FARMINGTON — Tuesday evening selectmen received a project update on Walton’s Mill Pond Park improvements.
In November 2018, voters approved the $1.2 million Walton’s Mill Dam project. In 2017, a fish passage study was approved.
The Walton’s Mill Dam on Temple Stream prevents adult Atlantic salmon, a critically endangered species, from accessing a large area of spawning and rearing habitat, according to the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
“We’re moving along in our design phase, we’re at 75% of the design,” said Maranda Nemeth, project manager for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
Road crossing work, part of the bigger project, on Clover Mill Road has been done but culvert replacement on Cummings Hill Road will have to wait until 2021, she said. Because of the pandemic, one supplier cut its staff in half, so not all product was available, she added.
Selectman Joshua Bell asked if both culverts will be the same.
“We had intended to do both as precast box. With the evolution of raising the road in January, we went right into bidding,” Nemeth said. “The bids were quite high, we were struggling to meet budget. Transferring design to an arch option saved some money, still met the structural needs and size.”
“This application will work better for that site,” Town Manager Richard Davis said.
Dam removal and park improvements will be done in three phases with construction starting in 2021, Nemeth said. She used a Power Point presentation to provide details of the plans to date.
“We’ll use the existing sluice gate, after ice out in the spring,” Nemeth said. “Opening the gate will result in a more gradual draw down. It usually rains a lot in the spring. It could take up to 45 days. There’ll be a 3- to 6-foot drop over that time period.”
That will give water fowl, which begin nesting in June, time to adapt as requested by Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, she said. It will also give vegetation in the area now under water and in wet areas enough time to grow and stabilize before fall, she added.
“Around July 15 we’ll enter the water and create an access road in the stream as part of phase two,” Nemeth said. “It will take 4-6 weeks to complete removal of the dam. The landscaper will stockpile as we go. He wants to reuse boulders, etc.”
Other phase two work includes demolition of the dam and related structures and reinforcement of the overlook, she said. By September 30 the work will be completed, we’ll be out of the water.
“The water wheel in the mill foundation will later be relocated elsewhere in the park,” Nemeth said. “A cofferdam will isolate the work area. By September 30 work will be completed, we’ll be out of the water. Once we complete the in-river work, then we’ll move upland.”
Details on planned park improvements were also shared by Nemeth. Raising the entry into the park, installing granite stairs and adding a bathroom and pavilion are proposed.
Plan designs are 75% complete now, should be 90% complete in about two weeks with a final plan ready in October and the project put out to bid in November, she said. The plan will be taken up by the Planning Board in October, she added.
“We’re on track to select a contractor by January,” Nemeth said.
If fundraising falls short will the plans be changed, Bell asked.
“I’d hate to see changing things because you don’t have the money,” he said.
“This is a whole package, we wouldn’t make significant changes, would postpone if need be,” Nemeth said.
In other business Davis shared that Farmington will be getting a 2-sided electronic sign through the Keep Maine Healthy grant.
The town received some $53,000 from the grant, which is to be used in educating the public about the coronavirus pandemic through websites, signage, he said.
“There’s been a push to establish electronic signs,” Davis said.
The new sign, which will use about half of the grant funds, will be located between the access road and the municipal building parking lot, he said. It can be programmed from inside the building, he added.
Grant funds are being used for signs in 23 municipalities, Davis said.
“I think it will be a nice addition,” he said.
People don’t always know where the town office is, Bell said.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said.
COVID-19 messages will be posted on the sign, after that, town information can be posted, Davis said.
“People ask when meetings are, we may get more attendance,” Chairman Matthew Smith said. “It’s a good thing.”
The board also approved Chris Thorndike’s request to name a new road off the South Strong Road as Finite Road.