Looking at the Portland Water District’s overruns on the Little Falls sewer conveyance it is important that we keep our eyes on the bigger picture.

No doubt, some serious mistakes were made. There were not enough contingencies built into the budget by district at the outset. If these were but a few percentages larger, then this would not have been an issue. If the communications of the overruns would have occurred earlier, then the impacts would have been mitigated and trust less diminished.

I certainly question some of the areas of overruns such as consulting fees and land and right-of-way purchases to determine if these are all justifiable and if Windham will in fact need to bear a share of this. Then we must ask where are we, where do we go from here.

One thing has to be clear and well appreciated. This is a very good, and very necessary, project. The old sewer system is decrepit, in need of replacing and prone for fines. This takes care of that. Additionally, the Maine Correctional Center will be brought online and sharing the expense rather than discharging into the Presumpscot.

This sewer project allows for the creation of a residential development that is high density, will have no new roads on town rolls and have minimal-to-zero impact on schools and services. It along with the correctional facility will provide user fees well into the future. The new residential development is a benefit to the entire town by allowing for more residential tax revenue.

In addition, and critically, the developer will cover the demolition of an old mill, which is both an eyesore and an extreme safety hazard. Demolition alone would cost the town in excess of $1-$1.5 million, and that is if there were no surprises and all went well.

Finally, we should keep in mind the long-term benefits to South Windham Village. This sewer and the ensuing residential development will be a revival for a community that has greatly struggled over the years. It will substantially increase the population of the community and create a critical mass of pedestrian population for new retail businesses. The sewer will also allow for future service to the L.C. Andrews site for further business development translating into tax revenue and jobs. This is a very good project with all the right pieces in place. It is only by strong leadership in the town that this has come to be and for that we all should be thankful.

I fully understand those who do not want to pay any more than was agreed upon. I also understand that there are those that will always see any expense beyond personal benefit as being arguable. It is a regrettable and short-sighted part of our human nature. We need to see beyond ourselves and look to the overall benefits to the broader community. As well, we need to understand that without sound investments in our communities and our infrastructure, few long-term and meaningful gains will be made and the very expenses we seek to avoid will inevitably escalate.

I do not know the ins and outs of the financials of the Portland Water District nor all the potentials for which the costs on this project could be carried or deferred. I do not know definitively if Windham will need to go beyond the set limit at all. At this point however, all the costs incurred, relative to benefits gained, are more than acceptable. We cannot continue to squander opportunities because we have retracted from bearing short-term costs and not made important long-term investments. This is in no small way one of the best investments this town has made.

After all the smoke has cleared we may find that there is less fire than we thought. The district should hold themselves accountable for their misjudgments and mistakes and they must act to renew and repair a sense of trust with us. Hopefully all involved will have the wisdom and willingness to do just that.


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