Seller of Harpswell waterfront property uncertain about deal
HARPSWELL — An estimated $10,000 plan to mitigate soil contamination of waterfront property the town is planning to buy could jeopardize the deal.
Dain Allen, owner of the land, said although he would like to see the town use the nearly 6,000-square-foot parcel, he is unsure about the deal after learning about the extra work required.
Allen said another buyer is lined up in case the sale to the town falls through.
Portland-based Ransom Consulting revealed the estimated cost of mitigating soil contamination during a presentation at Thursday's Board of Selectmen meeting, three weeks before the town's deadline to close the acquisition.
Voters approved the $85,000 purchase last November.
Selectmen extended the original Dec. 30, 2013, deadline after a $7,000 environmental investigation by Ransom found petroleum-laced soil in the Lookout Point Road property, and recommended mitigation.
The investigation cost will be split by Allen and the town if the sale goes through. Otherwise, the town will absorb the entire cost.
The town must submit Ransom's report to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's Voluntary Response Action Program, or VRAP.
"It gives (the DEP) the chance to review due diligence and what someone is going to do with the property and how they're going to deal with contamination," Steve Dyer, a principal at Ransom, said. "It also provides the applicant with liability protections moving forward."
He said if the town's VRAP application is approved, the town would have to provide the DEP with a plan to mitigate the soil contamination.
The mitigation work could come in the form of rototilling the contaminated soil, or capping it with new soil or pavement, Dyer said.
He said if Harpswell participates with VRAP now, it would protect the town from having to do extra work in the future if DEP were ever to tighten its standards.
"If you do it correctly at this point, you're not going to be asked to do additional work 10 years from now," Dyer said.
Based on similar sites he has worked on, he estimated the combination of VRAP application fees and cost of mitigation work would come to about $10,000.
After the presentation, Allen and his stepson, Albert Rose, said they were disappointed by news of the extra mitigation requirements.
"I can't watch this get nickel and dimed," Rose told the selectmen. "It's frustrating and I want you guys to know that. ... We've tried to do the right thing, and I'm pulling my hair out."
The owners originally offered the land to the town for $7,000 less than its assessed value to help the town preserve waterfront access. The parcel is adjacent to the Lookout Point town landing on Harpswell Neck.
Allen said he's unsure much longer he will wait to sell the land to the town, in part, because there is another potential buyer.
"At some point I might drag my feet," he said. "I'm not asking for a big sum of money compared to what the (town) says it's worth, so what do you do?"
"They've gone to an extension and then to another extension," Allen continued. "I got better things to do then coming over here. I could be working on a boat."
However, he said, he would ultimately like to see the town own the land because of that mission to preserve waterfront access.
"In later years, it would be nice to add to the town because I never stopped anyone from using it," Allen said.
Chairwoman Elinor Multer said the selectmen will have to meet with Allen before deciding to continue with Ransom's recommended mitigation action.
In other news:
• Selectmen signed a $116,000 contract with Augusta-based JARR Management to construct an 864-square-foot building to house a paramedic and an emergency medical services interceptor vehicle.
Construction of the building is a stipulation of a contract the town has with Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick for round-the-clock paramedic services, which voters approved last month.
Construction is expected to begin next week, weather permitting. The building is expected to be completed by May 2015.
• Selectmen also decided to have the town not re-issue licenses lost by commercial shellfish harvesters who don't fulfill their conservation requirements.
Previously, the town would reissue commercial shellfish licenses on an annual basis, regardless of whether harvesters had fulfilled the town-imposed conservation requirements.
"Rather than taking the licenses of active harvesters," a memo from the Marine Resources Committee said, "the committee would prefer to see the number of licenses reduced over time by a policy of retaining the licenses of those who fail to fulfill their conservation requirements."