CAMDEN — The Montgomery Dam Resolution and Megunticook River water quality testing program move forward after the Camden Select Board approved both at its Tuesday, Aug. 23, meeting.

The resolution was approved 5-0, while the water quality testing was approved 4-1, with Stephanie French opposed.

Montgomery Dam Resolution

Town Manager Audra Caler stated at the start of the conversation around the resolution there are concerns from voters the Select Board may take action on the Montgomery Dam without voter approval.

Officials stressed voters will be in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding what happens to the Montgomery Dam throughout the discussion.

The Resolution states the board will not make changes to Montgomery Dam without a “due diligence process” and without guidance from a committee and professional engineer or consultant. In the end, though, voters will decide on the action taken at the polls.

Board Chair Bob Falciani said the board will not be making decisions without going through the voting process. “There aren’t many other ways to do it anyway.”

Tom Hedstrom wanted to make sure the board was clear about the language, and he thinks the dam “doesn’t look great right now.” Hedstrom thinks the board should consider who has authority to appropriate funds to repair the dam.

Caler said that goes through the annual budget process — Budget Committee then to the Select Board and to voters — for any significant funds for anything to the dam.

Falciani says there is oversight and the board can’t bypass any regulations or requirements from federal, state or local agencies.

Alison McKellar added the “purpose is so people do not have to wonder if some major thing is hidden somewhere in the budget.”

Town Attorney Bill Kelly, who was also present for the discussion, said this is not intended as a limiting action or to replace normal deliberation about anything.

Hedstrom then asked Kelly if minor repairs to the dam could be considered preservation, to which Kelly said the resolution does not limit what the board may decide to do in the normal course of maintenance of all public facilities. “If something needs to be maintained, it would be budgeted and revoted on.”

Falciani said the “answer is no.” Hedstrom said he was satisfied with that and it gets voted on by the townspeople.

Megunticook River Project and water quality testing program

Before the board approved the $54,339 for the water quality testing program, it heard an update from Forrest Bell of FB Environmental on the Megunticook River Project.

Bell is the founder/owner/CEO of the company, which signed a contract with the town Aug. 8 to conduct water quality testing of the river.

Bell said the components of river management include chemical, biological and physical attributes of the water. He added the chemical and biological data for Megunticook River is extremely limited, which “jumped out within the first 10 minutes.”

Currently, the FB Environmental is reviewing plans, background research and a comprehensive look at watershed-gap analysis. Bell said, “This will take some time to sort through.” He also added results will be in the fall after the sampling season and the data would available while the task force is in session.

An Advisory Committee is being planned to form by Sept. 5, with a first meeting in mid-to-late September to, according to a draft purpose statement, “provide recommendations to the Select Board, to engage with the community, stakeholders, grant funding agencies, and provide a due diligence process to advance viable options for preserving, improving sustainability, and recommending resiliency outcomes for the Megunticook River and its watershed.”

The committee is looking for members, and the public can submit their names and a brief background — no more than a paragraph about connection to the river — by Sept. 1 to People that are not a Camden resident can also submit their names for consideration.

Sophie Romana asked if people have already submitted their names do they need to resubmit, to which Bell said he will circle back around to those people.

Falciani asked Bell why this testing is a priority now, and Bell said Megunticook River is a “Class B river.” According to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, a Class B river has “fewer restrictions on activities but still maintain high water quality criteria.”

Bell also said the most recent data for the river is from 2011, which is “critical data,” and the reason for the quick proposal was FB Environmental noticed they would miss 2022 sampling if it did not start in September. According to the state of Maine, critical time to collect data is in August, September and October.

Caler said funding for this will come from the Megunticook River Reserve account. Currently, the account has $42,000 in it — $30,000 is budgeted into the account from fiscal year 2023 and the account already had $12,000 beforehand. Caler said the town can spend into the red and make-up the difference in the fiscal year 2024 budget.

Hedstrom asked if this money could be used for debris on the side of the river and the old tannery lot, which Caler said it could.

McKellar asked if this program will help understand the E Coli bacteria problem, and Bell said it would.

French argued the board allowed this situation to divide the community and build up distrust amongst people, town employees and the board. French wants to put the trust of the community first on the list. French also did not want to see more contracts signed and funding given until a task force is formed and has the chance to review everything, and then comes forward and agrees this is what is needed.

Other business

A Select Board workshop for bylaws was scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26, at 3 p.m.

A barge for fireworks during the Camden Windjammer Festival Friday, Sept. 2, was also approved, 5-0.