Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 5, 2012
Downtown Castine business owners air concerns over planned road work
Surveyors from Olver Associates have been seen all over town, working on a design plan for Phase II of an overall master plan for upgrading Castine’s infrastructure. “We’re making some progress,” said Frank Warrington, on June 28, while surveying Main Street, above, one of the roads targeted for work in 2014.
by Anne Berleant
Representatives of Olver Associates held two public meetings on June 26 with business owners who will be affected by roadway, drainage and sewer-and water-line work planned to begin in 2014 on Castine’s downtown streets. Duplicate afternoon and evening meetings were scheduled so everyone who wanted to would be able to attend.
Olver Associates is the Winterport engineering firm that developed the master plan for infrastructure improvements to the town and facilitated Phase I of the plan, completed in 2011.
At that time, major reconstruction was done on portions of Battle Avenue, Wadsworth Cove Road and Perkins Street, and their sewer and water lines and drainage facilities, at a cost of around $2.5 million.
This was the first phase of the town’s effort to correct an estimated $14 million in village infrastructure deficiencies that the selectmen originally proposed to remedy in five phases. However, at the evening meeting, Town Manager Dale Abernethy said that the long-term plan can be completed in four phases, although not necessarily at a lower overall cost.
Phase II of the plan, if approved at 2013 town meeting, will complete similar improvements to Main Street, Water Street, Stevens Street, Dyer Lane, Sea Street, on Court Street from Main Street to Tarrantine Avenue, and on Perkins Street between Pleasant Street and Main Street. Portions of village facilities are over 100 years old and in poor condition.
Abernethy said that an estimated project cost of $4 million was “good enough for this discussion,” and that the debt service for Phase I work along with a 20-year debt service for long-completed “miscellaneous work” on the town’s water system will be retired in 2014, leaving money in the town budget to fund Phase II work.
“If costs come in as we think they will, we won’t have to raise taxes,” Abernethy said.
William Olver, president of Olver Associates, said he plans to hold more meetings before “the first shovel hits the ground” in 2014, with some aimed at business owners and others at residents on the streets involved.
The dialogue is starting early “so when the design is done, there won’t be any surprises,” he said.
Around 30 business owners and residents showed up at 3 p.m., Olver estimated, but only one business owner came to the 7 p.m. session, despite numerous complaints by citizens regarding public meetings scheduled during daytime working hours.
A booklet giving an overview of the road, drainage and sewer- and water-line work planned for the downtown area, and the existing condition of those facilities, was handed out at the meetings; copies are still available at town hall.
Roads downtown are considered in fair condition, according to the report, while drainage conditions ranged from poor or marginal to “undersized.” Existing water system lines are from half to three-quarters the standard recommended size and in poor condition.
“Of all your utilities, drainage is probably in need of the most work,” Olver said.
In order to cause the least disruption to area businesses, no work on Main, Water, Sea and Perkins streets will be scheduled during the summer, he said.
At the 7 p.m. meeting, Kenny Eaton, owner of Eaton’s Boatyard, which is considered to be a “critical” business affected by the work, wondered whether the public boat ramp could be “repositioned slightly” for easier access by the Eaton boat trailer when all is said and done on the Sea Street work. Eaton said he pays the town $2,000 yearly for use of the boat ramp, but doesn’t “want the town to spend extra money because of me,” he said.
Based on comments at the 3 p.m. meeting, Olver said he would look into the additional cost of installing underground utility lines. “Everyone wants it,” he said.
Sue Walsh, economic and community development consultant for Castine, said that the proposed project is “a double-edged sword. Everyone understands there will be some inconvenience,” but the end result will be positive for the downtown area.
Of the overall reception at the well-attended afternoon meeting, Abernethy said, “I think they were receptive to the project, and pleased we were engaging them in the project.”