SKOWHEGAN — A couple of unexpected obstacles won’t slow the nearly $1 million overhaul of the municipal parking lot downtown.

The target date for final paving and the end to downtown traffic interruptions is Sept. 29.

Selectmen this week approved two change orders to the original plan at a total cost of about $7,100, which will come from the contingency fund — one because of debris found under the ground and another to pay to upgrade and relocate the sewer line that serves the Chamber of Commerce office.

The board also set its sights this week on an extended parking area — about 40 spots — in front of the Skowhegan Indian sculpture, agreeing to limit it to two-hour parking. That area borders Cumberland Farms, an optometrist’s office building and the under-construction Variety Drug.

The change orders for the municipal lot were necessary after debris, including old tires, railroad ties and bricks were found beneath the ground on the west side of the construction project. Taking care of the problem will cost up to $3,300, said Jeff Hewett, the town’s economic and community development director.

The municipal lot was once a railway yard with a freight depot and a passenger station. The debris is being hauled away and replaced with compacted gravel.

Hewett said the $3,300, along with $3,800 to replace the Chamber’s sewer line, will come from a contingency fund set up as part of the Pedestrian Connector Project.

Commuters who park in the Indian Parking Lot, as it has become known, will have to find another spot, Hewett and Town Manager Christine Almand said.

They said that the lot is a popular park-and-ride spot for as many as 10 commuters carpooling to the General Dynamics shipyard at Bath Iron Works who leave their vehicles there for the entire day.

“We’re going to be working toward getting the information out and asking the commuters to move over to another parking lot,” Almand said. Almand said she wants to move the commuters to the town-owned lot on Island Avenue next to the Federated Church. That lot is the former site of Skowhegan High School.

“With more business, more tourists and more interest in that location, we’re trying to take vehicles using up several spaces all day and move them,” she said. “There’s going to be more traffic in there — you’ve got three businesses and an attraction in that same space — so we expect there’s going to be more people coming in and out of that space.”

Main Street Skowhegan, a downtown revitalization group in charge of making a small pocket park in front of the Indian, wants to free up those parking spaces for visitors who want to look at the 62-foot statue and take pictures, Hewett added. The spots will now be limited to two-hour parking only.

Almand said Road Commissioner Greg Dore is working with the state Department of Transportation to officially designate the parking lot on the island a park-and-ride location, making it eligible for state grant money for improvements.

Almand said printed notices will be distributed on the commuters’ cars, alerting them of the change. Police officers also will patrol the lot beginning at about 4 a.m. each day when commuters arrive to notify them of the changes, she said. Signs also will be posted. The parking restrictions also will become part of the town’s parking ordinance.

Money from two $400,000 state grants to reconstruct the main parking lot across High Street also will be used to construct raised islands at the entrance to the Indian Parking Lot, making one-way entrances and exits to slow down traffic.

The parking lot project is intended to create a safe, attractive downtown parking area with trees, benches and sidewalk islands designed to help make Skowhegan a destination for visitors and shoppers, Hewett said.

He said the project is especially important to attractions near the parking area, such as the proposed Run of River whitewater park in the Kennebec River Gorge, which runs through downtown, as well as the Skowhegan Farmers’ Market and businesses inside the Somerset Grist Mill.

The first phase of the project came about through $400,000 in state bond money.

Construction on phase one of the project got underway May 1 in the area next to the Somerset Grist Mill in the former county jail, High Street and the Hight auto dealership.

Phase two of the parking lot project funded by a second $400,000 state grant, plus $100,000 in tax increment financing, or TIF money, began in mid-July. It included removing and replacing existing storm water catch basins and underground piping. The old pavement was ground up and hauled away to be reclaimed for future use. The land now is being graded to make it ready for paving and paint striping.

Hewett said there will be 125 parking spaces in the new municipal lot, a loss of six or eight spots.

Phase three of the project will be to repave and stripe the Indian Parking Lot, which the Board of Selectmen is scheduled to address at its next regular meeting Tuesday night.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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