OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Voters in Old Orchard Beach on Nov. 3 will decide whether to borrow money to

Old Orchard Beach voters can voice their opinion on two referendum questions – whether to bond $23 million to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant and whether the Town Council should draft an ordinance on adult use marijuana and issue a limited number of licenses, at public hearings Oct. 6. Voters will cast ballots on the two measures on Nov 3. The treatment plant is shown here in this February 2019 photo. Journal Tribune File Photo/Liz Gotthelf

fund upgrades and improvements to the town’s wastewater treatment facility.

As well, they’ll decide if they wish to have the Town Council adopt an ordinance to allow the sale of adult use marijuana and issue a limited number of licenses for adult use retail stores. 

Public hearings on both measures have been set for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 6. 

Town officials and others say the work on the 42-year-old wastewater treatment system and four pump stations is critical. 

In 2018 and 2019, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued two violations to Old Orchard Beach for facility deficiencies that compromised water quality at Goosefare Brook and at the shore, according to a prepared statement. 

Old Orchard Beach annually makes smaller fixes to keep the plant running — but those expenditures are increasing and no longer sufficient to fix the problems, said Town Manager Larry Mead. 

“As a town, we’ve been talking about the wastewater facility problem for two decades — we must act now before we put the beach at serious risk,” said Mead. “This summer, DEP warned the town that it must make major systematic upgrades or we’ll face penalties.” 

Built in the 1960s and expanded in the 1980s, town officials estimated 70 percent of the system has exceeded its useful life, resulting in breakdowns and occasional failures, said Mead. The pump stations are near capacity and new users cannot be readily added; the 35-year-old electrical system is outdated and cannot handle the existing load; and proper alarm and communication systems must be installed, he added. 

The Town Council has unanimously endorsed Question 1 as has the local Chamber of Commerce. If approved, the upgrades would include replacing the entire outdated electrical system, installation of a new integrated alarm and communication system, and the upgrade of four pump stations.

“Our local economy depends on this beach,” said Tom LaCasse, owner of The Brunswick, a beachside hotel and restaurant, in the prepared statement“Interest rates are extraordinarily low and our town has very little debt. If we don’t invest now, we could put our community in an emergency situation, which will end up costing us far more.” 

 Old Orchard Beach has about $7.3 million in outstanding bond debt. 

The town would bond the $23 million project over 30 years, at a projected interest rate of 1.5 percent. Town officials have calculated that the cost to residents will be less than 50 cents a day, or $14 per month, on a home valued at $300,000. 

“For centuries, the beach has defined our town’s identity — a yes vote will protect the environment and the economy,” Mead said. 

The vote on the marijuana question will be binding — though the Town Council had originally considered a non-binding vote. 

Question 2 asks: “Shall the Town Council adopt an ordinance allowing the sale of adult use marijuana and the issuance of a limited number of licenses allowing adult use marijuana retail stores to operate?” 

“If this passes, rest assured the council sitting here will do due diligence” in crafting an ordinance, said Town Council Chair Shawn O’Neill on Sept. 1, when the council voted in favor of placing the question on the ballot. 

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