Grant received for wharf work

TREMONT — The town has been awarded a state grant to upgrade the wharf in Bernard, but is looking for more financial assistance to replace the current wooden decking with concrete.

Harbormaster Justin Seavey applied for and was awarded a 50/50 matching grant worth $123,000 in 2017 for upgrades to the wharf. The grant is part of the Small Harbor Improvement Program (SHIP), managed by the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) with the state’s department of transportation. According to the MDOT website, the program can provide up to $250,000 in matching grant funds to municipalities for projects to improve waterfront facilities.

Original plans for improving the wharf included reinforcing the wooden pilings and upgrading parts of the wooden decking in need of repairs. Estimated costs were projected to be $246,000.

Seavey, Town Manager Chris Saunders and an engineer have since decided that replacing the wooden deck with concrete, as well as reinforcing the wooden pilings, would be a better long-term solution. This option could cost as much as $400,000.

“This will probably be a better option for the longevity of the wharf,” said Seavey. “Either way we’ll have to get a bond or loan and [that] will need to be approved by town meeting.”

An engineer is currently gathering information regarding the reconstruction project for town officials to review in order to decide how to move forward.

On Monday, selectmen authorized Saunders to continue to apply for more grant funds from MDOT, hoping matching funds for a full reconstruction project might be available.

“Concrete on the top, I think it’s a very expensive option,” said selectman Jamie Thurlow. “I say we just redo it, repair one area.”

Saunders explained to the board the plan for any work on the wharf has been to ask for financial support via a loan or bond from the taxpayers to match grant monies.

“I’d be a lot more excited about it if we were getting a grant,” said Board Chairman Kevin Buck.

Saunders also said that SHIP grants are sometimes awarded to municipalities which are then unable to match the funds. When that happens, the project is abandoned, leaving money in the fund for other municipalities.

“I have a draft letter to ask the DOT for more money,” Saunders told the board.

Elaine Eaton, who is on the board of the Bass Harbor Memorial Library and hosted a pancake breakfast earlier this year on the wharf, expressed concern about being able to set up tents on a concrete deck for future events.

Saunders said would explore options with the engineer for placing tents on a concrete deck.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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