by Mary Grow
China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Committee voted unanimously at a Sept. 11 meeting to recommend that selectmen award a contract for preliminary engineering work for a new causeway bridge to Wright-Pierce Engineering, an East coast firm with Maine offices in Topsham and Portland.
Replacing the current bridge at the head of China Lake’s east basin with a new one with space for pedestrian walkways and fishing platforms has been an ongoing TIF project for months.
A TIF subcommittee, after lengthy discussions with representatives of three firms, recommended Wright-Pierce, at a price of $50,700. Wright-Pierce’s plan for preliminary work was comparable to and less expensive than its closer competitor’s plan, Tom Michaud said for the subcommittee.
If selectmen accept the recommendation, the company will be expected to conduct tests at the site of the proposed new bridge, advise on a design and get permits for the work. After preliminary work is done, selectmen will choose a contractor to build the new bridge.
A related expenditure committee members proposed is hiring an engineer from A. E. Hodsdon of Waterville as the town’s representative overseeing the work, at a price to be negotiated.
The current causeway bridge is old and beginning to deteriorate. It does not provide pedestrian and fishing space that TIF Committee members want as part of their plan to improve lake access. Some committee members want a new bridge to be high enough for canoes and kayaks to go under it.
Over the past few months, committee members have talked about either a box culvert or a slab bridge. Their decision will depend partly on the results of test borings and other studies, committee member Jim Wilkens said.
Committee members also seek improvements to the often-crowded boat landing just east of the causeway bridge. Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said he and committee member Frank Soares prepared an application to the state Department of Conservation for more than $175,000 for a larger dock. He expects if the project is approved, the town will share the cost.
Committee member Irene Belanger asked if there is interest in reviving the former Lake Access Committee to look for a site for a public swimming beach on China Lake. She said while some former committee members want nothing to do with the project after voters rejected their proposal to buy the former Candlewood Camps property, others have asked her about trying again.
L’Heureux told the committee the state Department of Economic and Community Development approved adding tax payments from the new Central Maine Power Company substation off Route 3 to TIF funds. As a result, he said, this year’s payment should be more than $350,000, up from just under $279,000 last year.
The state also approved extending the program from the initial 20 years to 30 years, the manager said.
The next TIF Committee meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Oct. 16.
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