Howland taking next steps in tannery site revitalization

Tom Pelkey of Eddington, an equipment operator with J.E. Butler LLC of Holden, spent most of the day watching for and helping gather recyclable debris at the former Howland tannery building in July 2012.
Tom Pelkey of Eddington, an equipment operator with J.E. Butler LLC of Holden, spent most of the day watching for and helping gather recyclable debris at the former Howland tannery building in July 2012. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 04, 2012, at 2:42 p.m.

HOWLAND, Maine — A three-member town committee is close to picking the engineering firm that will finish the landscaping of the former tannery site, a key component to the land’s revitalization, officials said.

Community Enterprise Committee members Joan Schatz-Meagher, Leslie Nesin and Corrine Smith are reviewing firms that have submitted proposals to finish the design of the “pocket park,” Town Manager Jane Jones said.

The committee and selectmen waded through 10 proposals and have winnowed the list down to three finalists with a selection perhaps coming by late this week, Jones and Board of Selectmen Chairman Glenn Brawn said.

“The toughest challenge was the overwhelming number of engineering firms that responded to the request. I looked through all of them myself and I found myself feeling glad that I wasn’t sitting on the committee,” Brawn said Saturday. “They are all doing good work. I appreciate that committee tremendously.”

Formerly the site of the town’s largest employer, the tannery building was razed this summer after decades of effort at redevelopment. Town leaders have called the large site near the town’s center the key to revitalizing the small town’s economy.

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 Howland project, town officials hope to develop once-contaminated land not occupied by the bypass. The cleanup began in March 2010. More than 50 tons of contaminated soil were taken to the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town.

The engineering firm picked by the committee and selectmen will have a $150,000 community enterprise grant to fund giving the former Howland tannery property benches, lights and some landscaping along the Penobscot River. The grant was awarded in June. The disbursement by the Maine Office of Community Development is the latest of about $1.025 million in grants awarded to the town for the tannery revitalization, officials have said.

The idea is to make the land into a park that will enrich the community and help draw more residents and businesses to it. Town leaders hope the park will be alluring, user friendly, durable and easy to maintain, Jones said.

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