HOWLAND, Maine — Town leaders hope to sign a contract by Friday paying a Brewer company about $259,000 to raze the former Howland tannery building, Town Manager Jane Jones said Monday.
As part of the tentative deal, J.L. Butler LLC of Brewer would demolish all of the structures on the site. That includes several smaller buildings attached or adjacent to the former tannery, not just the tannery building itself, Jones said.
“Those were in equally poor if not worse shape than the main building,” Jones said of the smaller buildings. “It is very important for the forward movement and development of the site that we get work started this spring.”
The Board of Selectmen also awaits two other significant good-news developments on the project, which has been in process for several years:
• A subcontractor to M.O. Harris Inc. of Howland, the company owned by former Selectman Mike Harris, who resigned the board before taking the work, will pave a loop of road adjacent to the tannery site that leads to a boat launch on the Penobscot River starting Friday.
The work will leave one boat launch or landing each on the Penobscot and Piscataquis rivers. Both launches are cornerstones to plans to increase tourism and recreational access to the rivers in Howland, Jones said.
• Maine Department of Economic and Community Development officials will determine within the next two weeks whether Howland will qualify for a $150,000 grant that will be used to add park benches, lighting and other landscaping work to a nature trail that runs through the tannery site.
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 several grants to pay for the removal of contaminants left on three shoreline spots.
The cleanup began in March 2010. More than 50 tons of contaminated soil have been taken to the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town.
Redevelopment of the tannery building has been among Jones’ top priorities since she became the town’s manager, succeeding the late Glenna Armour in the spring of 2009.
Jones has sought several state and federal grants for the work, and also worked closely with Maine Department of Transportation engineers in replacing the town’s two bridges over the Penobscot and Piscataquis rivers which are near the tannery site.
The goal of both projects is to leave Howland with a better-functioning town center that attracts new businesses, residents and more jobs and that also takes better advantage of the town’s access to the rivers and Interstate 95’s exit 217, officials have said. Slightly less than $600,000, almost all of it state and federal grant money, has been expended on the tannery site cleanup, Jones has said.