STONINGTON, Maine — Selectmen are considering repairs to the Moose Island causeway, a major project that could begin as early as this spring.
There are still a lot of factors to consider, including the costs, but Stonington Town Manager Kathleen Billings-Pezaris said Tuesday that it is time that something was done to improve the causeway, which is the only link between the town and Moose Island.
The 350-foot-long causeway was built in the 1920s, and little work has been done on it since then, she said. The main problem is that the narrow road often goes underwater during storms and extreme high tides. More families have moved to the island and built homes in recent years, Billings-Pezaris said, and the road also serves Billings boat yard and a quarrying operation based on the island.
“It’s a safety issue,” she said. “There’s the concern that an ambulance or firetruck might not be able to get over there if it was needed. This is something that needs to be attended to.”
There also is an economic consideration, she said. Many of the workers at the boatyard come into town for their lunch break.
“They blaze a trail to hit all the local stores,” she said.
If the road is underwater, those businesses lose that revenue, she said.
The plan is to widen the road from 12 feet to 16 feet and to raise it so it no longer will go underwater during storms or high tides. That could be an expensive proposition.
An updated study in 2009, put the estimated cost at $434,000. The town could reduce those costs by eliminating some options built into the project and by using locally donated materials, Billings-Pezaris said. But it still will be a costly project.
“It’s not going to be an easy thing to do,” she said.
The selectmen have initially included $35,000 in the new municipal budget toward the project. That should pay for detailed engineering studies and preparation of a bid package, according to Billings-Pezaris.
The town could draw on some reserve accounts, she said, but will still have to borrow funds to complete the project. This is a good time for the town to borrow, she said.
“We’re at a good point,” Billings-Pezaris said. “We’re being really careful about debt.”
The town paid off the debt on the town office renovations during 2010, she said, and will pay off the loan for recapping the municipal landfill this spring. Also, she said, interest rates are low.
There are logistics to take into consideration for the project, including two lobster pounds located near the causeway. They’re usually empty in March, Billings-Pezaris said, so work on the causeway could begin this spring. The work, however, could extend over two years, she said.
Townspeople will get the chance to discuss the project during the annual town meeting in March.