MOUNT DESERT — “Versant [power company] is looking for a property owner to sign off on land rights that the property owner does not own.”
That statement by Public Works Director Tony Smith in an Oct. 26 memo to the town manager and Select Board pretty well sums up the confusion and frustration surrounding the granting of an easement for the installation of power lines as part of the Main Street improvement project in Northeast Harbor.
Early this year, the town granted Versant an easement across a lot it owns on the east side of Main Street. The town leases the old fire station building on the lot to the Great Harbor Maritime Museum.
No power lines will pass over, under or through the building, but Versant has insisted on having an easement from the museum before starting any electrical work. And the general contractor for the Main Street project, R.F. Jordan & Sons, is waiting for Versant to set utility poles before building sidewalks and doing other work.
“We are still working on coming to terms with Versant on what they will accept from us related to the last outstanding easement,” Smith said in his memo. “Our legal counsel feels they have all they need; Versant does not.”
The town’s attorney in its dealings with Versant, Michael Tadenev of Eaton Peabody, told the Select Board Monday night that, because of the proposed relocation of some power lines and poles on the lot, Versant asked for an additional easement to the one the town granted last winter.
“The Great Harbor Maritime Museum joined in that easement, despite the fact that no poles or lines ran anywhere over the leased portion of the premises,” Tadenev said. “We and the museum both hoped that would (satisfy) Versant going forward, but unfortunately it didn’t.”
He told the Select Board that a new agreement has been reached with Versant “to grant an easement from the town and then indemnify Versant against any claims by others having rights in the lot, specifically the museum.”
The Select Board voted unanimously to approve the new easement and indemnification agreement.
Following a break for the summer, work on the Main Street improvement project resumed Oct. 18. The schedule called for Versant to begin installing utility poles this week.
The project is already 18 months behind the original schedule, primarily because it took so long for the town to obtain all 35 easements for underground power lines that were needed from 26 Main Street property owners.