Harpswell selectmen to consider appeals on street lights

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HARPSWELL — The Board of Selectmen tackled a packed agenda on June 28, taking on street lights, pier work at Mitchell Field and an update on progress at the Harpswell Oceanic Center.

Street lights have generated discussion since the Energy Committee recommended the removal, addition, or movement of 80 lights in September 2011.

The changes, the committee said, would save the town up to $6,000, consume less energy and ensure lights marked things like intersections or dangerous curves.

Some residents, however, were concerned about the impact removal of lights would have on neighborhood safety.

Selectmen have now come up with a solution that allows the public to have a say in which lights stay and which lights go.

“(They) set up a process of how to deal with appeals and they are going to be conducting site visits on July 26 in the evening to go to the specific lights people have appealed,” Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said.

Eiane said selectmen are willing to reconsider their original decision on some of the lights, but she doesn’t expect a final decision until later this summer, after the site visits have been conducted and appellants have had the chance to make their cases before the board.

The town has notified Central Maine Power Co. that it can remove the lights that have not been appealed, although the delay will reduce the amount of money the town expects to save.

“There is definitely going to be a reduction (in our costs),” Eiane said. “But some of our calculations were for the street lights being removed earlier than now and now that that isn’t going to happen, I don’t think we’ll realize as much savings. It will still be several thousand dollars in savings.”

Selectmen also heard recommendations and updates about work proposed at Mitchell Field.

Atlantic Mechanical was recommended as the company to undertake pier work. The company would be responsible for the removal of gangways and some concrete work on the North Cell. However, according to Eiane, no work can move forward until there is more information about permitting.

“We are currently talking with the Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps (of Engineers) about what permitting is needed,” she said. “Town staff is looking into what the permitting requirements are to do the work before finalizing (anything).”

The board was also updated on the proposed Harpswell Oceanic Center development on the Mitchell Field Property.

About a year ago, the center was just a dream, but with the help negotiator Jack Sylvester, the former town treasurer, it is moving forward with initial plans for an aquaculture, education and research center on the 10.8-acre site.

The aquaculture center would essentially be a self-sustaining farm, with fish, worms, oysters and algae harvested and sold commercially.

In addition to the aquaculture center, Harpswell Oceanic Center plans to add a visitors center and research facility that will partner with area universities and schools.

The proposal to the Selectmen on July 28 said the center hopes to have a lease signed by Dec. 31, and have the necessary permits secured shortly thereafter. Construction of a seawater distribution center will begin nine months after the lease is signed, pending financing and additional permits. Construction of the aquaculture center would begin by December 2014, or six months after the completion of the seawater distribution center.

Eiane said that Sylvester is still working out terms of the lease agreement with the center, and that no decision will be finalized for a while.

Amber Cronin can be reached at acronin@theforecaster.net or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter: @croninamber.