FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday night heard several possible proposals from the ad hoc committee working on creating a connector between the School Department campus and nearby Community Park.
The council also unanimously authorized spending up to $25,000 for someone to manage preparations for the town’s 300th anniversary, which occurs in 2018.
Discussions about a possible connector trail between the school campus on Woodville Road and Community Park off Winn Road dates back to the late 1990s. The two are separated by a Pan Am Railways crossing, and in 2014 the Council voted to establish the ad hoc committee to explore options.
Justin Beauregard, the committee chairman, said the railroad will present a safety problem if the two areas are connected. One solution originally broached, he said, was building a tunnel underneath the railroad crossing. But with an estimated cost of more than $1 million, he said, that would have been too expensive.
Beauregard presented four options to the council for consideration, including giving up on the idea of connecting the two parcels.
The option the committee favored most, but admitted is the least likely, he said, is a grade-level crossing over the tracks. He said the Maine Department of Transportation has previously rejected this alternative, and Pan Am has not expressed an interest.
The final two options involved building a bridge over the crossing.
One calls for a bridge that meets requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Beauregard said this would require very long approaches and a bridge tall enough for train clearance, and the initial cost estimate was a “still significant”$750,000.
The last alternative is to to build a bridge where both the approaches and surrounding trail system are ADA-compliant. He said since the scope of this project would be larger, there could potentially be more opportunities for outside funding.
“You could have a more valuable project by increasing its scope,” Beauregard said.
While no vote was taken, and councilors’ reactions varied.
Vice Chairman Russell Anderson said since the project was looking so expensive, he favors taking no action. He said it is time to say the project is “too big” and move on.
Chairman David Goldberg, on the other hand, said it is an opportunity to make both properties more enjoyable.
“I almost see this as an alternative to adding new open space,” he said.
The committee will come back at a future council meeting to ask for $10,000 for consulting services, Beauregard said.
The council established an ad hoc tercentennial committee earlier this year, charging it to come up with events to celebrate the 300th year since the town was founded.
Town Manager Nathan Poore said the committee has a list of proposed events, and the celebration could potentially cost “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.
Poore said while it unknown how the events will be financed, it’s possible that using money from the town’s four tax increment financing districts could be justified, since they relate to economic and community development.
Poore said the town lacks expertise in such large events, and someone will likely have to be hired to work part time on the project. For that, the committee asked the council for $25,000.
Poore said it would likely cost less, but he wants to ensure the project isn’t “left short.”
He said there is a candidate he has interviewed for the job who has considerable experience and is a “bargain” for their level of talent.
Anderson said while it is “an important milestone” to recognize, there is “sticker shock” at the possible cost. He said he hoped there could be some level of private fundraising.
Goldberg said the town is “already late” in beginning to prepare for such an event. He added a sure way to lose control of the costs of the event is “to not have professional guidance.”
“My thinking is funding this and finding the person is imperative,” he said.
Poore said once an individual is hired, he or she can come back to the council with a work plan to discuss the next steps.
Falmouth Town Hall