Bath council backs grant to restore historic building

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BATH — The City Council on Wednesday unanimously backed an application for funding to improve a historic shipyard structure.

The city will submit a public facilities grant application to the state’s Community Development Block Grant program later this month. Community Development Director Al Smith said the city would likely seek between $50,000 and $75,000 for the 1897 Paine & Treenail building, the oldest of five historic structures at the former Percy & Small shipyard.

The three-story building is now part of the Maine Maritime Museum on Washington Street.

A Nov. 23 documentation of spot blight from Codes Enforcement Officer Scott Davis said the structure has suffered from both the elements and a lack of maintenance. Its structural issues include decay of the posts on which it was built, as well as rotten sills and floors that require replacement.

Amy Lent, the museum’s executive director, said her organization is “the only site in America that preserves historic buildings like this, where wooden ships were built. So this is an absolutely unique structure.”

She summed up the building’s problems as “significant, extreme differential settlement,” saying that its pilings are settling into the ground.

Davis’s document noted that the building must be lifted and the old foundation system removed, so that a new one can be constructed with sufficient posting, footings and bracing.

“The sills and flooring need replacing, and the roof system needs to be brought back to plumb and square, and structural modifications made to keep it that way,” he added.

Lent said the building is leaning and bowing, “and it’s to the degree that if it’s not corrected, we will … ultimately have to close (it) down and not allow people into it because it won’t be safe.”

She said remediation would cost about $100,000.

The council’s decision was an informal straw vote that endorsed the city’s application.

The council also gave second and final passage Wednesday to borrowing $1.1 million for work at Waterfront Park, and to refinance existing debt from prior bonds.

The council in November accepted a $415,000 bid from Wyman & Simpson to replace a pier and improve banking at the park, but it did not approve money for the work. Those funds, plus $35,000 in contingency, are part of the $1.1 million bond.

Also in the package is funding for projects the council has yet to approve, including about $400,000 in work at Waterfront Park. The funding could also cover an upgrade to the pedestrian crossing on Vine Street under the viaduct, from the train station to downtown, as well as downtown parking improvements.

City Manager Bill Giroux said last month that the city gets a better interest rate by borrowing the funds all together. The money to repay the bond will come from Bath’s Downtown Tax Increment Financing District.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.