ELLSWORTH — From trail extensions to fuel tanks and mooring fees, the Harbor Park and Marina was the focus of a City Council meeting on Monday.
The discussion centered around a proposal to upgrade fuel tanks and add diesel, the cost estimate for which has more than doubled, from $150,000 to $336,500.
Despite expressing dismay at increased costs, councilors approved the proposal in a divided vote. The vote was 4-3 in favor, with councilors Gary Fortier, Marc Blanchette, Heather Grindle and John Moore supporting the measure. Councilors Dale Hamilton, John Phillips and Dawn Hudson voted against it.
“I’m not happy at all with the increase in the price,” Fortier said. “Payback’s in 159 years with the sale of fuel only. But this is a project that we’ve gone down the rabbit hole with DOT [Department of Transportation] on … I think we need to finish this one.”
In a memo to councilors, City Manager David Cole said the cost of the project had increased so dramatically “due to a challenging bidding environment, scheduling issues and a limited number of potential vendors.”
The project will be partially paid for by the DOT’s Small Harbors Improvement Program (SHIP), which will cover roughly 36 percent, or $122,000. The rest ($214,500, including engineering costs) would be paid for by the city via bond proceeds.
“All the contractors are busy and you’re seeing construction inflation out there,” Cole said.
Bids for the project went out last year, Cole said, and came back higher than expected, at which point the city worked with a consultant to re-engineer the project in an effort to save money. But the re-engineering itself will cost an extra $18,500, Cole said (included in the overall $214,500 figure).
The project must be completed by June 2020 in order to take advantage of the DOT funds, Cole said. The plans, which have been in the works for several years, are to replace the old fuel tanks and add diesel.
In other business, councilors unanimously approved $30,716 to extend a walkway at Harbor Park. The project would connect the trail from the marina to Water Street across from Deane Street. It is estimated to cost around $80,000, the bulk of which ($50,000) would be paid for with the Recreational Trails Program grant that the city was awarded in January.
Two residents wondered whether the trail money could be allocated for road maintenance instead.
“Is there any possibility that money could be put into the road budget, instead of trails?” asked Phillip Hopkins, adding that he would like to see a long-term plan for such maintenance. “If there’s any extra money anywhere I’d like to see it go on those roads.”
In response, Fortier said committees have been appointed “to look at the overall capital projects and prioritize them.”
Councilors also unanimously approved changes in the harbor fee schedule, increasing outer mooring fees from $10 to $25 per year and the weekly slip rental from $150 to $200.