Harpswell voters approve food truck rules, Mitchell Field pier repair

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HARPSWELL — Pedestrians may finally be able to get a decent hot dog, after voters approved a mobile food handler’s ordinance during Tuesday’s election.

Just under 65 percent of 843 voters cast their ballots in favor of the ordinance, which will, for the first time, allow mobile food operations to set up shop legally within town limits.

Voters also decided, by an overwhelming margin, to approve a $25,000 expenditure from existing town funds to perform emergency repairs on the pier at Mitchell Field, part of which collapsed in April.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said the food cart ordinance was first proposed after the town’s planner was approached by people who wanted to operate the services in Harpswell.

“One thing that’s noteworthy is that such operations can be set up on Mitchell Field, or town-owned property, with permission from the Board of Selectmen,” said Eiane.

The process to approve mobile food operations, which typically sell items such as tacos, hot dogs, or lobster rolls, is designed to be more streamlined than it would be for a full restaurant.

Town Clerk Roz Knight said that the election went smoothly, and that the 23 percent turnout in Harpswell was a bit higher than had been projected.

With 568 of 595 precincts reporting, just 13 percent of voters had cast ballots statewide.

At the Mitchell Field pier, according to a summary of the articles prepared by the town, “The precarious position of the hanging gangway and the concern that the south gangway may also collapse have caused the Town to seek an appropriation to undertake emergency repairs including the removal of the gangways.”

Of 911 voters Tuesday, 662, or 73 percent, favored the expenditure.

Eiane said that the Board of Selectmen will decide whether to move forward immediately with the repairs, or whether it would be better to try to get a wider range of bids.

The town’s harbormaster has obtained some estimates, but the project has not undergone an official sealed-bid process.

“Obviously we would like to make this happen fairly quickly,” Eiane said, “but the board will decide whether it would be better to go through the sealed bid process.”

The lowest current estimate to remove two gangways from the pier is about $16,000, she said. A separate element of the project, which would involve removing some concrete from the section that has collapsed, has currently drawn bids between $18,000 and $40,000.

Eiane said she hopes a process of negotiation and combining the two projects could bring the costs down significantly; she said the project is an expensive one because a barge has to be brought to the scene to perform the work.

The Board of Selectmen was scheduled to discuss the bid process on Thursday.