Bar Harbor faces possible lawsuit over pier railing

Nancy Rohan of Key Largo, Fla., stands Friday, May 31, 2013, on the porch of her summer home on Mount Desert Island. Rohan, who fell off the Bar Harbor town pier and into the water last October when a section of railing on the pier gave way, has notified the town that she intends to file a claim against the town over the incident.
Nancy Rohan of Key Largo, Fla., stands Friday, May 31, 2013, on the porch of her summer home on Mount Desert Island. Rohan, who fell off the Bar Harbor town pier and into the water last October when a section of railing on the pier gave way, has notified the town that she intends to file a claim against the town over the incident. Buy Photo
Posted June 02, 2013, at 4:34 p.m.
Last modified June 03, 2013, at 6:15 a.m.
A temporary barricade and a old lobster trap block off the edge of the Bar Harbor Town Pier where part of a railing is missing on Friday, May 31, 2013. The town plans to remove the existing railing and knee wall and to replace them sometime in 2014.
A temporary barricade and a old lobster trap block off the edge of the Bar Harbor Town Pier where part of a railing is missing on Friday, May 31, 2013. The town plans to remove the existing railing and knee wall and to replace them sometime in 2014. Buy Photo

BAR HARBOR, Maine — The town is in the process of getting a new railing put up around the edge of the local municipal pier and it could wind up on the receiving end of a lawsuit over the old one.

The existing pier railing and the concrete knee wall that supports it are not in pristine shape and no one knows that better than Nancy Rohan, a retired photographer from Miami who summers in Otter Creek, a village in the neighboring town of Mount Desert. Rohan was next to the railing on the west side of the pier last October when a section of it gave way, causing Rohan to fall from the pier into the water.

Rohan and her husband, Neil Rohan, have sent the town notice of claim, informing municipal officials that they intend to sue over the incident. As of last week, there have not been any related complaints filed against the town in court in Ellsworth.

“The Town of Bar Harbor failed to properly inspect and repair and otherwise maintain the handrail in a safe condition for the use of the general public,” the notice indicates. “The accident was proximately caused by the negligence of the Town of Bar Harbor.”

During a brief interview Friday at her house Otter Creek, Rohan declined to describe the fall or how it happened, saying she has been advised not to do so by her attorney, Malcolm Lyons of Augusta. She did say, however, that she seriously injured her neck in the fall and now has a seven-inch scar as a result.

“I’m lucky I didn’t die,” Rohan said, sitting on her front porch. “I’ll never be the same as I was.”

The town received notice of claim from the Rohans in March. Nancy Rohan and Bar Harbor Town Manager Dana Reed said separately this past week that the matter has not yet been resolved.

Reed referred other questions about the matter to Marc Franco, a Portland attorney representing the town. Separate attempts this past week to contact Franco and Lyons were unsuccessful.

While the legal issue is still pending, the town has been pursuing plans to replace the railing. Town officials plan to combine the work with other improvements to the pier, such as upgraded electrical and sewage disposal systems for recreational boats that berth at the pier in the summer.

A new railing similar to the one erected a few years ago between the pier and the Bar Harbor Inn is being fabricated, town officials said Friday, but the town has not yet selected a contractor to remove the old one and attached knee wall.

According to Reed, the town recently received only one bid for the demolition work and that it was significantly over budget, so it is considering how to move forward. The project is expected to have a ballpark cost of a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Reed said Friday he did not have specific budget information about the project and referred questions about that to Chip Reeves, the town’s public works director. Reeves was on vacation last week and is not expected to return for a couple of days, Reed said.

The town manager said the town still expects to replace the old railing and knee wall, most likely sometime in 2014. He said the pier gets heavy use in the summer and fall, and that doing the work that time of year isn’t practical.

“We’re so busy with cruise ships in late summer and early fall, we’ll be rebidding this next winter for a spring start,” Reed said of the project.

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