Harpswell gets permission to demolish Mitchell Field pier

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HARPSWELL — The town Monday secured state and federal permits to remove the deteriorating pier at Mitchell Field.

The project is expected to go out to bid in September.

The process of demolishing the pier will take place over a two-year period. According to an updated projection from engineer Barney Baker, that’s the time it will take for divers to cut steel from the pier’s concrete pilings.

Town Meeting in March approved borrowing $5 million for the removal after Baker said it is a safety hazard to boaters and visitors to the adjacent beach. The natural rock causeway will remain, but everything manmade will be removed.

Once disassembled, the town has to decide how to store and recycle approximately 23,000 cubic yards of material – details of which selectmen discussed with Baker at a June 8 workshop and June 12 site walk.

A public meeting to discuss the proposed plan – to clean, process and temporarily stockpile the recyclable material on a 3-acre upland portion of the field – is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 26 at the town offices on Mountain Road.

“The essence of this plan is to segregate this area from the beach area” so activities at the popular summer hangout can continue uninterrupted, Baker told about a dozen town officials at Monday’s site walk.

The group, which included two selectmen and members of the Mitchell Field Committee, gathered that evening to walk along the concrete road that loops around the proposed staging area at the base of the field.

The road is tangent to the pier’s causeway, which divides a recreational beach from a portion of shorefront zoned for marine business. Baker’s plan would align a fence with the causeway, cordoning off the area beyond the beach.

The staging area would include a newly established gravel road up from the causeway to three proposed material stockpiles, each about 10 feet tall. The curved road would bisect the area, starting at the causeway and veering south to connect with the field’s main road.

The laydown area is sloped toward the ocean, which Baker noted would be good for drainage. Environmental surveyors from Stantec recently staked off a wetland in the center of the field.

The construction area will be fenced off to block visitors, who will not be able to venture past the brick, former U.S. Navy administrative building across from the pier causeway.

Two of the stockpiles would be in the marine business zoning district, which allows for structures up to 30 feet tall, but officials were still curious Monday about whether the piles would create an eyesore.

Taking a 10-foot pole in his hand, Mitchell Field Committee member Don Miskill walked about 30 yards Monday into the hilly, thick vegetation where a 150-by-150-foot stockpile is planned.

“It’s really not that tall,” Baker noted as Miskill and the pole shrank in the distance. 

Appearances aside, the project will generate dust and noise as 20-cubic-yard trucks carry concrete and steel from a barge to a weigh station at the end of the causeway, and then inland to be cleaned, processed, and piled.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said after last week’s workshop that she hasn’t received any complaints from the handful of residents who live along the perimeter of the field.

On Monday there were only two homes visible along the proposed edge of the laydown area, the closest of which Baker said was 800 feet from where the stockpiles will be created.

Baker said trucks will need to progressively take materials off site because the piles aren’t large enough to store the entire pier; he estimated the project will require 38 hauling days to remove all of the reclaimed material.

The contractor will be paid based on the amount he removes from the water, so Baker’s plans called for all the material to be weighed, giving the town a sense of what is being spent as the project progresses.

The contractor’s work “is going to be subsidized by the in-value” of the material, he added, because the concrete and steel can be recycled – a fact Baker said should make the project attractive during the bidding process.

Selectmen also considered pausing construction during the summer of 2018, but told Baker at their June 8 workshop to scrap the idea. Though ongoing construction could affect scheduling for concerts held at the Mitchell Field bandstand – which sits less than a football field from the pier – Baker estimated in February that it could cost as much as $300,000 for a contractor to mobilize and demobilize equipment.

“(Let’s) rip the Band-Aid off,” Selectman Kevin Johnson said at the workshop.

After construction concludes – in the spring of 2019, Baker said – selectmen indicated they would develop the lay-down area and road for the benefit of future enterprise or construction projects, since the area straddles the marine business district.

The town might also decide to store on the field some of the reusable pier materials for future waterfront development, such as a boat launch recommended by the Mitchell Field Committee.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Engineer Barney Baker, second from left, reviews his plan to demolish the deteriorating Mitchell Field pier with Mitchell Field Committee members Don Miskill, left, Michael McCabe and Chairwoman Jane Covey at a site walk June 12.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.