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Rawson Avenue bridge could be rebuilt for pedestrian traffic

By Susan Mustapich | Sep 20, 2019
Source: File photo

CAMDEN — The reopening of talks about the closed Rawson Avenue bridge and the construction timetable for a major drainage and sidewalk improvement project on Elm Street beginning in fall 2020 were announced at the Sept. 17 Select Board meeting.

Rawson Avenue bridge

Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell reported that Maine Department of Transportation staff have offered to hold a meeting in Camden to hear community members' ideas on the future of the bridge. The meeting will take place in late October or early November, Caler-Bell said. DOT's process for dealing with "low-use or redundant bridges" has changed under the administration of Gov. Janet Mills.

Caler-Bell said she, Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin and Public Works Director Dave St. Laurent met with DOT managers recently. She let DOT know there has been strong community support for a pedestrian bridge. If the town is committed to such a plan, she said, there is the potential to work out a cost-sharing agreement between DOT and the town of Camden. Caler-Bell confirmed that DOT is not considering construction of a  new vehicular bridge.

In April the bridge was closed to all to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic, based on DOT's determination that it is structurally deficient. Concrete supports beneath the bridge have deteriorated. In April, Jaime Andrews, DOT region manager for the Midcoast, said the closure was permanent. Prior to the closure, the bridge was posted with weight limits.

Elm Street drainage and sidewalk construction

Caler-Bell also announced DOTs construction schedule for a drainage and sidewalk project starting near the Union and Elm Street intersection and extending to the pedestrian walkway to the harbor on the north side of the Sea Dog restaurant. The eight-month project involves replacing the storm water drainage system on the southeast side of Elm Street. The system ends in an outflow pipe to Camden Harbor that runs under the pedestrian alley off  Main Street. Sidewalks will be replaced and curbing added along the route. An improvement is planned to the sidewalk at the Mechanic and Main Street intersection. A curb extension facing Mechanic Street has been designed for the northwest corner, which will help to shorten the length of the pedestrian crosswalk there.

Construction is to begin Oct. 19, 2020, according to the plan, and wrap up June 11, 2021. Construction will be halted for several days around holidays and town events, including Thanksgiving, Christmas By the Sea, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, Toboggan Nationals and Memorial Day.

New window for Town office

A new plate glass window on the first floor of the Town Office will be replaced. The old window had developed a cloudy appearance because of a deteriorated weather seal and moisture between the double glass panes. The 2017 cost estimate was around $3,500 to replace the custom window, which is on the Washington Street side of the building, near the corner of Elm Street.

Hoxbill/Kurafuto issued conditional license

The Select Board issued a conditional victualer's license of 21 days to Hoxbill/Kurafuto restaurant, with the requirement that two issues be addressed, based on the findings of the Camden Fire Department Life Safety Inspection conducted Sept. 13.

One issue was the failure to construct an enclosure around a chimney for a wood-fired stove. In addition, failure to plug appliances directly into approved outlets is noted. Life safety standards require the elimination of extension cords throughout the restaurant, according to the inspection. The blocking of exit with stored materials, and the requirement that all exit routes must remain clear is also noted.

Martin said he believed restaurant owner Matt Haskell was working on the issues and recommended a 30-day conditional license. The Life Safety Inspection report, with photographs of the chimney, was included in the Sept. 17 meeting packet, and posted on the town website.

In July 2018, the restaurant was issued a 60-day conditional victualer's license because of complaints about smoke from its wood-fired grill. Haskell responded by installing a custom extension to the chimney exhausting the smoke.

Board member Marc Ratner suggested the conditional approval continue only until the Oct. 8 Select Board meeting. "If it comes down to safety for the people, a condition report where some things have not been fixed is a concern," Ratner said. "I feel very troubled about OK'ing a thing that's not safe yet."

Haskell said he had not been informed about the issue of enclosing the chimney. Martin countered that the installer would have informed Haskell of the required enclosure, and that he had spoken to the installer.

Haskell said he not have a copy of the Life Safety Inspection report, and that calls to town offices had not been returned.

Cutting off discussion, board Chairman Bob Falciani called for a vote on the conditional license approval.

Board member Jenna Lookner said she did not like to see businesses frustrated in Camden. She noted troubles over the years in attracting different kinds of businesses to Camden. "I want to make sure we're all working together the best we can and that we don't get to this level of frustration."

Caler-Bell spoke in support of Martin and the fire department. "My entire staff do an excellent job working with businesses," she said.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Sep 20, 2019 19:42

Ref. Rawson Ave bridge; closed because the DOT determined it was not safe for vehicle traffic so now we have some lovely signage saying bridge closed and it would seem that with the town now possibly looking to make it into a foot bridge, our hopes of it being repaired/replaced is but a pipe dream.  It makes me wonder why there are bond issues when we vote because I could swear we see a bond question for roads and bridges almost every time we go to the booths in a Maine wide vote.  Now I am not saying there is no money to fix our little bridge, but it would also seem to me that it would cost a lot less then some other bridge and I am certain that Camden voters have paid into the tax base for the state quite a bit.

So now a foot bridge, seems to me that it already is a foot bridge because you can't drive over it any more, so why do we need more studies for something that is already being used as a foot bridge?

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