HOWLAND, Maine — Residents voted 29-10 during a special town meeting Tuesday to approve moving the transfer station and as much as 25,000 cubic yards of fill from the town-owned former tannery building site to the water treatment plant on Lagoon Lane.
The move, town officials said Wednesday, will allow them to begin marketing the tannery site while ending a town dispute with the Penobscot River Restoration Trust over the fill, which was generated by the construction of the trust’s fish bypass.
“I am very pleased about the outcome of the vote,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Glenn Brawn said Wednesday. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Since winter, the river restoration trust has been overseeing construction of a $3.2 million fish bypass on property adjacent to the Penobscot and Piscataquis rivers. The bypass is part of Penobscot River Restoration Trust’s plan to open nearly 1,000 miles of habitat to endangered Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, American shad, alewives and seven other species of migratory, sea-run fish blocked from going past Howland. Those species help support other commercially important species, such as cod and lobster.
Selectmen became concerned in early April that too much fill was being left on the site for the town to clean up. A restoration trust spokesman said the ash, dirt and other debris piles were vast but were only going to be left on-site temporarily. Negotiations over the fill’s removal began about three weeks ago.
Construction crews employed by the restoration trust will begin moving the fill next week, while the transfer station relocation will occur within two years, interim Town Manager Peggy Daigle said.
Several contractors, including Selectman Michael Harris, have agreed to absorb fill left over from the tannery and Lagoon Lane sites. Harris has avoided conflicts of interest by abstaining on tannery votes, Brawn said.
The fill will be tested before being moved to avoid spreading contaminants, Daigle said.
The town will have to hire an engineering firm to handle the station’s relocation. No relocation cost estimates are yet available, but engineering and permitting costs for the relocation are estimated to be $35,000, Daigle said.
The relocation will bolster town plans to redevelop the tannery site, once home to the town’s largest single employer, to create more jobs and industry within Howland. The site’s ready access to Routes 2, 6, 155 and Interstate 95 make it an ideal site for businesses, town officials have said.
The transfer building is an eyesore and incongruous with the kind of development town leaders hope to draw to the site. Businesses have already inquired about the site’s availability, Daigle said.
Exactly how much the removal adds to the four- to five-acre site was unclear on Wednesday.