Last week I attended the grand opening of a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility in Oxford, Maine, a project my colleagues and I have been working on for the past three years. The event was a true testament to the community-based vision of this thoughtful and extremely innovative project. Local and state dignitaries—including Governor LePage, Congressman Bruce Poliquin and USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel—attended the event alongside members of the community, local students, and the Town employees and contractors who worked with us to deliver the project. While it may seem strange to host a public event at a wastewater facility, the citizens of Oxford understood that this wasn’t just about a wastewater treatment facility, it was about the future of their economy.
Oxford has been undergoing an extended period of growth and development; but did not have centralized wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal facilities to accommodate the recent rise in economic activity. In order to overcome this challenge, the Town worked with Woodard & Curran to build a $28.5 million wastewater treatment facility and sanitary collection system, an investment the Town knew would attract new businesses and allow them to build the community they envisioned.
Funding the Need
But Oxford also knew that to make the project work, it needed a package of funding that would reduce the burden on residents and it to sustainably fund the facility without imposing exorbitant user rates. This is a problem many rural communities have—they understand they need to invest in infrastructure to boost their economy, but do not have the capital to begin the process. Woodard & Curran helped the Town obtain funding through USDA Rural Development, which included a 45% grant package, which helped to leverage the Tax Increment Financing District income that the Town had developed in anticipation of the growth. The result is that the user rates for Oxford’s brand new system are consistent with those in neighboring communities and the facility is an economically sustainable solution for the Town.
During the grand opening celebrations, Governor LePage declared that he will dedicate future bond money to build similar projects throughout the State as he understood the impact investments like this have on the future of our country’s rural economy. This project will not only attract local business to Oxford, but has already provided local jobs—all the contractors and suppliers involved in construction of this project were Maine-based. It is encouraging to see declarations like LePage’s and programs like USDA’s made available to rural communities.
Today, Oxford has an attractive, state-of-the-art facility that all residents of Oxford can be proud of and rely on. Within the year, the facility will provide both the residents and businesses a safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible way to manage their sanitary waste. I am proud to be part of a project that will provide our client with a long-lasting solution to the future of the local economy and the surrounding environment.