Howland residents to hear tannery site ideas

Posted March 25, 2010, at 9:40 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:04 p.m.

HOWLAND, Maine — Call it a new start for the center of town.

John Holden, an economic development consultant for Eaton Peabody Consulting Group of Augusta, will share with selectmen on Monday a memo developed through several community planning sessions that forecasts possible uses of the land occupied by the former Howland Tannery.

“There are a number of suggestions and ideas that were identified by the [session] participants, ranging from recreational development to recognizing the importance of tax base — and job generation,” Holden said Thursday.

“The new site clearly will be an entry point and landmark for the community,” he added. “The community has not envisioned the site to date with the old tannery building removed. It is hard to envision what it will look like, but the community clearly intends that the building will be removed.”

No date for razing has been set, nor have funds to pay for it been generated, but a Winterport general contractor, Dirt Diggers Inc., is cutting and chipping tree trunks, branches, shrubs and other wood growth on the site as part of preparations for the building’s eventual removal. Dirt Diggers began that work early this month.

The company is being paid about $4,800 from a $600,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant awarded to the town in May 2009. The money, federal stimulus funds, will pay for removal of contaminants left on three shoreline spots, the most challenging aspect of the town-owned site’s cleanup, Town Manager Jane Jones has said.

Once home to the town’s largest employer, the tannery site is part of Penobscot River Restoration Trust plans to build a fish bypass, green some tannery land, and dig a channel for the bypass as part of a project designed to open nearly 1,000 miles of habitat to Atlantic salmon, alewives and other sea-run fish now blocked from migrating upriver. The trust plans to buy three other dams along the river and complete the project by 2012.

As part of the project, town officials hope to develop land not occupied by the bypass. A feasibility study on the cleanup indicated that removing all buildings and contaminants would cost about $4 million, Jones has said.

The visioning process, and any final plans for the land developed with it, are crucial to her efforts to secure grant money to fund the razing, Jones said Thursday.

“With current economic conditions, the grant process is even more competitive,” Jones said Thursday. “You really need to put your best case forward.”

The meeting with Holden and selectmen will start at the town office at 6 p.m. Residents are invited.

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