Searsport looks to approve $380,000 for wharf repairsSpecial Town Meeting set for Nov. 14
Searsport — Voters will meet at a Special Town Meeting in November to approve at least $379,948 in matching funds for two grants to help repair the aging Searsport town wharf.
The town is seeking a federal grant for boating infrastructure of $62,752 and a Small Harbor Improvement Program (SHIP) grant of $250,000 to go toward the estimated $692,700 in repairs needed at the town wharf.
Town Manager James Gillway told the selectmen at their Oct. 15 meeting that Dan Stewart of Maine Department of Transportation recommended the town approve the money before December in order to increase its chances of receiving state and federal grant money for the project.
Gillway said the town will need to 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.
Stewart commended the town for applying for the SHIP grant, said Gillway, and gave suggestions for how the town might secure federal funding as well. Gillway said if the town approves the matching funds it would be "in very good position to receive state and possibly federal funding."
If voters approve the funds, Gillway said he hopes to be notified by the end of this year or early 2014 if the town wins the grant money. Bids for the work would be relased soon after, as the town has already completed the engineering work. Gillway said he hoped the work would be able to be completed by boating season.
The selectmen voted unanimously to schedule a Special Town Meeting for Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. to approve the funding request. It will approve the warrant at its Nov. 5 meeting.
Gilway noted that some members of the public had expressed concern over holding a Special Town Meeting for a single item; however, he said he felt the issue was important enough to warrant it in this case.
In May, Gilway told selectmen that the retaining wall at the town wharf was in such disrepair it posed a danger to the public.
In an effort to make the wharf area safe for all who visit and work there, Gillway said, public works crews started about $8,000 worth of work to fix the problem.
As part of the repairs, Gillway said, town crews are installing a geo-textile material behind where the rocks will be replaced to help hold the structure together and prevent erosion, something the wall lacked at the time it was originally constructed.
Gillway recommended the board take that money from the town wharf reserve account, which carried a balance of about $40,000.