TREMONT — Floats at the town wharf will be returned to the state lease configuration and town officials will take the winter to explore other options, selectmen decided at a recent meeting.
The configuration of the floats has been debated for several years, following requests for changes from Thurston’s Lobster Pound, who would like to expand their operation to add a private marina.
During the Sept. 17 select board meeting, Town Manager Chris Saunders told selectmen he had met with the owners of Thurston’s, Mike Radcliffe and Derek Lapointe.
As a result of that meeting, the pound’s owners asked if the town would be willing to have an engineer come up with alternative designs that would serve both parties. Suggested float designs from the engineer could then go to a public hearing, Saunders said.
Two years ago, Thurston’s presented a plan to the Harbor Committee for an expansion of their marina. One concern the committee expressed was the 50 feet of clearance between the plan’s northernmost float and the town’s southernmost float. Lapointe and Radcliffe agreed to reduce their number of floats to increase the opening to 80 feet.
Any plan Thurston’s or the town has to change physical structures requires notification of abutting property owners. Although the changes do not require neighbor approval, both parties have agreed to work together to find cohesive solutions.
Conversation around the floats at this point is focused on receiving grant money from the state. In order to receive nearly $15,000 in grant funds from the Bureau of Submerged Lands, the float configuration on one of the town’s docks must match the lease with the state.
It does not currently match. It was changed more than a year ago to accommodate large fishing vessels coming to the town wharf to offload their catch for the day.
“They’re not going to pay us until they see evidence the floats have been changed,” said Saunders about the state in a conversation with the Islander last week. “If the floats are changed, they will stay that way until 2034.”
That is when the current lease expires.
“I think turning the floats is going to block access to the dock,” said Selectman Jamie Thurlow at the meeting. “No one wants that. Would it hurt to get a few ideas?”
Thurlow had originally recused himself from the conversation, citing the possibility of familial bias because he is a second cousin to the owners of Thurston’s. Other selectmen permitted him to join the conversation after he stated he could form an unbiased opinion on the matter.
Harbormaster Justin Seavey agreed it would be valuable to have an objective party come up with options.
“Who’s going to pay for it?” Seavey asked.
Then, Stewart Murphy spoke up from the public and suggested returning the floats to the lease configuration and taking the winter to think about it. Activity at the wharf slows down considerably in November, he said.
“It buys us a lot of time,” said Chairman Kevin Buck. “I agree 100 percent. I think that’s a great idea.”
“Have [the owners of Thurston’s] offered suggestions that would be acceptable?” Buck asked.
Saunders said Radcliffe and Lapointe had suggested moving all town floats to a dock off the north end of the wharf.
Selectmen did not take a vote on the item but all did agree to forgo hiring an engineer to assess the situation at this time. Town officials have told the Bureau of Submerged Lands the floats will be changed back to the lease configuration sometime in November.