BREWER, Maine — When plans for Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility were laid on the table in the spring of 2007, they included a commercial marina that other businesses in the area could use.
“We’ll work with anyone to enhance and improve the economy in this region,” said Peter G. Vigue, chairman of Pittsfield-based Cianbro Cos. “Whatever it takes.”
Cianbro people have focused their attention on cleaning up and redeveloping the abandoned Eastern Fine Paper Co. mill in South Brewer. They have turned it into a module manufacturing facility. But designs for the marina have not been forgotten, Vigue said last week.
“They’ve had their hands full for a while,” D’arcy Main-Boyington, the city’s economic development director, said Monday. “This is something they’re interested in, but obviously it takes a back burner to other things going on.”
Cianbro, which was hired to make 53 modules for a refinery in Texas, sent out its first module shipment last week.
Part of the holdup is the wording of a 2005 transportation earmark for $1.8 million in federal funds set aside for transportation improvements associated with the city’s waterfront, Main-Boyington said last week.
“It was attached to the federal highway bill, and the federal highway program doesn’t handle marinas,” she said. “It couldn’t be used.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud sponsored the appropriation and worked diligently to get language changes made last year to make the money available, she said.
The funding should promote economic development in the area, Michaud said in an e-mail Monday.
“At the end of the day, we need to do whatever we can to create jobs for Mainers,” he said. “Improving transportation does this in the short term by creating construction jobs and in the long term by supplying much needed infrastructure for future growth.”
The Brewer manufacturing site includes a deep-water bulkhead, big enough to handle the massive barges needed to move the modules, but “it doesn’t lend itself to the smaller boats,” Main-Boyington said.
“Our goal is to build an industrial pier that would be owned by the city of Brewer and operated by Cianbro,” she said.
The smaller marina would be located just north of the bulkhead. The city is planning to model the pier after the Maine Port Authority at Mack Point in Searsport, which is owned by the port authority and managed by neighboring Sprague Energy.
“It wouldn’t be a public site,” Main-Boyington stressed. “This is an industrial site” for businesses to use for shipping products and materials in and out of the region.
An obstacle to the pier’s development is industrial waste that was moved to the site from other parts of the 41-acre riverfront locale when Cianbro was changing it into a module manufacturing facility.
“We still have contaminated materials in that area,” Main-Boyington said. “If we’re going to use it, we would need to remove some of those soils” to an offsite landfill.
The cost of cleaning up the area where the pier would be located is something both the city and Cianbro would share, she said, adding the city hopes to use grant money.
As Vigue watched the first load of modules leave Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility in Brewer last week, he described the Penobscot River as an underused transportation corridor.
“We’ve had tremendous success and we believe we have an obligation to assist others so they don’t have to go through what we did,” Vigue said. “It’s not just good for them, it’s good for us.”