GARDINER — Part of Highland Avenue will be torn up before the end of the year to replace a 240-foot stretch of failing stormwater drain pipe.
Currently, the only sign of damage is a sinkhole that has opened up in front of the Highland Avenue United Methodist Church, marked by traffic cones. Fixing it will exhaust the remaining funds the city has set aside for paving in the current budget year.
On Wednesday, Andrew Carlton, Gardiner city manager, said a section of stormwater drain pipe has rotted out from the bottom, and the city is seeking a contractor to replace it.
“It’s a pretty complicated project, not one we can do in-house,” Carlton said. “It will be a pretty expensive un-budgeted-for project. What that will mean is that it will eat up our paving budget for the year.”
Some of the pipe is about 9 feet below the roadway, and the sides of the trench will have be shored up during construction. Carlton said the sidewalk will also have to be removed as part of the project and be rebuilt.
“It is just unsafe,” Carlton said. “It’s washing away from underneath.”
Reports of sinkholes and other stormwater-related damage have surfaced across the region.
Heavy rainfall on Aug. 31 damaged a section of Winthrop Street in Hallowell, between Water and Second streets, prompting a partial road closure.
On that same day, a sinkhole opened up in a section of parking lot off Arsenal Street in Augusta, the result of stormwater flowing through a corroded drain pipe and washing away sand and gravel that was filled about a week later by the Greater Augusta Utility District.
Less than a week later, the Augusta utility district filled a sinkhole that opened up in a turning lane on Western Avenue, caused by damage to a brick manhole.
Gardiner city officials estimate the stormwater pipes on Highland Avenue were last replaced in the late 1980s or early 1990s, a project At-large City Councilor Tim Cusick worked on as a Public Works employee at the time.
When Highland Avenue was repaved in 2016 as part of a municipal partnership initiative with the Maine Department of Transportation, the pipes were not replaced.
Mayor Patricia Hart asked whether the state transportation department would also take part in the repair because of that partnership, and Carlton said it will not.
About $100,000 remains in the city’s budget for paving that city officials approved in June.
Carlton, who is also serving as interim director of Public Works after Jerry Douglass resigned to take a different job, said that money was originally intended to be carried over into next year to expand what paving could be done then.
“So this will limit the scope of what we’re able to do next year?” District 3 City Councilor Colin Frey said.
Carlton said it would, unless money for paving is approved in the next fiscal year’s budget.
Cusick said by the time that budget is approved in June, paving contractors will be booked up and not able to take on any work in Gardiner.
“We risk losing a year,” Cusick said.
Hart said that’s one option; another is to consider paying for paving by bonding and suggested scheduling a discussion for a City Council meeting in December.
Funding the city’s paving needs has been a topic of conversation by the City Council during the last two budget cycles.
Anne Davis, who was serving as acting city manager during that time period, urged city councilors to consider taking a longer view at how to pay for maintaining Gardiner’s streets instead of reacting to annual paving needs.
To that end, a capital improvement plan has been in the works, but is now delayed with Douglass’s departure.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)