2016-06-23 / News

Stackpole Bridge rehab not as historic as intended

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

SACO – City councilors expressed disappointment at their Monday, June 20 council meeting upon discovering that the Stackpole Bridge project would not qualify for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

The council was informed during the public comment section of the meeting by resident Barbara Colman that the plans for the bridge had changed from the original proposal.

Ward 1 City Councilor David Precourt was visibly upset, stating that the city had allocated an additional $400,000 from capital improvement funds specifically so that the bridge could be restored to historic standards. The city allocation is in addition to the $990,000 bond approved by voters in 2014.

On the website of Friends of Stackpole Bridge, residents were encouraged to attend a city council meeting last October to “show your support for historic preservation as councilors vote to either rehabilitate or replace Stackpole Bridge.”

“Through this process, (contractors) decided they couldn't do what they proposed and decided they're going to do a totally different building structure,” Precourt said. “By them losing that historic value, why are we spending the extra $350,000 to $400,000 for this bridge that half a dozen people are going to see and there's going to be no historic value. The taxpayers should not have to bear the burden of what would have been a historic bridge and now is not.”

Mayor Roland Michaud said the bridge did not qualify for historic status because after engineers inspected the bridge, they determined the only way it could be rehabilitated was to not have it be a totally stone bridge.

Michaud said there were a series of bids to restore the bridge instead of replacing it, and CPM Constructors, a Freeport company, had been awarded the contract.

“After all the back and forth, if I understand it correctly, it can't be a dry-laid stone bridge,” Michaud said. “In the new proposal, they're going to tear it up. A dry-laid stone bridge has no concrete. The new one will have concrete but stones over it … We will lose more than anything, the honor of being on the (historic) list.”

Michaud said he didn't believe the additional $400,000 allocated to the project by the city was necessarily targeted specifically for historic value.

Precourt disagrees, saying that when Friends of Stackpole Bridge made their pitch for the additional money, it was so that it could be restored to historic value. Precourt said that early last year and earlier in the process, the city had received bids to restore the bridge at a cost of less than $990,000, but the council switched course to allow for historic standards to be incorporated into new proposals.

“Yes, (Friends of Stackpole Bridge) wanted to be able to have historic value,” said Precourt. “I don't even know where Friends of Stackpole Bridge are going to stand on this. This ought to be coming back so we can make a decision whether to proceed with other bids or what the reason is to push for the historic part. People voted for a bond of $990,000 and then we turned around to take money from an account used for Pleasant Street Extension to give to the bridge above and beyond the $990,000.”

During the meeting, Ward 5 City Councilor Alan Minthorn made a motion to reconsider the allocation but was ruled out of order by Michaud.

“I would like the council to revisit this discussion in light of the new information,” Minthorn said. “I want to bring it back to the council.”

Michaud said he is concerned about the legal implications of recanting a contract that had already been awarded by the city.

“I think there's some legal concerns about that,” Michaud said. “We awarded a contract, it was awarded by the council, and now to go back and say we're not going to do the contract is highly unusual.”

Precourt said, “What was being proposed is not on the table anymore so I think at that point, it's not the same work that was being proposed to be done so the contract is null and void to me and we have a right to reconsider.”

Precourt said he is also upset that the council heard of the plans for Stackpole Bridge failing to meet historic standards from a member of the public instead of from city staff.

“I'm also upset. (Staff) knew where we stand and didn't tell us,” he said. “That's kind of where I stand on that right now.”

Precourt said City Administrator Kevin Sutherland said he would look into whether the contract could be reconsidered.

The council also listened to a progess report from Saco Main Street Executive Director Rob Biggs on the organization's efforts to enhance downtown. Biggs said 68 flags had been installed on Main Street and 30 Adirondack benches with unique art will be placed around downtown in coming weeks.

Also at the meeting, the council voted unanimously to transfer city property – a police dog, Ranger – to the handler, Acting Cpl. Nicholas Stankevitz, who trained and worked with the dog, a Belgian Malinois. Ranger has worked most of his life, seven years, for the Saco police force.

Police Chief Bradley Paul said it is typical for police dogs to retire their careers and live with the handler who worked with them. In transferring the dog to Stankevitz, the city no longer has liability for the dog and costs associated with taking care of him.

“He's been a good employee,” Paul said about Ranger at a previous meeting. “He's never asked for a raise and all he wants is some treats and dog toys.”

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