SEARSPORT — A plan to rebuild the downtown section of Route 1 has entered the bidding stage, according to Town Manager James Gillway.

The last remaining part of Route 1 in the Midcoast not built to modern standards is in downtown Searsport, and the effort to bring it up to code, working with the Maine Department of Transportation, is now in its 15th year, the manager said.

At the Jan. 18 Select Board meeting, Gillway said one problem identified is at the end of Prospect Street, where water overflows or erodes the road underneath, which has caused sinkholes. MDOT will need to replace a culvert under the road with a larger one, he said.

The project will involve digging out a larger space under the road to accommodate the new, more substantial culvert, but it also means the town will have to move its wastewater utility. “We exist in the right of way at their pleasure,” he said, “and if they want to change things within the right of way, we have to move our utility at our cost.”

MDOT is willing to roll the $65,850 estimated cost to move utility into the contract, Gillway said. “We have been working on this specific part of the downtown rebuild contract for about eight months now,” he said, “and it’s finally come to a number.”

Gillway told The Republican Journal Jan. 27 that MDOT is best suited to do the moving and repair of the utility. For reasons of timing, the town does not want to contract that part of the job separately. “We don’t want to repair this part ahead of the downtown rebuild project,” he said, since MDOT would be replacing the culvert at that point.

Board member Mark Bradstreet said, “We are under the gun here. We don’t have a choice, right?”

“The town has committed to putting $200,000 by contract towards the project,” Gillway said, “No, we don’t have a choice.”

Gillway said there are also 27 manhole covers that need to either be adjusted up or down or rebuilt, which are also included in the estimate for the utility. The town will still be responsible for upgrading sidewalks and sidewalk lighting, he said, and having the estimate come in at approximately $66,000 is beneficial. Gillway said he tried to bargain with MDOT, suggesting that some of the manholes might need to become grates, but to no avail. The board ultimately approved the estimated $65,850 cost for repairing and moving the town utility.

In other business, Linda Patterson resigned her post as bookkeeper for the town Jan. 21 after eight years of service. Gillway said Patterson was the “go-to person for just about everything and we will greatly miss her.”

Anyone interested in applying for this full-time position should be proficient with computers, know the basic principles of accounting and be well organized. The new hire preferably will have a year of administrative experience, the manager said.

Gillway said Patterson was responsible for accounts payable and receivable, payroll, human resources reporting and record keeping, monthly and annual reports, and wastewater billing and collection. For more information on the position, contact the Town Office at 548-6372.

Police Chief Todd Boisvert said James Greeley, formerly of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office, was hired by the Police Department. Boisvert said Greeley had a “wealth of experience” and the partnership has been “awesome.”

The ambulance service was staffing 43% of calls coming in during December Boisvert said. It is now staffing 60%. The service, which has been in a recruitment drive recently, received 26 calls in Searsport in December, of which 15 were answered by Searsport. Stockton Springs Ambulance handled seven, and Belfast Ambulance handled four.

Boisvert said in conjunction with the recruitment effort, at least three people were interested in taking the EMT course being offered. One resident took her license test and passed, and “will be coming on board very soon,” he said.

The Searsport Fire Department has brought on four drivers to work with EMTs driving the ambulance rig, he said. Boisvert noted the Fire Department has hired three new members and is looking to fill the position of Deputy Chief Herb Kronholm, who has retired after 27 years as an emergency responder.

Harriet Clark, Searsport’s town clerk, said board member Mark Bradstreet has submitted papers for reelection to the board and Wendi Hamel will be running for the open school board seat.

Clark offered best wishes to Linda Patterson. “Her friendly personality is surely going to be missed,” she said, along with her giving spirit.

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