Whitin Reservoir Watershed District in the news

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Whitin Reservoir district gets ready to buy dam

Waterfront property owners pursue control


DOUGLAS— Residents who live or own property along Whitin Reservoir are moving along with plans to buy a dam that controls the water level.

The Whitin Reservoir Association recently completed all of the steps necessary to be able to call itself the Whitin Reservoir Watershed District.

The designation allows the group to act in many ways as a municipality; residents who started the push for the designation have made no secret that the main reason for forming the district was to allow them to buy a dam owned by Interface Fabrics, which operated the former Guilford of Maine plant on Gilboa Street until 2006.

The company has been looking to sell off assets in the area. Property owners on the reservoir have said that Interface was a good custodian of the dam, but they were nervous about what type of arrangement might be forced upon them if the ownership of the dam changed hands.

The group received support from selectmen for forming the watershed district, and in the spring the Legislature passed a special act establishing it.

Donald Virostek, a board member of the old association, helped guide it through the process of becoming a district.

He said the association met June 16 to formally establish itself as a watershed district and voted in a management committee. Mr. Virostek said 146 property owners live within the district and the vote to establish the district passed by a vote of 105-5.

Selectman John P. Bombara was elected chairman of the management committee. Larry Bombara, Thomas Anderson, and former Selectman Ronald Forget were also elected to the committee.

Selectmen voted to appoint Selectman Michael Hughes as the town’s representative on the committee. District voters also approved Mr. Virostek’s wife, Joyce Virostek, as district clerk, and Louise Anderson as district treasurer.

Mr. Virostek said the clerk and treasurer positions will be put up for election by the district yearly; he said the management committee positions will be staggered to avoid full turnover after elections.

Now that it is a district, the group will be able to raise money by imposing a tax on residents in the district separate from what residents pay in normal property tax to the town.

At the June 16 meeting, the district voted to appropriate $30,000 for appraisal fees, legal fees, and office expenses associated with a possible purchase of the dam.

John Bombara said he was glad to finally have the watershed district up and running. He said that besides the negotiations with Interface, there are no immediate plans to use the watershed district for anything else, such as raising money to keep invasive plant species out of the lake.

“It took two years to get to where we are,” Mr. Bombara said. “We haven’t discussed doing anything else, and with the plants, it hasn’t been too much of a problem for us here.”

Mr. Virostek said Interface Fabrics owns the land underneath the reservoir in addition to the dam that controls its water level. He said company officials have been cooperative and a lawyer representing the company at the June 16 meeting voted in favor of establishing the district. He said the two sides simply need to agree on a price.

The town has assessed the land at more than $1 million, but Mr. Virostek said that is basically a meaningless number and it’s not really a point of reference in the negotiations. He said Interface realizes the dam is not worth that much.

He said the district hopes to have an appraisal done on the property by the start of the fall and hopes to close on the deal by the end of the fall.

He said the water level is lower than usual this summer. Property owners along Manchaug Pond, which also has dams owned by Interface, are concerned about the water levels being too low. But Mr. Virostek said Whitin Reservoir, at least, is deep enough for recreational boating.

“It is as high as it can go,” Mr. Virostek said.