MDI town considers waterfront renovation

Posted Feb. 03, 2009, at 9:29 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:47 a.m.

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — Town officials have been working to replace aging floats and to improve the electrical service at the marina in the village of Northeast Harbor, but they may end up making more visible changes before they’re done.

They also are floating plans to add and renovate some waterfont buildings and to redesign the parking and vehicle access for the marina.

Shawn Murphy, the local harbormaster, said Tuesday that the town hopes to make the marina more user friendly. A new layout for parking and dock access would make it safer for people walking between the docks and vehicles and for vehicles that load or unload cargo at the waterfront, he said.

The town also is considering adding a new washroom building to be used only by boat slip renters and expanding the harbormaster’s office to provide more work space and to make it more user friendly for the public. The seasonal public bathrooms, he said, would be moved closer to the tennis courts, next to where a new passenger drop-off point for the Island Explorer seasonal bus system would be.

Murphy said it is too soon to predict how soon the project might be done or how much it might cost. He acknowledged that it likely would be a couple of years before the work is done and that it likely will cost a “considerable amount” of money.

“We’ve been working on it for the good part of [a] year,” he said. “None of us know that right now.”

The town’s marine management committee has been working with engineering firm CES Inc. to come up with a plan that will be presented to selectmen later this month, according to Murphy. Town officials hope to pay for the new layout with waterfront user fees and possibly from other sources, rather than from local property taxes, he said.

“That’s the game plan,” Murphy said.

Ultimately, the town also hopes to create more green space directly by the water, he said, but that might not happen for a decade or more. The priority is to upgrade pedestrian and vehicle access and to improve the harbormaster’s office and service for the seasonal slip renters.

“It’s going to be done in phases,” Murphy said.

More immediately, the town will continue to replace its old floats with new ones that rely on floating drums instead of Styrofoam to stay above water, according to the harbormaster. The new models are expected to last longer, he said, because their wooden sections stay above the waterline and, as a result, are not susceptible to damage from worms. The old floats lasted eight to 10 years, but the new ones should last more than 20, he said.

Town officials also plan to improve the electrical service to boats in the marina, which Murphy said has been running low. Low voltage can create a safety hazard, he said, by causing appliances to overheat and possibly catch fire if they do not get enough power.

On Monday, the Mount Desert board of selectmen voted to award a contract for $61,306 to local contractor MCM Electric to upgrade the marina’s electrical service. Selectman Rick Mooers, who has personal connections with MCM, abstained from the vote.

Murphy said the overall cost of replacing the old floats on the public dock, which is closest to the boat ramp, and of upgrading the electricity supply is about $144,000. Of that amount, $100,000 is being funded by a federal grant and the rest has to be paid by the town.

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