Manset project engineer picked

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — After consideration at three selectmen’s meetings, board members have finally selected an engineering firm to help design the Manset dock project.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the board voted 3-2 in favor of hiring CES, Inc. to design and assist with the permitting of changes to the area that includes what is known as the Hook property. Those changes, laid out in a four-phase plan by the Harbor Committee, include improved parking flow, an increase in parking spaces, creating additional multi-use areas for non-boaters and non-commercial boat use and a new harbormaster’s office that would include public restrooms.

A recommendation by a sub-committee formed to choose an engineer first went before selectmen at their Nov. 26 meeting.

Two proposals were submitted in response to the town’s request for qualifications for engineer and design work that went out in October. One was from the Brewer engineering firm, CES, Inc., and the other was from independent contractor/engineer Jeff Crafts.

“Either one would have to work within the parameters of the $30,000,” said Harbor Committee Chair Anne Napier in a conversation with the Islander, referring to a grant awarded for the design work and permit application process of the project.

There were six members of the sub-committee appointed by the Select Board to review the proposals, conduct interviews and choose which company to recommend to the board.

In addition to Harbormaster Adam Thurston and Town Manager Justin VanDongen, there were two members of the Harbor Committee and two members of the Select Board. Selectman Ryan Donahue, who had agreed to be on the sub-committee, was unable to attend the meetings in which each applicant was interviewed. Lydia Goetze was the other selectman on the sub-committee.

After reviewing the applications, conducting a site visit and interviews, the sub-committee recommended CES, Inc. to the Select Board to work with members of the Harbor Committee to design and apply for permits for changes to the Manset dock area.

At the Nov. 26 meeting, the Select Board tabled its decision to vote on the sub-committee’s recommendation in response to an objection by Selectman Chad Terry. Terry was absent from the Select Board meeting in which the sub-committee was appointed to conduct interviews for the project.

“I’m voting in the dark here on what happened,” he said. “So the committee believed each proposal had positive points, what are those points?

“You’re asking me to vote on something that I don’t know,” he added.

He requested more information about the two proposals.

The issue was left unresolved after a Dec. 17 Select Board meeting after two tied votes to appoint a firm.

In the meeting on Tuesday night, all five members of the Select Board were present. Crafts attended the meeting with two clients who spoke in support of his work. Chip Reeves, an engineer with CES, Inc., also attended the meeting to speak on behalf of the company.

Terry made a motion to accept Crafts’ proposal. Discussion then took place among the board and was opened up to the public.

“I’m a supporter of CES,” said Selectman Kristin Hutchins. “I really appreciated the detail that was in the CES report … I’m also a little bit concerned that a smaller outfit will need more oversight from our staff and our town manager. I’m a little concerned that is an undo burden to place on our staff.”

“I was at the presentation and the interviews and I was impressed with the range of services CES can provide,” said Goetze. “And the expertise that they have in terms of this project that are not standard, are quite different than anything we’ve done in Southwest Harbor, thus far.

“They have experience in looking at issues related to sea level rise which is an issue for this property,” she added, “which is likely to flood.”

Terry asked Goetze if she knew the meaning of bias.

“I would hope that none of us on this board would be making a biased decision in our vote tonight,” he said.

Terry said Goetze had spoken in opposition to a previous project at Ocean’s End involving Crafts.

“We’re asking for a certain amount of work to be done for a certain amount of money,” said Goetze. “As I see it, the question is whether we are confident that can be done and which of the two firms that are proposing this are more likely to give us what we want in that timeframe for that amount of money.”

Donahue asked what phase of the project the vote was for, an initial phase or the entire project.

“We’re asking for design and permitting for this project,” said Goetze. “I think the town manager has indicated that to work with the same firm would be preferable because whoever designed it would presumably have thoughts about carrying it forward.”

The motion to appoint Crafts’ engineering company failed with a vote of three to two. Terry and Willey were in favor; Donahue, Hutchins and Goetze were opposed.

Hutchins then made a motion to appoint CES. That motion carried with Donahue, Hutchins and Goetze in favor and Terry and Allen “Snap” Willey opposed.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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