TREMONT — Unless the town and owners of F.W. Thurston Company can come to an agreement about float configuration, the town will be required to rearrange floats off the southern end of its Bernard wharf to match the 2004 configuration in order to qualify for state grant funds.
While the conversation has gone on for three years and began because owners of F.W. Thurston Company are looking to expand their operation, this time it is about grant money rather than the proposed expansion.
The floats sit on, or float above, property that’s technically owned by the state. It’s managed by the Submerged Lands division of the Bureau of Parks and Lands (BPL). The town and Thurston’s each hold leases, allowing placement of the floats, with Submerged Lands.
Any changes to these leases, including float configurations, must be approved by abutting property owners. That’s why Thurston’s has needed approval from the town, and the town needs approval from Thurston’s.
The town’s lease, including any agreed-upon changes, expires in 2034.
In order to recoup costs for six new floats he has constructed for the wharf, Harbor Master Justin Seavey applied for a matching grant from BPL.
To be awarded $15,000 in grant funds, an amount to be matched by the town, the float configuration has to match the most recent lease from 2004 the town has with BPL.
“Paper and reality should match,” said Town Manager Chris Saunders on Tuesday at the town wharf. “So we’re changing reality to match the paper.”
Currently, the float configuration does not match the lease.
“It was changed for ease of access for fishermen,” said Seavey on Tuesday from the wharf.
Seavey said setting the floats back to the 2004 lease configuration will limit access for fishing boats bringing in their catch to sell on the western side of the wharf. That side is already a difficult one to maneuver at low tide.
“A lot of bigger boats, when they come in on low-grade tide to sell, can bottom out,” said Seavey.
In July, Seavey and Saunders met with F.W. Thurston Company owners Derek Lapointe and Mike Radcliffe. In the third week of July, Lapointe agreed to write a letter allowing the current float configuration to stand. But at the end of the month he opted out of this agreement, Saunders wrote in a memo to selectmen prior to the Aug. 6 meeting.
“We could work with the Harbor Committee and Justin to come up with something that makes everybody happy,” Lapointe said during that meeting.
He suggested at the meeting bringing in a third party to help establish a plan that benefits both parties.
Plans for the construction of a marina for F.W. Thurston Company will require approval from the town’s planning board, harbor committee, Submerged Lands and Army Corps of Engineers, according to Seavey.
“This is my job to fix,” said Seavey at the Aug. 6 meeting. “We have been working with these guys steadily. I think we will come to an agreement, it’s just going to take some time.”