Camden residents will be asked to raise $75,000 toward the restoration of a church steeple that has housed the town clock for 150 years and overlooks the Village Green.

The June 15 vote at town meeting is more than an exercise in democracy to Jeff Foltz, who is working to raise a total of $538,000 to restore the steeple, it is an act of community.

The Select Board is leaving the decision to raise $75,000 for the steeple restoration to voters, rather than add the $75,000 as an expense in the 2016-2017 town budget. The steeple funding is part of a larger proposal to borrow $500,000 for sewer line replacements in the Bakery Bridge area, the Harden Avenue drainage project, inner harbor floats and air compressor equipment. The funds are to be borrowed using general obligation securities and repaid over a number of years.

Foltz, chairman of the Fund Raising Committee for the Church Steeple, said in an interview May 18 that he hopes for a good turnout of residents who believe the steeple and clock tower are important to the town.

"We're asking for 14 percent of the total cost to restore the clock tower and steeple. That 14 percent makes it a community project and that's important. I hope the taxpayers think so, too," he said.

The current fundraising effort began in February 2015, and has raised about $363,000 toward a $538,000 restoration project that will preserve the steeple for another 100 years, according to Foltz. He explained at a Select Board meeting April 19, that the church undertook the project, not for its own benefit, but due to its role as “host of the town clock” for the past 150 years, and to preserve Camden's “iconic skyline.”

Foltz travels around with a Power Point presentation on his laptop computer that shows two views of Camden — one with the prominent steeple and one without — from various vantage points: from the harbor, down Main Street toward the Village Green, a closeup of the Chestnut Street Baptist Church from the Village Green, and from the top of Mount Battie.

"A lot of people don't know this is the official town clock and has been for 150 years, and we ought to do everything we can to keep it that way," he said.

According to church archives, in 1867, the town of Camden asked the Chestnut Street Baptist Church to house the town clock in its steeple. David Knowlton, a foundry owner, who made some of the clock's mechanisms, raised $450 from 100 donations for the work.

"The clock was placed in the steeple in 1868, and has been there ever since," Foltz said.

The church has already spent $85,000 for an emergency repair to guarantee the structure's safety. The $85,000 is part of the total $538,000 price tag, according to Foltz. Concrete base footings were poured to install four two-story high replacement beams inside the steeple, two made of steel and two of wood laminate. This major repair was necessary because the steeple was leaning and "was a full foot out of perpendicular. Two of the beams were not even touching the ground." Foltz said.

While the upper portion of the steeple does not have to be rebuilt, many of the inside supports and boards have to be gutted and will be replaced with modern composite materials, Foltz said. The spire will be demolished and completely replaced. Lyman Morse will build a spire from composite material using a machine that can duplicate the exterior detail and texture to within one thousandth of an inch. The material will duplicate the exact color of the original spire, and you will not be able to tell that the new spire is not made of wood, Foltz said. The new spire will protect the entire steeple from water infiltration. Scaffolding will be a significant cost at $120,000.

Foltz spoke about one day last year, when the clock chimes were being worked on and were out of commission for 24 hours. That day, he missed the sound of the chimes.

"If they weren't there, I think they'd be missed," he said.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at smustapich@villagesoup.com.