July 16, 2018
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Ellsworth council agrees to convert school into park

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city is moving ahead with plans to convert the vacant Dr. Charles C. Knowlton School to a city park.

At Monday’s regular city council meeting, councilors agreed to accept a proposal from Woodard and Curran for engineering services and design of the park. The Bangor-based firm had worked with a city committee to develop a concept plan for the park which councilors had informally supported earlier this year.

City Manager Michelle Beal asked councilors to approve the next step in the project.

“We have the concept design. We are asking to continue with the engineering and design for the park,” Beal explained to councilors.

The school officially became vacant after students from the Moore School and the Knowlton School moved into the new Ellsworth Elementary and Middle School. A city committee reviewed options for the property and this summer made the recommendation for a city park.

Beal said that the engineering and design work was expected to cost $54,250, but she only asked councilors to allocate $40,000, the amount that was included in this year’s budget for the project.

Councilors generally supported moving forward with the plans. Councilor Jonathan Mahon questioned the sequence and wondered if the building should be removed before designing the park. Brent Bridges, senior vice president at Woodard and Curran, said the estimated cost for removing the building was about $120,000, with more than half of that amount going toward asbestos removal.

At this point, Beal explained, the city has only a concept design for the park. It is important, she said, to have a firm plan in order to raise funds for the project.

“It’s difficult to raise funds for a concept,” she said. “With a plan in place, we can fundraise in portions.”

The councilors voted 6-1 to accept the Woodard and Curran proposal, with Councilor Matthew Boucher opposed. Although there was little discussion Monday, Boucher previously had expressed concern that the committee had not fully considered other options for the property before recommending it become a park.

Among the features included in the concept plan are a spray pool, a turf field that could be flooded in winter for an ice-skating rink, relocated basketball courts, an amphitheater and a pavilion, along with picnic tables, a group picnic shelter and a comfort station with restrooms, as well as pathways with exercise stations. The existing playground would remain in place, as would the existing paved parking area.

No schedule has been set for the project, which Beal previously has said likely would be developed in stages.

In other action, councilors voted to award the contract for the new floats, slips and pump out station at the city marina to J.P. Berzinis, the low bidder on the project. The council had tabled the matter in August in order to answer questions about the placement of the new floats. Holly McKenzie of Kleinschmidt Associates, the company that developed the plan, said water flows were calculated on the Union River for May through August and that flow rates were well below the parameters recommended for the design and placement of the float.

Berzinis’s bid was $177,030, plus an additional $8,190 to use greenheart lumber on the pilings instead of yellow pine. The project will be paid for in part by a $100,000 state Small Harbor Improvement Project grant and a $35,000 grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the pump out station.

Although Berzinis indicated that the floats would be built this winter, most of the work on the water will be done next spring.

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