HOWLAND, Maine — Selectmen will meet on Oct. 19 to consider hiring an engineer to help the town clean up much of a former Penobscot River tannery abandoned for nearly 40 years.

Selectmen are expected that night to review proposals submitted by prospective consultants, Town Manager Jane Jones said Thursday.

While the exact number of proposals received won’t be known until that day, when the bid period closes at 4 p.m., about 23 requests for information about the work have been received.

“It is usual for people to [submit proposals] towards the end of the proposal period,” Jones said Thursday.

A $600,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant was received in May to clean three contaminated sites from the shoreline of the town-owned, 12-acre property off Route 6. The cleanup work the consultant will address does not entail razing buildings on the site.

The tannery, which closed in 1971, has long been seen as a symbol of the town’s economic doldrums. Five times since then the town has sold the property, which overlooks the Penobscot and Piscataquis rivers, but has had to reclaim it when owners left. Once home to the town’s largest employer, the tannery site has loomed large in more recent revitalization plans that proponents hope to realize by 2012.

The Penobscot River Restoration Trust plans to build a fish bypass near the tannery site, green some tannery land, and dig a channel for the bypass as part of opening nearly 1,000 miles of habitat to Atlantic salmon, alewives and other sea-run fish now blocked from migrating upstream. The trust also plans to buy three other dams along the river.

Maine Department of Transportation officials, meanwhile, will build a new bridge over the river starting next year.

The removal of contaminants is likely the largest hurdle to fully restoring the site. Selectmen have established an economic development committee to help redevelop the tannery area. Jones, meanwhile, is looking for federal funding sources to pay for razing the site’s cluster of buildings, she said. No cost estimates are available.