Portland Water District ratepayers in Gorham are picking up the tab for a six-figure overrun in construction of the new sewer line from Little Falls to Westbrook and some water mains upgrades.

Based on the latest numbers, the water district said Gorham owes about $200,000 more than an initially estimated $4.1 million as the town’s share of the whole project.

However, since the Town Council increased sewer rates a year ago in anticipation of the project, “we don’t anticipate raising sewer rates this year,” said Town Manager David Cole.

Burleigh Loveitt, chairman of the Gorham Town Council, said Tuesday that since it’s a Portland Water District project, no Gorham tax money is involved.

“Our tax base doesn’t carry water or sewer,” Loveitt said.

Loveitt said all sewer ratepayers in Gorham are paying for Gorham’s share in user fees to construct the sewer line. Windham and the Maine Correctional Center partnered with Gorham to cover sewer construction costs.

Michelle Clements, spokeswoman for Portland Water District, said Tuesday the overall project, which included the sewer line in Little Falls and South Windham and water main upgrades, had been estimated at $7.5 million. She said the latest figures indicate the project costing $7.9 million. Shaw Brothers Construction Inc., of Gorham was awarded a bid of $6.1 million for construction.

Clements said the overrun was caused by additional engineering and studies required by the Maine Department of Environmental for the permitting process; paving costs underestimated by an engineer contracted by the water district; and higher than expected costs in acquisition of right-of-way land.

Danny Shaw, co-owner of Shaw Brothers Construction Inc., said Wednesday that some Department of Environmental Protection wetlands requirements delayed the project and added to the cost.

“We’re still looking through bills, seeing what we can do to reduce the overrun,” Clements said Tuesday. The project began in January.

The new system is not in use yet because the new pumping stations are not finished.

“They are due to be complete this month and started up beginning in January,” said Jay Hewett, a Portland Water District engineer, in an e-mail Wednesday. “The district will make some public announcement of the availability of the new sewerage when complete, and notify all the potential new customers of the system’s availability to connect,” he said.

The new sewer line extends along Mosher Road, linking to a treatment plant in Westbrook. The sewer line was designed to replace the aging treatment plant in Little Falls, which has also served South Windham, and another separate treatment plant at the state prison in Windham.

Cole said the Little Falls treatment plant wasn’t cost effective and discharge bypassed the plant into the Presumpscot River during some heavy storms.

“This project closed down an inefficient and expensive operation,” Cole said. “In the long run, this project was to save costs.”

Cole said the sewer line allows more opportunity for development in the Little Falls and South Windham area. During construction, Cole said Gorham “piggybacked” to upgrade sidewalks in Little Falls. While the town paid for sidewalk work, Cole said it was done cost-effectively because the contractor was already there.

“The citizens in Little Falls are tickled pink,” Loveitt said. “The Portland Water District and Shaw Brothers did a good job.”

Windham would owe an extra $107,000. But town officials there say they signed a contract agreeing to pay only up to $25,000 extra, if the project ran over budget.

The water district recently informed the Windham Town Council that the overrun would have to be paid by someone. Windham Town Councilor Liz Wisecup said being asked to pay for a cost overrun is not fair. “You go tell them to take a flying leap,” she said.


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