HARRISON — Bridges and culverts and dams, oh my! That was what the discussion regarded at a recent selectmen’s workshop.
Infrastructure needing attention in Harrison was one topic at the Jan. 26 workshop. Town Manager George “Bud” Finch gave a presentation on a number of structures with issues that should be addressed in the semi-near future.
Scribners Mills Bridge
Scribners Mills Bridge, located on Scribner Mills Road next to the historic sawmill and homestead, in an issue that has popped up several times before, according to Finch. It spans the Crooked River and serves as the town line between Harrison and Otisfield.
“It also brings with it a safety issue. I don’t think it’s going to collapse today,” Finch said. “I’ve talked to the Fire Department – I wouldn’t want to a fire truck loaded with 1,000 gallons of water [to cross it].”
“The Fire Department doesn’t take anything over it,” said Selectman Raymond Laplante, who is a member of the department and the town’s emergency management director.
Selectman Archie Belanger recalled not being able to ride across it on the school bus after one bus went through the bridge, which delayed crossing the structure that was later welded together. He suggested possibly restricting the structure to pedestrian and equestrian use only, or opening up for certain events at the mill.
One suggestion several years ago was to barricade the bridge, Finch said.
“I think we should put signage way, way, way back and mark it that the bridge is closed if we do this,” Belanger said.
Finch commented if the bridge were to close, there is a process, including getting input from the public.
He said a number of years ago the town’s Highway Department did work on the bridge, but if it were to be fixed, it’s beyond the scope of the department and an engineering study would have to be done.
“There is no cheap way to fix that bridge that is going to make it last a long time,” Finch said. “The state says it’s a low-use bridge and doesn’t want to help us fix it.”
He added the last time he spoke with Otisfield officials, they weren’t interested in spending money on the structure. Finch could petition the state to try and get the bridge fixed, but at the very least the town would pay for 50 percent of the project, he said.
“I am just telling you in our Capital Plan, it would eat up every dollar we have for a [while].”
Selectman Richard St. John weighed in on the matter.
“A bridge that length was put across Sunday River when I was the code officer in Bethel and it cost a million dollars,” he said.
St. John – who is employed as code enforcement officer in neighboring Otisfield – said Harrison officials should reach out again to their counterparts in Otisfield and also “see how much flack we would get from the people who use it.”
There is dual concern for the Crystal Lake Dam and the nearby Mill Pond Dam.
Finch said Crystal Lake Dam is jointly operated and maintained by the town and Camp Pinecliffe as the result of a court ruling several years back. The town monitors the dam and water levels during the winter and the camp monitors it during the summer.
“The only issue I have with Crystal Lake Dam [is during heavy rain] events, it can’t dump water out of the lake fast enough,” St. John said, noting two such events happened in 1998 and 2006. “That dam is actually built on a sand bar.”
Finch said by email the question that needs to be answered is whether or not the dam’s control gate can handle the water as the structure ages, especially where it abuts land. The town will look into the issue with engineering assistance, though no formal plans have been formed yet.
As for the neighboring and historic Mill Pond Dam, St. John said it has been there for 150 years with roughly 40 different mills operating on it at different times. In 1947, when Camp Pinecliffe got the OK to help rebuild Crystal Lake Dam to better regulate lake levels, part of the deal was to keep Mill Pond full.
Money was raised a number of years ago by the town’s Historical Committee to renovate the dam so it did not become empty, which also created Mill Pond Park, according to Finch. While Mill Pond Dam “is not about to fall down but it can’t hold water.”
“Unfortunately time has taken a toll on the repairs and it now will drain completely in a dry period where sufficient water is not flowing through Crystal Lake Dam,” Finch said by email about Mill Pond.
This also causes issues for fish.
“So if they don’t get out of the dam there, they wind up where the lake goes shallow and low and behold we have dead fish in Mill Pond,” he added. “We know this because it happened a couple of years ago and we’ve talked with the DEP … and something needs to be done there.”
Finch and CEO John Wentworth worked the Department of Inland, Fisheries & Wildlife to get the fish out of the pond as best they could.
“I do thank you for caring about the fish. … It is something I am concerned about,” Belanger said to Finch.
The town manager asked selectmen what they should do about Mill Pond Dam – take it out, fix it or “wait until we get into trouble?”
“My vote would be to take the dam out,” St. John said, adding there’s grants available for such a project. “Otherwise I would leave it alone and let deterioration take the dam out.”
Lewis Road culvert
Finch said there is “a fairly huge culvert” on Lewis Road that is classified as a bridge since it crosses water.
“It’s not ready to collapse or anything else, but the state is telling you’ve got to look at it,” he said. “It is one of those I think our Highway Department could – or at least in conjunction with some contractors – dig it out put another culvert in and meet all the DEP and EPA regulations.”
He added it would be a big project for the highway crew but it is doable. St. John thought the culvert would probably have to be put in place via crane.
No decision was made at the workshop and the issues will be discussed in further detail at a later date.