m-harpboatyard-011609 Boat yard attempts fast fire recovery

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HARPSWELL — Just two months after a fire gutted its business office and parts shop, the Great Island Boat Yard is on track for a speedy recovery.
Owner Steve Rowe is hoping to build a 5,000-square-foot building to replace a similarly sized structure destroyed by a Nov. 9 blaze that caused an estimated $500,000 in damage.
Plans for the new building are scheduled for review by the Planning Board on Jan. 21. If the plan is approved, Rowe hopes to break ground by the end of the month and open the building this spring – just in time for boating season.
“We’re sorry we lost the old building which had a lot of history,” Rowe said. “But it clearly wasn’t meeting our needs anymore.”
“We’re excited about the new building,” he added. “It’s going to be a huge improvement.”
The building is about 1,000 square feet larger than the one it’s replacing and its design will allow for a 5,000-square-foot second-floor expansion, Rowe said.
The structure will house a variety of functions, including the boat yard’s business office, mechanic and electrician shop, ship store and showers and bathrooms for marina customers.
In addition to energy-efficiency and work-flow improvements, Rowe thinks the new structure will be a significant aesthetic upgrade over its predecessor.
John Libby, the noted post-and-beam builder from Freeport, is slated to do construction.
Libby worked on Rowe’s nearby residence. When Libby heard about the fire at Great Island Boat Yard, he e-mailed Rowe saying he had beams already cut for the new structure.
“We had other builders bid on the project,” Rowe said, “But (Libby’s) was the best.”
The new building include a sprinkler system mandated by fire codes. The old building did not have a sprinkler system.
Great Island Boat Yard recently completed a $1.2 million expansion project that helped earn Pine Tree Zone status. The designation provides incentives in the form of tax and utility breaks to businesses that in return provide employees a minimum salary and benefit compensation package of $34,000 annually.
While Rowe’s reconstruction effort could potentially house a larger building, Town Planner Carol Tukey said there appeared to be no major issues with the plan.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net