Hampden council approves Chevron settlement, firetruck

Posted July 18, 2011, at 10:33 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — There was little dissension within the Town Council’s ranks Monday night as it unanimously approved a $520,000 settlement deal with Chevron Corp. and the Fire Department’s purchase of a new, $125,683 off-road firetruck.

The $520,000 comes from a $900,000 settlement between Maine and Chevron announced last week that addresses an oil spill that continued for three decades and leaked about 140,000 gallons into the ground on a site near the Hampden waterfront and alongside the Penobscot River.

Dan Higgins, Hamlin’s Marina general manager, attended the meeting to voice his excitement and gratitude for the settlement and the council’s approval of it.

“For me, it’s a miracle,” Higgins said. “There were a lot of times the last four years I’d given up. I’m so excited.”

Higgins related how Chevron even gave him a $250,000 loan to help his family keep the parcel of land under their ownership until the deal could be completed.

Hamlin’s is swapping 10 acres adjoining the ramp at the marina with Hampden to be developed into a Turtle Head Cove Municipal Park with walking trails, a new parking lot, a kayak-canoe launch, municipal dock and mooring facilities.

“We’ve already seen new business down there this year with McLaughlin’s Seafood on site with about 30 new wait staff jobs, and this will be much better for the town and our business,” said Hamlin.

Councilors Tom Brann and Shelby Wright, as well as Mayor Janet Hughes, publicly thanked both Chevron and Dean Bennett, Hampden’s community and economic development director.

“There was no reason they had to do what they did. They could’ve just paid their fine and gone on their way,” said Brann. “And Dean refused to give up. He stuck with it and made it happen.”

As a condition of the settlement, Hampden has three years to complete the project before the money goes to the state.

Three residents voiced concerns about the city having to pay maintenance for the new park, but Hughes pointed out that the plot of land being swapped for Hamlin’s is not on the city tax rolls but will be after development, thereby generating property tax revenue.

The four-wheel-drive firetruck will come from Georgia as Fire Department officials recommended the bid turned in by Southern Fire Sales and Service of Jasper, Ga. Southern’s bid was more than Fire Tech and Safety of New England, but offered more extras that weren’t available for the same price in Fire Tech’s $111,413 bid.

Thanks to a federal grant, Hampden will pay $6,933 — just 5 percent — of the truck’s total cost.

The four-wheel-drive, 15-foot Ford F-550 truck features a front bumper-mounted turret and nozzle which can aim and shoot water while driving, a 500-gallon water tank, a compressed air foam system, and a five-man communication headset system that fits under the fire helmets.

Councilors discussed what to do with the old truck that originally was donated to the town. The preference for councilors and fire personnel is to keep it as a display vehicle that can be used in parades.

In other council business, Town Manager Susan Lessard had an update from the Hampden Water District. She said district officials have decided not to replace recently retired superintendent Cameron Torrey and instead will divide his responsibilities among members of the district’s board of trustees in an effort to save money.

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