Caribou wants to expand its sewer lines to keep a legacy business in town

1 month ago

CARIBOU, Maine – As Caribou looks to grow its economy and housing stock, a major sewer line expansion could allow city leaders to expand both.

Chadwick-BaRoss, based in Westbrook, operates nine locations in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, focusing on heavy equipment, parts and service repairs for customers within forestry, agriculture, construction and logging. The Caribou facility has been on the south end of Main Street since 1972 but now company officials want to enlarge that facility to expand services.

Sewer lines on Main Street only extend as far as Russell’s Motel, leaving Chadwick-BaRoss outside the bounds of city sewer just down the road from the motel. If the city succeeds at netting major funds, the Caribou Utilities District would expand sewer lines by 3,000 feet to include Chadwick BaRoss and nearby properties.

Though Chadwick-BaRoss wants to expand in Caribou regardless of where city sewer lines go, the city’s efforts to keep the company there come at a crucial time. This year, F.W. Webb relocated to Presque Isle’s industrial park after outgrowing their prior space on Caribou’s Main Street. Growing development within Presque Isle and at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone has forced Caribou leaders to think of more innovative ways to retain industrial businesses.

Caribou wants to be proactive in updating its infrastructure to make sure longtime commercial and industrial businesses don’t leave, said City Manager Penny Thompson.

“We want the business community to feel like they have a partner. If they bring their challenges to us, we will attempt to address those challenges,” Thompson said. “It’s important that these good jobs stay in Caribou.”

Currently, Chadwick-BaRoss’ Caribou location employs six people. The building’s septic system is connected to a leach field, an underground system that passes contaminants and liquid waste through pipes before releasing them into soil for natural filtration. 

The company has not had structural issues with that system but getting rid of the leach field would allow them to add square footage to the building more easily, said John Thebarge, general manager for the company’s Caribou and Bangor facilities.

“We would expand in Caribou regardless [of the sewer system] but being connected to city sewer would be a big help to us,” Thebarge said. 

In March, city councilors voted to move forward with applying for $223,000 in county American Rescue Plan Act funds that would go toward the estimated $1 million sewer line expansion. 

Caribou Utilities District, a quasi-municipal entity, would oversee the infrastructural design and construction for the project and own and maintain the sewer lines after the project’s completion, said Hugh Kirkpatrick, Caribou Utilities District general manager.

Per District policy, the board of trustees cannot allocate more than $2,000 toward line extensions but could vote to expand that contribution. The District will likely apply for its own grants once they hear of the county’s ARPA decision, Kirkpatrick noted.

If funded, the project would become the city’s first sewer line extension since 1987 when the city added 13,000 square feet on Main Street to encompass Caribou Inn and Convention Center, the apartment complex A Place for All Seasons and other nearby businesses, Kirkpatrick said.

The $1 million price tag has been a concern among city councilors but Kirkpatrick said that a less expensive option could involve expanding the sewer lines only to the District’s manhole on Donie Road. But ideally, a full expansion would take the lines 3,000 feet to the District’s wastewater pump station on U.S. Route 1, he noted.

Local developer Carl Soderberg owns 107 acres and the city owns 9.8 acres across the street from Chadwick-BaRoss. Both swaths of land are vacant. Connecting those properties to city sewer could entice residential developers at a time when Caribou needs more housing, said Troy Haney, who chairs the Caribou Development Committee.

“There could be room for dozens of houses out there,” Haney said. 

Soderberg did not respond to requests for comment.

If funded, the District would look to start the sewer line expansion within the next six to nine months, Kirkpatrick said. 

Chadwick-BaRoss is still in the early stages of exploring possibilities for expansion and does not have a design or projected total cost. Renovations could begin sometime in 2025, Thebarge said.

The company remains committed to staying in Caribou regardless of how far the sewer lines are extended.

“This location works well for us. We serve much of the logging companies in northern Maine and many larger construction contractors and farmers in the Caribou area,” Thebarge said. “We’re glad the city is working with us and wants to see us in Caribou.”

This story was updated to correct the length of the sewer line.