Harpswell increases contribution to flood map appeal

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HARPSWELL — After a partnering city dropped out, the town increased its contribution by $5,000 to a joint appeal of preliminary federal flood hazard maps.

The Board of Selectmen voted July 20 to conditionally contribute $30,000 toward the first phase of a survey by Ransom Consulting that will generate the data necessary to submit a formal appeal.

A week before that, Ransom’s Nate Dill told selectmen there was “no justification” for the recently revised maps of shoreland susceptible to flooding.

Because the project will cost $210,000, Harpswell’s contribution was contingent on the participation of at least seven other municipalities.

Since then, selectmen learned at a special meeting on Wednesday that Saco dropped out of the pool.

Two days before that, the South Portland City Council tabled a decision on the matter until their Aug. 28 meeting.

Besides Harpswell, other participating towns include Kennebunkport, Wells, Old Orchard Beach, and Kittery.

The town budgeted $55,000 at March Town Meeting toward appealing the maps, meaning selectmen are basing their contribution around an uncertain number of participating municipalities, as well as an unknown amount of money needed for the formal appeal.

“This is purely to generate the supporting math for the actual appeal,” Codes Enforcement Officer Fred Cantu told the panel Wednesday.

The data will be collected with the hope of providing a more accurate depiction of the Casco Bay coastline, Dill told selectmen July 19.

If the Federal Emergency Management Agency accepts the data, Harpswell and the participating towns will have the opportunity to submit an appeal, at an additional cost.

More expenses could follow.

“The appeal is only going to get us on the dance floor,” Cantu explained, meaning additional mapping might be required down the road that wouldn’t necessarily be paid for by FEMA.

It only took selectmen about 20 minutes to reassess their strategy Wednesday afternoon.

They decided to contribute the extra $5,000 on the assumption that South Portland would submit funds, too.

Knowing that they are scheduled to meet on Aug. 31, they acknowledged they would be able to increase their contribution by another $7,000 – to get to $42,000, or a fifth of the total cost – if South Portland declines to join the pool.

If Harpswell runs out of money, selectmen have several options, including calling a special meeting to authorize more funding, or using part of the town’s undesignated fund balance.

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

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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.