Funds allow for removal of contaminants
KITTERY, Maine — The federal Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the town of Kittery a $200,000 Brownfields grant to clean up asbestos and other contaminants at the Wood Island Life Saving Station.
Sam Reid, president of the Wood Island Life Saving Station Association, confirmed the award on Tuesday, although the EPA is not making a formal announcement until today.
“It’s super good news, because we’re looking at the first major step in the right direction,” he said. “Now we can remove the hazardous material and begin to repair it.”
The town is expected to expend another $40,000 as a local match, bringing the total for the project to $240,000. In addition to asbestos, the funding will also be used to removed decades worth of bird guano in the building, which is in extremely poor repair.
“This was an excellent application. The fact that we had two U.S. senators, two members of Congress and the governor all supporting it was very helpful,” said Reid, of the fact that the entire congressional delegation plus Gov. Paul LePage wrote letters of support. “I think the EPA recognized that. This is going to help us a great deal.”
The town as three years to expend the funding from the EPA, and Reid estimates WILSSA will need the next two years minimum to raise at least $300,000 toward the exterior renovation of the life saving station.
Under terms of an agreement between WILSSA and the town, renovation will not begin until the nonprofit organization has the money in hand to begin the work.
Reid said WILSSA has not laid out plans for a capital campaign yet.
Councilor Judy Spiller, a member of the town’s Wood Island Advisory Committee, agrees that the grant award is “important news.” But she said WILSSA could be facing an even more significant financial hurdle.
The building is in the town’s floodplain, and thus under its floodplain ordinance. She said that under the ordinance, because the cost of repair exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure, additional measures such as elevating the building would have to be undertaken, “which would be very expensive.”
Historic structures are exempted, but she pointed out that the Maine Historic Preservation Commission has rejected historic designation for the life saving station. The organization Maine Preservation, on the other hand, is a strong advocate for the project.
The town, she said, could develop an ordinance exempting specific buildings deemed to be of historic value, she said, but that would take time for the Planning Board to develop such a proposal.
Reid agrees the next step is to figure out permitting for the project, as well as developing a fund-raising plan.
WILSSA and the town have had a somewhat contentious relationship in the past, and Reid said he felt that both groups have “come a long way.”