GARDINER — Recent repairs to the Cobbosseecontee Stream dam owned jointly by Gardiner, Litchfield and Richmond mean city and town leaders will need to decide next year whether they can afford to build up the fund to keep the dam in working order.

Crews working on the 1800s-era New Mills Dam replaced three wooden posts damaged by ice and installed three new underwater steel gates this fall at a cost of about $70,000, said Jack Daniel, chairman of the dam committee.

“It’s draining this massive watershed, and it all comes through here,” Daniel, a Richmond resident, said while standing on the dam Thursday afternoon.

The dam, which the three municipalities took ownership of in 2000, creates both Pleasant Pond and Cobbossee Stream –both assets for the communities, Daniel said.

“That’s the importance, I think, of the committee’s work; because without the dam, the lake disappears,” he said.

The committee will be asking the municipalities to replenish the dam fund in their coming budgets but hasn’t decided yet how much to request, Daniel said. The communities last contributed in 2010 and had built up the fund to $100,000 in the previous decade, he said.

“Hopefully the taxpayers appreciate the investment,” Daniel said.

The three-community committee oversees the dam for the municipalities, but the company that operates a lower dam on the stream, the former American Tissue dam, does the basic maintenance work, Daniel said.

The Montreal-based Kruger Inc. operates 15 hydropower dams in Maine, including the American Tissue dam.

The New Mills Dam is no longer used to generate electricity.

The water impounded by the dam had to be lowered by 2 to 3 feet for the October repairs.

The wooden posts that were replaced help hold the dam in place, and the deep-water gates are used to control the amount of water draining out of three large cylindrical passages on the Harrison Avenue side of the dam. Two of the three wooden gates were broken, Daniel said.

He said crews doing the work built a temporary dam around where the repairs were done, along with using divers. He expects the state to do its final dam inspection next summer.

“People get it that this is a great resource,” Daniel said of the dam. “How many towns in America have a lake?”