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Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 1, 2014
Water issues take top billing at Castine selectmen’s meeting

by Faith DeAmbrose

Thirty-nine candidates have applied to fill the shoes of outgoing Town Manager Dale Abernethy, said Selectman David Unger at the board’s April 22 meeting. Abernethy plans to leave in July.

The hiring process will be done confidentially, said Unger, but he felt it appropriate to tell those in attendance that the board would be going into executive session quite a bit while they whittle down the candidates and conduct interviews.

A burst pipe that allowed more than 64,000 gallons of water to run through the water meter of a Green Street home was at the center of an abatement request by homeowner Peter Roessiger. The leak, which is believed to have occurred during the Christmas ice storm, was found by the Water Dept. in January after searching for the source of the excessive water usage. The water loss came with a roughly $8,000 bill, none of which is eligible for abatement according to town policy, said Abernethy. “The only reason to request an abatement is if the meter reading was incorrect,” said Abernethy. “It is unfortunate there was a leak, but it is also unfortunate [the homeowner] didn’t have a caretaker.”

The selectmen voted 3-0 to deny the abatement request.

Water was also the topic of another conversation that had to do with a proposed project on Battle Avenue, which is slated to come before voters at the May 10 town meeting. According to the town’s utility superintendent George Motycka, the town’s water system does not always have enough water to meet demand, especially in dry summer months when recharge (via precipitation) is not possible.

He suggested using a pond at Battle Ave., originally a water source for the town until the 1990s when “the EPA decided on more stringent standards for surface drinking water.” Motycka said that in order to utilize water from the pond a filtration system will need to be added. He said the water would come from the pond and through a naturally occurring sand bed that acts as one layer of filtration. The water would then travel through a man-made filtration system to ensure that harmful microbes are eliminated.

The filtration system comes with a price tag of about $490,000, said Motycka, but said the town would save money by doing the job “in house,” using his expertise as a general contractor and the labor of the town’s road crew to do the work.

The selectmen voted 3-0 in favor of moving forward with, and an article asking for funding “not to exceed $500,000” will be included in the town meeting warrant.

Finance Officer Karen Motycka said the town will retire debt associated with the water utility this year, and that even with the Battle Avenue project, as well as the water portion of the upcoming Main Street work, the cost to water rate payers is not expected to increase.