Harpswell panel proposes seasonal ramp, floats at Mitchell Field

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HARPSWELL — The Mitchell Field Committee is recommending that the town replace the deteriorating pier at the old U.S. Navy fuel depot with a seasonal ramp and float system able to support a range of recreational activities and small fishing boats.

Referring to it as a “typical floating pier,” committee Chairwoman Jane Covey said the design “fulfill(s) most, if not all, uses that people felt were important” based on input from a survey and several workshops this fall.

The initial estimate for the project is almost $227,000, which engineer Barney Baker expects will increase slightly after adding in the cost of lighting and paving the causeway.

The committee will formally recommend the design to the Board of Selectmen at an upcoming meeting; the board is expected to submit the plan as a warrant article to be decided March 11 at Town Meeting.

The design calls for an 80-foot gangway that leads down to a series of floats, which extend 90 feet. The floats provides an area where “people can fish, view the water, land their boats, (and) launch their kayaks,” Covey said in an interview Jan. 19. It would also support “light commercial (use), like fishing boats and lobster boats,” she said.

“Most of the people who responded to the survey were primarily interested in the recreational use for themselves,” she said. The survey garnered 130 responses since it was created this summer.

She added that the design does not preclude the town from increasing the scale or adding additional structures to the waterfront in the future, should demand increase or change to require a larger pier that is capable of greater or additional functions.

The committee plans to the fund the project with a combination of municipal and grant money. The Budget Advisory Committee recommended a draft budget earlier this month that includes $150,000 in matching funds from a federal Safety and Health Investment Project (SHIP) grant, issued by the Department of Labor and Industries.

At the meeting, Town Planner Mark Eyerman called the process for funding the pier a “catch-22,” because the DOL requires the town to authorize matching funds in order to be eligible.

“(P) eople say, ‘well, can’t you get outside funding and then we’ll see it we want to put up money?’ Well, the answer is, you can’t get the funding unless you’ve put up the money,” Eyerman explained.

Because the pier is seasonal, the structure will require about $5,000-$6,000 in operating costs to remove the floats for the winter.

However, the town hopes to offset those costs by creating a mooring field, which would not only provide annual revenues, but also meet the town-wide demand for additional moorings.

Eyerman said as of this month, there are about 70 people on a waiting list for moorings.

The SHIP grant funds are expected to be authorized in 2018, the committee said, a span of time that allows for the town to first demolish the existing pier – a requisite action for any further work on the waterfront to go forward.

The town approved the removal at Town Meeting 2016, and the Budget Advisory committee recommended in a draft budget that selectmen create a warrant article to borrow money for the pricey demolition.

Baker is expected to have updated costs for the project by Feb. 1, according to Town Administrator Kristi Eiane; a previous estimate put the removal between $3 million and $4 million

Responding to a question, committee member Nate Wildes reiterated that the demolition, while necessary for a replacement project to move forward, is independent from costs and designs associated with the reuse and improvement of the waterfront area.

The town also voted last year to build a boat launch at Mitchell Field. Covey said that the committee recommends moving forward with building the pier first, given that the pier will create the recreational activities that the boat launch is meant to support.

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

The Mitchell Field Committee in Harpswell is recommending that the town replace the old Navy pier with a season float system that would  be capable of hosting a variety of recreational and light commercial activities.

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.