbing on the sidewalk.
After the meeting adjourned, the crowd erupted in a raucous round of applause and some cheered in celebration of the long-awaited project’s approval and imminent construction.
The next step, according to Lutkus, is to notify the state and set-up a pre-construction meeting between the contractor, engineers, and Maine Department of Transportation officials.
The sidewalk will run along the east side of Bristol Road from just south of Damariscotta Baptist Church to LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus. The project will also include new storm drainage and other improvements.
Hagar Enterprises Inc., of Damariscotta, has the construction contract, which totals $911,416.50 with the granite curbing.
The DOT will contribute 80% of its original budget number to the project, $939,073, because of the town’s decision to go with granite curbing. Damariscotta will now contribute approximately $317,000 to the project.
“The total cost of this project is relatively low to the Damariscotta taxpayers compared to the overall cost of the project,” Lutkus said.
Lutkus said that with the granite curbs, the town will pay about 25% of the overall cost.
The DOT contribution is roughly $24,000 less than it would have been if the town had not opted for granite curbs.
During the public hearing prior to the special town meeting, Town Manager Matt Lutkus detailed the long history of the Bristol Road sidewalk project.
Lutkus said an original rough estimate for the entire project, of about $489,000, was made in 2011, prior to any engineering work.
The estimated total for the project currently is approximately $1.2 million, plus the $51,582 for the granite curbing.
Lutkus said a variety of factors contributed to the steadily rising costs over the years, including larger-than-expected right-of-way costs, rising construction costs, and the state’s planning and engineering costs, which were included in the budget estimate. Lutkus said these costs ranged between $80,000 and $85,000.
“That’s the state basically charging itself and the federal government for their administration. We, the town staff, you know, do it at no additional cost to the taxpayers, because that’s what we’re paid for on a regular basis,” Lutkus said at the public hearing.
Lutkus also explained the pros and cons of the granite curbing.
“I saw a survey from some project engineers in New York that said granite curbs could last 100 or more years. And then, even after they’re used, we’ve found this out, you can pull them out and use them for something else,” Lutkus said.
Lutkus said asphalt curbs, on the other hand, break up after a few hard winters and repeated impacts from snow plows.
He also said that granite curbs serve as a traffic-calming measure, slowing drivers down. The curbs look better and have become the standard in the village.
Lutkus said that on the con side, the $82,574 is more than what the town spends on some paving projects, like the reconstruction of the short section of School Street between Church Street and Main Street, which was around $52,000.
He estimated that the town’s unassigned fund balance stood at approximately $960,000 before the special town meeting. This number does not include an unexpected increase in revenue sharing from the state, or increased interest from the town’s savings accounts.
There was some discussion before the vote and public comments were nearly all positive and in favor of the granite curbing.