City council approves $90,000 for sewer camera, remote vehicle systemApproves MacDougal demolition funding, updates on methadone clinic
Rockland — Following some debate Oct. 10, the Rockland City Council voted 4-1 to approve spending up to $90,000 for a mobile imaging system that would find problems in the city's sewer system and help in fixing them without costly construction projects.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson voted against the expenditure.
Councilor Larry Pritchett explained that this is actually a remotely-controlled vehicle that can travel through sewer lines and the storm water system with a high-definition camera that can show any problems in the lines. The vehicle will also scour and clean the pipes as it goes, according to city officials.
Many of the sewer lines in the city are very old and were made with clay pipes. In some cases, this camera could prevent construction projects by identifying pipes that are likely to fail in the near future, but haven't failed yet, allowing a less costly relining project.
City Manager James Smith provided information about the system to the council and said it would cost much more to rent or lease the equipment, about $1.25 million over the 10-year lifespan of the equipment.
Councilors Eric Hebert and Will Clayton spoke in favor of the spending. Hebert said it was a plan to be proactive in maintaining infrastructure and saving money on more costly projects in the future.
Dickerson said it is a great idea, but the problem she had was the $90,000 price tag. She said the expenditure came up suddenly and she prefers items this big to be looked at as part of budget discussions. She noted it's a lot of money and there is a high tax rate in the city.
The vote was to authorize a bond ordinance to finance the project at no more than 2 percent interest.
In other business, the council voted 4-1 to spend up to $20,000 on demolition of the former MacDougal School building on Broadway. Dickerson opposed the motion.
Another item that generated debate on the council was a bond for $50,000 to finance Pen Bay Acres drainage improvements.
Pritchett proposed postponing the item until December to give staff more time to work on the plan for the project. He said it was clear the project would not be done this fall, so there was time.
City Attorney Kevin Beal said the city needs permission from four property owners to do work on their property as part of the project. City staff members are in the process of answering the property owners' questions and concerns about the project, according to Smith.
To address those concerns, more evaluations may need to be done for the project, which would cost money out of the operating budget, Smith said. He said before he spends more on it, he wants clear direction from the council on the project.
Dickerson argued the issue should be postponed so the plan could be worked out. She said the plan should come before the funding. She also said the council should be more involved in the plan, not just city employees.
Hebert disagreed, saying the project should not be delayed. He also said the council members are not engineers.
"We do have a plan," he said. "I've got it sitting at home."
Dickerson countered that she was hearing from the city manager about concerns from homeowners about the plan that "we all have at home."
The council voted 3-2 to postpone the decision until Nov. 14. Hebert and Mayor Brian Harden voted against the motion.
Harden in his mayor's report, said he had received a letter from Rockland Metro, the methadone clinic proposed in the city. He said the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency will do a site inspection of the facility by the end of this month and they hope to open soon after. The city needs to appoint an oversight and monitoring committee for the clinic that includes up to three Rockland residents, a business owner and some others, Harden said. The clinic is planned for the former Turning Tide methadone clinic site on Route 1 near the Thomaston town line.
Smith said in his city manager report that Monday, Oct. 29 would be the city's fall leaf pickup day for public works.
Harden presented a certificate to members of Adas Yoshuron Synagogue, recognizing its 100th anniversary in the city (1912 to 2012). Harden noted the synagogue voluntarily gives to the city each year. Receiving the recognition were Joel and Barbara Fishman and Lisa Breheny of the synagogue.
News Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @DanDunkle.