Lobstermen Ben Paige and Nick Young tidy the Agnes D. while docked at the Government Street Wharf in Kittery in this Portsmouth Herald file photo. Credit: RIch Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald

KITTERY, Maine — During a special meeting Monday, the Kittery Port Authority authorized the town manager to spend facility reserve funds on the Government Street Wharf replacement after the lowest bid for the project came in over budget.

Voters in June approved the replacement of the town wharf 1,554 to 294 by allocating $450,000 of unassigned funds. The wharf is a commercial fishing pier in the Foreside used by fishermen and for lobster trap and bait deliveries. A 2017 assessment of the 1955 wharf determined there are “several critical condition issues” that make the structure unable to handle loading normally associated with commercial pier use. If only “basic” repairs were made, the wharf would only be serviceable for an estimated five to 10 more years.

Town Manager Kendra Amaral earlier this month said the lowest bid for the project was $519,000, while the highest reached $1 million.

By cutting paving costs for the time being, changing fastener material, and some other project removals, the town was able to renegotiate with the lowest bidder down to $493,750, but that still wasn’t down to the $450,000 approved by voters. On Monday, Amaral sought consensus from the KPA about using the town body’s facility reserve to cover the outlying costs.

“It gets us to an amount that allows me to sign the contract,” Amaral said. However, it only provides a $10,000 cushion for unforeseen costs, she noted. “That does make me uncomfortable in terms of contingency. I think this is the best way to move forward at this time and allow us to take advantage of the prices as they are today.”

Amaral revisited the possibility of receiving a Small Harbor Improvement Program grant through the Maine Department of Transportation, which the town previously applied for, but was told funding may not be applied until 2020 and by then costs may rise considerably.

KPA Chairwoman Kelly Philbrook was concerned about not paving the road that runs downhill to the wharf because neighboring tenants have complained about the amount of flooding they experience. Philbrook wanted to make sure a gravel road wouldn’t exacerbate the issue.

The KPA voted unanimously to allow Amaral to spend facility reserve funds in order to sign the project contract.

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