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FREEPORT — Town councilors Tuesday night approved a new design for the Burnett Road bridge and discussed a new heating system for Town Hall.
They also named Barbara Gifford the 2008 Freeport Citizen of the Year.
Council Chambers were filled for the start of the three-hour meeting, with many people there to honor Gifford for her contribution to the town.
Gifford, a Freeport resident since 1970, has volunteered her time with local organizations since her retirement from L.L. Bean. She has worked with the Elders Association, Freeport Community Services, Freeport’s Woman’s Club, the Merchants Association, Mast Landing School, Freeport Middle School, St. Jude’s Church, the Community Improvement Association and the library.
Councilor Charlotte Bishop said the award is given to an individual or group of people who have positively contributed to the town with their service and involvement.
“If there were three or four more Barbaras around, she could run the town herself,” Bishop said. “She has given to the community in so many ways, and is so willing to give of herself.”
Gifford received a plaque, flowers and was recognized by councilors, friends and family.
After the celebration, councilors approved an alternative design for the Burnett Road Bridge as presented by town engineer Albert Presgraves and Peter Krakoff, vice president of CPM Constructors.
Residents have twice voted against spending money to replace the bridge, once in 2000 and once in 2002.
In 2005, the Maine Department of Transportation notified Freeport that the bridge was in poor condition. By December 2007 it failed state inspection due to safety and structural problems. The DOT said the stone abutments were crumbling and could not support heavy loads.
The state closed the bridge in February 2008, leaving residents of Burnett Road and visitors to Wolfe’s Neck Farm to use Lower Flying Point Road to reach their destinations. By March, the state-owned bridge was removed.
A grassroots effort to pay for, construct and install a temporary footbridge was spearheaded by Scott Samuelson and approved by the council in April. Last November, residents voted by a 2-1 margin to borrow $350,000 to replace the bridge.
The original design of the new bridge was priced at about $330,000, but Presgraves said by lengthening the bridge and replacing the stone abutments with rip-rap slopes, the work could be done for $285,000 – a savings of $45,000.
The revised bridge would still have a wooden deck with wood runner planks, a wooden rail and a wooden inspection platform. The length will be increased from 40 feet to 58 feet and the concrete abutments will be replaced with sloped rip-rap and rest on the land on either side of the bridge.
That feature will have less impact on the water below and provide better flood capacity.
The engineers said there would be more wood decking to replace with this design, even though the new design is less likely to need work or repair over time.
Construction could start by the middle of March, and be complete within four to six weeks.
While Krakoff said the footprint of the revised bridge falls within the scope of the design of the original bridge, Councilor Jim Cassida advised checking with the state to ensure a permit is not required for construction. He said the agreement to approve a replacement bridge was contingent on the fact that it was the same size as the original, and if not, it may necessitate permitting.
The council approved the change in design 7-0.
While councilors saved $45,000 in construction of the Burnett Road Bridge, Town Planner Donna Larson said it could cost as much as $200,000 to replace the heating system in Town Hall.
She said to remove the old, oil-dependent heating system and replace it with five electrical heat pumps with a propane backup would be a more reliable, energy-efficient system. The alternative would be to keep the system and purchase a new boiler.
Councilors asked for information on comparison costs of alternative heating systems and the associated cost and payback time frames.
Councilors are expected to discuss the alternative heating system at their Feb. 10 meeting.
In other business, two Community Development Block Planning Grant Applications were requested – one from the Freeport Historical Society to assess the Harrington House and one from the Planning Department to develop a conceptual plan for a workforce housing development at 38 South St.
Councilors approved the historical society’s application 6-1, on the recommendation of the Municipal Facilities Committee, with Councilor Genie Beaulieu opposed.
Beaulieu said her vote was not meant to indicate disapproval of the society, but said grants for the town may be better used for workforce housing, for the “wider good of the town.”
She also said she was concerned about the composition of the three-member committee, since Councilor Bill Muldoon is a historical society trustee and “one member mentioned wanting open space on South Street in the past.”
Councilors said both project applications are worthy and deserving of a vote, and said there may be alternative ways to raise funds to support the workforce housing project without a planning grant.
Councilors are expected to discuss the budget forecast and meet with the Sewer District Board of Trustees and legislative representatives at a workshop Tuesday, Jan. 27, at Town Hall at 7 p.m.