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Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 5, 2014
More sink holes found on Hagen Dock

Sink holes in Stonington

A portion of Stonington’s Hagen Dock is blocked off with cones to show where sink holes have sprouted up in 2014. The coastal Maine town will work with Ellsworth’s Andrew McCullough to engineer a fix.

Photo by Faith DeAmbrose Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Rich Hewitt

Another sink hole has opened up on Hagen Dock and the town plans to hire a contractor to fill it in.

The selectmen on June 2 voted to have Skip Eaton’s crew work on the sink hole which opened up last Friday. According to Town Manager Kathleen Billings-Pezaris, the town crew filled it and cordoned off the 12-foot area last week, but the sink hole had opened up again by Monday.

Billings-Pezaris said she had contacted engineer Andrew McCullough, who has been working with the town to design a plan to fully repair the dock. He provided a diagram and list of fill materials to use to temporarily fill the latest in a series of sink holes that keep opening up on the dock.

The work must be done carefully, she said, because there are utility lines—both sewer and electrical lines—that run through that area. Also, the latest sink hole is located pretty close to the dock wall.

“We’re going to have to open it real carefully and then patch it back together again,” she said.

She had no estimate on the cost to repair the sink hole, but Billings-Pezaris warned the selectmen that because the dock is in need of repairs, this scenario is likely to repeat itself until the dock is rebuilt.

“We’re going to have to keep patching and patching, and putting it back together,” she said.

About 30 sink holes have opened up on the dock in recent months, the result of rain, high tides and wave action working against the dock wall and undermining the base materials in the dock. Voters at the annual town meeting approved the selectmen’s proposal to use $75,000 from surplus to begin engineering plans for the project. Billings-Pezaris has been working with McCullough to do that preliminary work, she said, much in the same way the town planned for the Moose Island project.

The town also is working with the Hancock County Planning Commission on an application for grant funding that could be used for preliminary engineering on the Hagen Dock project.

She said she is unsure how the project will proceed and how it might be affected by the new FEMA flood plain maps. Those maps identify flood risk areas in Maine and the rest of the country and are used to establish premium rates for flood insurance. There is concern that the new maps will not only result in higher flood insurance costs for property owners, including municipalities, but that they also will drive stiffer building standards within those zones.

Billings-Pezaris said it was difficult trying to plan a project not knowing whether the standards were going to change mid-way through the project. It’s unlikely that construction on the dock will take place this year, she said.

Farmers’ Market parking issues pop up again

In other action, the board authorized the town manager to work with the Stonington Farmers’ Market and the community center to devise a way to control traffic during the hours the market is open. Parking has been an issue in past years and Selectman Richard Larrabee pointed out that town crews now spend as much as four hours of a day dealing with parking issues in the area.

Billings-Pezaris said she has tried to devise a barrier system that could be set up quickly and easily by the Farmers’ Market crew, so that town employees would not need to be there. One of the key issues is that customers of the market often park in the tenant spaces at the former elementary school nearby.

While the selectmen generally supported the market, they also understood the concerns of the business owners at the school whose spaces were being used by market customers. Larrabee suggested that the farmers’ market members and the ICC should be the ones to police it especially since the market pays funds to the community center for the use of the area.

Selectman Ben Barrows argued that the town shouldn’t be using its resources to monitor the area and Chris Betts agreed that it should be up to the market and the center to handle the parking situation.

“They should provide an attendant to tell people ‘you can’t come in here,’ just like they do at the Blue Hill Fair,” he said.