BIDDEFORD — City voters will cast ballots on two Biddeford bond questions in the Nov. 3 election that address the condition of some of the city’s residential streets and sidewalks, continues mandated upgrades to the storm and sanitary sewers, and sets aside money to repair some city-owned buildings.
Question 1 asks voters to approve $10 million in bonds, over 20 years, for further work to separate the city’s storm and sanitary sewers and related work.
Question 2 asks voters to approve a $7.5 million bond, also over 20 years, for a myriad of projects. Within the $7.5 million total is $3.75 million for improvements to city streets and roads, sidewalks, and drainage systems, and up to $3.75 million for upgrades to City Hall and other city buildings.
Annual payments on the bonds is projected at about $1.2 million. A sample ballot outlines that passage of both bonds, which together total $17.5 million, would result in a 48-cent increase in the mil rate.
The city’s calculations show the tax impact over the life of the 20-year bonds, provided both pass, would be about $109 on a home valued at $227,100 — the median value in Biddeford.
The $10 million bond for storm and sewer separation is part of an ongoing mandate by the Department of Environmental Protection. Biddeford’s original system was a “one pipe” system, which carried both storm water and wastewater. In an overview of the issue on the city’s website, officials said one pipe cannot handle the volume of water, which means untreated wastewater can flow into water bodies, like the Saco River. Biddeford has been working to separate the storm water from the sanitary sewer for some time and entered into an agreement with the DEP. The $10 million bond would continue the work — and avoid penalties and fines, according to the overview.
At least half of the $3.75 million in road improvements would be dedicated to addressing the longstanding paving needs on residential streets. The city has begun a contest where residents can submit the name of the Biddeford street they believe is in the worst condition.
In all, if the city were to repair all its streets and roads, it could cost about $33 million, Mayor Alan Casavant has said. Sidewalk improvements would cost an added $12 million.
Biddeford plans to use its StreetScan software data as a tool in deciding which road projects to fund.
Costs to put the city’s buildings in shipshape order would be around $14 million, so the $3.75 million bond would address the most critical needs.
The list of building needs is lengthy, and if the bond is approved, decisions would have to be made — the City Council would make the final determination on which projects to fund.
Built in 1894 and designed by Maine architect John Calvin Stevens, City Hall is listed on the National Historic Register. It needs new windows to prevent heat loss; the clock tower needs structural stabilization, and city officials say some money could be used as matching funds for the remainder of the Partners in Preservation grant, awarded to the Heart of Biddeford to restore the outward appearance of the clock tower. As well, some grant funding remains from a 2019 project that repaired the clock.
In 2009, the city invested $250,000 in the clock tower for short term stabilization — to address safety issues resulting from rotting debris falling from the tower and to stop water leaking into the building from the tower.
In all, City Hall repairs needs total about $4 million.
Central Fire Station needs about $750,000 in repairs, and city officials say at some point there may be demand for a substation to handle the growing need for emergency services. Together, those projects are projected to cost $3.25 million.
At Public Works, city officials say about $1.5 million is needed for a second-floor addition and storage space.
Lastly, the J. Richard Martin Community Center, built in 1888 as a public school, is considered the hub of the city’s recreation department and houses several other local organizations, including Biddeford’s Adult Education programming and Meals on Wheels. According to a 2019 study, the immediate repair needs at the facility total $2.6 million, with another $3 million of added improvements needed to prepare the building for long-term use.
The city currently has about $48.8 million in bonded indebtedness and another $844,000 authorized in July but not yet issued, according to the sample ballot and information filed at the city’s website.