Ideas, opinions heard on new designs for $2.5 million harbor project

Apr 26, 2021

MARION — Town officials presented redesigned plans for a $2.5 million harbor facility on Island Wharf to residents at a special virtual meeting on April 26.

Dozens of residents attended the meeting, voicing ideas and opinions on the revised design as Town Administrator Jay McGrail and architect Tim Sawyer presented the new proposal, which reduced the building’s total footprint by over 50%.

McGrail said the project will cost an estimated $2.5 million, the majority of which will likely come from a Seaport Economic Council Grant.

“If we’re able to successfully get funded through Seaport for the $2.5 million, the town would be on the hook for roughly 500,000 of that,” McGrail noted.

The original plans outlined in September 2020 were for a large building closely resembling the Tabor oceanography lab. 

But designs were changed after input from community members, officials and an opinion piece by Selectman John Waterman last fall, which called the building a “Taj Mahal on Sippican Harbor.”

Now, public bathrooms and a raised walkway and observation deck have been removed from the plans, among other changes. 

McGrail noted that around $1.5 million of the project’s cost will go to site design, engineering, and other expenses, with around $1 million to actually construct the building itself.

He said officials plan to borrow the town’s portion of the cost, with the associated debt service coming out of the Waterways account.

“Subsequently, it wouldn’t affect taxes,” he said.

Feedback on the new design was generally favorable.

“I am really pleased with the product we’ve ended up with,” said Waterman. “I think we’ve come a long ways from the original design.”

Planning Board member Chris Collings agreed. 

“I think you guys did a nice job,” he said, adding that he’d like to see shaded seating remain, a sentiment echoed by other residents.

Those at the meeting asked questions about insurance and energy efficiency, while a handful voiced concerns.

“I am very concerned about the view in the town,” noted resident Edward Brainard II, who added that officials might consider his ideas for a “jack-up house” on piles that could be raised and lowered.

Jared Dourdeville brought up issues with taking on debt and with keeping “the look and feel of a small town” in Marion.

“These dollars are all taxpayer dollars regardless of where they come from,” he noted before concluding, “I don’t think it’s fair or appropriate for Marion residents to be forced to decide between the current facility and something about eight times its size.”

Meanwhile resident Michael Moore expressed a wish to share the harbor with others.

“Marion harbor is really beautiful in the winter,” he said.

“Were that existing office to be renovated so that it could be a place where people could go in the winter and be warm and enjoy the harbor, I think it might be worthwhile.”