Howland seeks grants to raze tannery buildings as part of cleanup

Posted Feb. 28, 2011, at 5:17 p.m.
Last modified March 01, 2011, at 1:20 p.m.

HOWLAND, Maine — Town leaders will seek at least $375,000 in federal and state aid to demolish the former Howland Tannery building and redevelop the site, officials said Monday.

The three grants Town Manager Jane Jones hopes to apply for by mid-April at the latest would allow for the razing of the mammoth and decrepit structure before the end of the year.

“My understanding is that it moves quite rapidly,” Jones said Monday of the grant review process. “I would hope that it would be in place for this construction, or perhaps I should say, deconstruction season.”

Once home to the town’s largest employer, the tannery site is part of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust’s plans to build a fish bypass, green some tannery land, and dig a channel for the bypass in 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.

As part of the project, town officials hope to develop once-contaminated land not occupied by the bypass. The town was awarded a $600,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant in May 2009 to pay for the removal of contaminants left on three shoreline spots.

The cleanup began in July and likely will finish this spring. More than 50 tons of contaminated site soil have been taken to the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town for storage.

Given the work already done, “I think we can put together a very compelling case that those buildings need to come down,” Jones said..

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection informed Jones in a letter dated Feb. 7 that the tannery project qualified for aid from the state Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund, with applications due April 1.

That could get the town $250,000 from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, which administers the fund. That money could, based on an estimate already provided by one company, pay for the demolition of the remaining buildings, Jones said.

The second grant the town will seek would net as much as $125,000. The application is due by Friday. If the town gets the grant, it would pay for amenities to the site — lighting, benches and landscaping, among other things — for a walking trail that the Penobscot River Restoration Trust is considering building on the site parallel to the Penobscot River, Jones said.

A third possible aid source, an EPA grant, would pay for the site’s redevelopment after the remaining buildings are removed. Jones said she wasn’t sure exactly how much EPA aid the town would qualify for.

The town will apply for all of the grants because it has no guarantee of winning any, Jones said, and the work is far beyond the town’s means.

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