OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Many residents in the Washington Avenue neighborhood are hoping the town of Old Orchard Beach can receive federal funding for sewer upgrades.

The Old Orchard Beach Town Council Chambers were packed Tuesday night for a public hearing regarding a grant the town is applying for to fund water, sewer and storm water and sidewalk improvements on portions of Washington Avenue, Fern Avenue and West Old Orchard Avenue.

The total cost of the propsoed project is $1.85 million.

The grant, if approved, would give the town $1 million of federal funding distributed through the state’s Community Development Block Grant program toward the project. Should the town receive the money, it would have to contribute about $500,000 toward the project. Maine Water would contribute about $350,000 for water infrastructure improvements.

“Since I came to Old Orchard Beach as town manger four and a half years ago, I truly have had my eye on this neighborhood, and how we can find some funds to make some improvements,” said Town Manager Larry Mead. He said it’s a great neighborhood, but the infrastructure, some of which is more than 100 years old  is “tired.”

The town worked with Wright Pierce Engineering to come up with a proposed project.

The town conducted camera inspections of the sewer and storm water infrastructure and found cracks, breaks and root intrusions as well as damaged and deteriorating manhole structures.

Data from the inspections was compiled along with information on complaints in the area and emergency repairs made over the years, said Wright Pierce Project Manager Stephanie Hubbard. Maine Water was contacted, and said should the project go through, it would like to replace outdated water pipes that don’t meet modern size standards.

Joseph Gilbert a 20-year Fern Avenue resident said he and his neighbors had sewage back up problems one winter and when town staff dug in the ground to fix the problem, they found old, deteriorated pipes.

“The pipes were all collapsed, they were made of clay like a flower pot,” he said.

Since the sewer problems were fixed, Gilbert said, there has been an issue with leaking water.

“I think it’s a badly needed project,” he said. “I think it speaks for itself, the problems we’ve had in the past.” He said he believed the neighborhood would continue to periodically have drainage and sewer problems unless the infrastructure was fixed.

West Old Orchard Avenue resident Dan Blaney said he was born in his home and has lived there for 64 of his 74 years. He said he doesn’t recall any major sewer or water improvements other than patch jobs. He said there were water drainage problems on his street.

“I support this project 100 percent,” Blaney said.

Hubbard said the town will submit the grant application this month and should know this summer if the money was granted. If the town receives the funds, the project will take place in 2018 and 2019, she said.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]

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