Chair Kevin Buck drafted a sketch of a possible alternative structure for the town-owned wharf house on Rice Road. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TOWN OF TREMONT

Wharf house rebuild eyed

TREMONT — Leeman Hodgdon had lived in the Rice Road house near the harbormaster’s office in Bass Harbor known as the “wharf house” for eight years when he moved out in January.

The building ran out of oil while Hodgdon was out of the country, which froze the pipes and caused damage. Now, the town, which owns the house, is weighing options for what to do next there.

The Board of Selectmen has asked the town manager to find a contractor to inspect the house and get an estimate for the cost of repairs. The motion was made at their meeting on Tuesday, following discussion about options for the possible demolition and replacement of the property.

On Feb. 9, the Select Board conducted a public walkthrough of the house to review its condition. In addition to Selectmen Kevin Buck, James Thurlow, Howard Goodwin and McKenzie Jewett, attendees included Town Manager Christopher Saunders and Harbor Committee members Mel Atherton, Peter Gott and Art Paine.

Hodgdon, the property’s most recent tenant, decided to vacate the house in mid-January.

The board directed the town manager to enter a payment arrangement with Hodgdon at their meeting earlier this month, for back-due rent as well as debt owed for freeze-up repairs.

“The house is in pretty bad shape,” said Chair Kevin Buck at Tuesday’s meeting.

Following the walk-through, selectmen decided to explore options for demolishing the existing structure and designing a new harbormaster building on the site of the wharf house.

At the regular board meeting Tuesday, the idea elicited specific suggestions, as well as wider concerns about town spending on the property.

Resident Stewart Murphy suggested fixing up the house and putting it back up for rent.

Thurlow said he, too, originally thought the property could be turned around, but only until the group toured the inside of the house.

“You would dump a fortune into that place,” he said.

“You’ll never get your money back,” said Buck.

Murphy asked about flattening the structure and creating a parking lot.

“There’s no payback in that Taj Mahal of a building,” he said.

“There’s a lot more things the money could be spent on instead of a new harbormaster shack,” resident Dean Wass said.

He, too, suggested refurbishing the house and keeping the property as a town-owned rental.

“Having the town be responsible as a landlord has proven not to be the ideal situation, so we’re just exploring options here,” Buck said.

Based on Saunders’ calculations, the town had been making money off the house for the past few years.

An idea to turn the site into public bathrooms also came up but didn’t receive much support from residents who were at the meeting.

The town hopes to apply for grant money if it decides to go ahead with a new building, Buck said, although “we’re a long way from a decision on it.”

Henriette Chacar

Henriette Chacar

Former Islander reporter Henriette Chacar covered the towns of Southwest Harbor and Tremont.
Henriette Chacar

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