Belfast, Searsport SHIP funding still afloat

By Ben Holbrook | Mar 04, 2014

Despite the governor halting the sale of bonds that would fund a number of projects throughout the state, Belfast's and Searsport's Small Harbor Improvement Program (SHIP) grant funding will not be jeopardized.

Dan Stewart, SHIP program manager, said the bond issue will not impact funding for Belfast or Searsport's projects.

"We're moving forward on these projects," Stewart said. "We're not slowing down."

Harbormaster Kathy Pickering said she had recently spoken with the officials from the Maine Department of Transportation, which administers the grant funding, and said the project was still moving forward.

The city was recently awarded a $25,000 SHIP grant to replace five eight-foot by 20-foot floats and one 12-foot by 20-foot float, as well as allow for the installation of a three pile dolphin at the public landing, according to previously published reports.

Originally, the city was looking at securing the SHIP grant to make a number of improvements to the Thompson's Wharf facility. However, SHIP grant funding can only be used for improvements that promote public access to the water. For that reason, city councilors were concerned about how those restrictions could limit the long-term potential rental income, management and use of the facility.

In order to secure the funding, the city provided a matching grant of $25,000. That money was taken from the Harbor Capital Reserve account.

City Manager Joseph Slocum also said he had not heard that the city's SHIP grant funding would be put on hold due to the state not being able to sell the bonds. Regardless, Slocum was critical of the governor's refusal to allow the bonds to be sold.

“I just don't think it's appropriate at all,” he said.

Searsport received a $250,000 SHIP grant, which it will use to make repairs to the town wharf.

The town will contribute $605,000 toward the project. In November voters approved $475,000 in new spending for the project, with the remainder of the money coming from surplus funds.

Town Manager James Gillway previously said the town had been seeking grant money to complete the wharf project for more than a decade. In 1996 the wharf was badly damaged by a severe storm, according to Gillway. Due to the cost of repairing the wharf the town elected to perform the repairs in five stages. The first three stages were completed by 2002; however, the remaining work had stalled.

With the funding secured, the town can replace around 100 feet of the wharf's main structure, as well as replace some of its floating docks and repair or replace the water lines, electrical system and lighting. Without the repairs Gillway said he did not think the wharf could open for business next season, according to previously published reports.

In addition to Belfast and Searsport receiving funding, the town of Lincolnville also was awarded a $106,000 SHIP grant to replace two of the three wave screens at Lincolnville Beach, according to a recently published article.

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