Reservoir Hill storm drainage is area of concern for Houlton Public Works

2 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — A complete, and costly, rebuild of a town-owned road has Houlton’s public works director wondering if there are any alternatives.

Reservoir Hill, an elevated and winding road located in Houlton’s residential area, is in need of substantial upgrades to alleviate the flow of water runoff, which has caused damage to the area this year.

Houlton Town Manager Marian Anderson and Chris Stewart, the town’s public works director, addressed the matter with members of the Houlton Town Council Monday evening.

“Reservoir Hill road is in very bad shape,” Anderson said. “We have a lot of runoff issues that are impacting folks at the bottom of the hill. As we all know, water runs downhill and it has become a real problem there.”

Stewart said he has been in communication with Sewall Engineering, a consulting firm based in Bangor, who examined the road and determined the water runoff issue was “severe.”

Engineering alone could cost $30,000-$50,000, and the full construction project is estimated to have a $625,000-$650,000 price tag, Stewart said.

“There are a lot of people affected by this problem,” he said. “I believe we have to have a survey and engineering work done, and then we would look at construction of a new roadway. I feel we need to get the engineering work done before the snow flies.”

There are approximately 32 homes located along Reservoir Hill and its adjacent Aurora Circle. It is also home to a water reservoir for the Houlton Water Company, as well as a radio transmission tower. Additional homes along Hillview Avenue, located at the bottom of the hill, are also being affected.

There have been no renovations to the road for at least the past 20 years, Stewart said.

“I don’t think the drainage was done properly 20 years ago.” he said. “There is also a lot of ledge there.”

Council Chairman Chris Robinson pondered whether the town could use any American Rescue Plan Act funds to aid in the cost of the project. The area is serviced by Houlton Water Company for its water and sewer. Broadband internet is also available in that area. All three utilities are elements for consideration when using ARPA funds, according to Stewart.

No action was taken during Monday’s council meeting. The matter will be brought back to the board at a future meeting.

In other agenda items, the council was updated on the continued expansion of the Riverside Trail by volunteer Gary Hagan.

The project features a 1.7-mile trail extension on the easterly side of the Meduxnekeag River. Once complete, it will connect with the existing Riverfront Trail, creating a nearly 5-mile path for hikers on both sides of the river.

The existing Riverfront Park trail begins near the Gateway Crossing Bridge and continues along the westerly side of the Meduxnekeag River almost to Interstate 95, before looping back.

Hagan said the initial construction of the trail was about 90 percent “roughed in,” meaning that it was walkable. Two footbridges have yet to be built — one over Cooks Brook and the other over Jimmy Brook. The Cooks Brook footbridge is expected to be finished in the next week or so, while the other bridge will be done next spring.

“My goal is to have the whole trail walkable by the end of next year,” Hagan said. 

Councilor Eileen McLaughlin expressed concern about the trail expansion, considering some portions of the trail on the westerly side of the river could be very steep. She also asked if people pushing strollers would be able to utilize the new trail.

Hagan said the trail was not really being built for people to push strollers along, as that was not its intended purpose.

Funding for the trail expansion has been done through various non-profit organizations, with Hagan donating his time to the trail’s construction.

The original trail was unveiled in July 2019 to much fanfare with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Robinson suggested that a similar grand re-opening would be appropriate once the trail expansion is finished.

Thanks to the Aaron and Maria Putnam Charitable Trust, land for the trail was donated and the members of the trust did the bulk of the ground work to create the walking path. The trail property is owned by the town and the Aaron and Maria Putnam Charitable Trust and is open to the public free of charge.