CUMBERLAND — Construction of a proposed new pier at town-owned Broad Cove Reserve, not expected until 2020, is now scheduled for this year after the project moved up a state funding list.
The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a license agreement for the Casco Bay pier, although the other party in the project – 179 Foreside Road LLC, representing the 10-member homeowners association at 179 Foreside Road – has yet to sign off on it.
The group has until the March after the new pier’s completion to do so, if it wants to secure its own moorings and mooring fields, separate from those used by the public, according to Town Manager Bill Shane.
Also Monday, Councilor George Turner said he will seek re-election as a way to let voters judge a comment he made two weeks ago about Maine’s lack of diversity and its connection to a low crime rate.
The town and 179 Foreside Road parcels together once comprised the approximately 100-acre Payson property.
The town’s piece, which it bought in 2014 from Portland developer Bateman Partners to provide beach access and other uses by the public, includes 2,200 feet of shoreline and a 200-foot pier. Bateman developed the homes that neighbor the public parcel.
The town in December 2015 signed a memorandum of understanding with 179 Foreside Road for a replacement pier at Broad Cove. The existing pier had been constructed for personal use, with a limited remaining life, former Coastal Waters Commission Chairman Lew Incze said at the time. He estimated the structure could last another five years, barring no major storms or icing.
But a storm last October forced the town to close the pier due to concerns about its structural deck support system. Officials eyed temporary repairs at the time, but another major storm last month moved the pier enough to require a permanent closure.
A new pier could cost about $530,000, with $200,000 contributed by the state’s Small Harbor Improvements Program, $180,000 from town reserves, and $150,000 from 179 Foreside Road. With the town approving its part of the pier agreement, Bateman was due Tuesday to pay the town the share owed by 179 Foreside Road, Shane said, regardless of whether the homeowners approved the agreement.
The state funds were not scheduled to be available until Jan. 1, 2020, but after the town sent the state a structural evaluation of the existing pier, the Maine Department of Transportation recognized the urgency of the situation and moved the project up two years, Shane said.
“We hope to be out to bid by April, and we hope to be under construction this summer,” with a potential conclusion this fall, he said.
If they approve their portion of the agreement, Broad Cove residents will pay half the annual maintenance cost of the new pier, up to $5,000. The two parties would match capital reserve funding up to $5,000 for general maintenance repairs. And the homeowners would have their own moorings and mooring fields, separate from those used by the public.
While the pier has steps leading up from the shore, the replacement will have a ramp to improve accessibility. The new structure would extend out about 170 feet, connecting to an 80-foot ramp leading down to the floats. It would be 6 feet wide, or 2 feet wider than the current structure.
The Town Council last month postponed a decision on the agreement, allowing more time for the homeowners to study the details. “To my knowledge, no contact has been made with councilors or myself to at least discuss that agreement,” Shane said.
He added that he had received a letter that day from the homeowners stating they “will not sign off on the agreement, but I would urge you to accept the money and move forward … there isn’t really (anything) lost at this point moving forward.”
Nick Arrendando, one of the homeowners, told the council Monday that all the officers in the association were out of town and unable to attend.
“I’m just here to express our interest, engage and be involved,” he said. “We absolutely sincerely encourage the town to pursue obtaining the funding from Bateman Partners.”
But Arrendando expressed reservations about the agreement’s details, noting that the document was drafted “at a time when Bateman Partners was the LLC, and was also the homeowners association, and I think the awkwardness now arises from the timing. But in any event, we anticipate coming to an agreement at some point hopefully in the near future.”
If the association chooses not to participate in the agreement by March 2019, “no harm, no foul,” Shane said. “We’re still going to build the pier … (but) there won’t be any guarantee that they have a dingy tie-up.”
Turner said news coverage last week of remarks he made in the council’s Feb. 12 meeting were taken out of context to raise a “spectre of racism.”
On Feb. 12, while commenting on Police Sgt. Thomas Burgess receiving the annual Humanitarian Award from the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, Turner said “We really have a wonderful state, and a wonderful bunch of people. … The fact that we’re not as diverse as some other states may account a little bit for the less criminal activity, but I think part of it has to do with the culture of Maine, and I think we can be very proud.”
On Monday, he said, “what I meant with that statement, was a homogeneous group is less likely to be at odds with itself than a less than homogeneous group. Basically we’re 95 percent white in this state; we could be 95 percent black, we could be 95 percent Muslim, we could be 95 percent a lot of things, but I think at the same time, we would probably still have a lower crime rate.”
Mentioning his 38 years of service to the town, including 12 years on the council, Turner said he had been considering not seeking re-election.
“(But) that could be construed as giving in to an apparent assault on my integrity,” he said. “I fully intend to run for another three-year term to give citizens the opportunity to pass whatever judgment they may have.”
Turner added “I abhor racism, and applaud the fact that we are more and more diverse as a society. The power of the press is enormous in influencing public opinion. With that power goes an awesome responsibility to seek the truth. Far from a truth-seeking mission, the article stretched the bounds of logic.”
Other councilors were silent on the matter, except for Chairman Mike Edes, who told Turner “you’ve still got our support, 100 percent.”
An aging pier at Broad Cove Reserve in Cumberland, shown in this 2015 photo, is due to be replaced this year.