WATERVILLE — Thayer Memorial Bridge over Messalonskee Stream on Gilman Street is scheduled to get a $1 million overhaul this summer.

Bridge work is scheduled to start just after school closes in mid-June and to be completed before school starts again in the fall. The bridge is around the corner from Waterville Senior High School and the Mid-Maine Technical Center, which are off Messalonskee Avenue.

The state Department of Transportation, which is heading the project, has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the bridge work for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 30, in the council chamber at The Center downtown.

State transportation officials will give a presentation on the project, listen to concerns, take comments and answer questions at the hearing.

The department “is particularly interested in learning local views relative to project consistency with local comprehensive plans, discovering local resources and identifying local concerns and issues,” a notice from the state agency says. “Anyone with interest is invited to attend and participate in the meeting.”

The notice lists Joel Kittredge, project manager for DOT’s bridge program, as a contact for the project. Efforts to reach Kittredge by phone and email Thursday were unsuccessful, but Waterville Public Works Director Mark Turner said the work will include “taking the bridge down to its lower support beams under the bridge.”

“So the entire deck is coming off, just like they did on the Western Avenue bridge,” Turner said. “They’ll take it all down and redo some of the beams underneath and reinforce metal beams, inspect all the expansion joints and support pillars, concrete pillars, and resurface the bridge. Their expected time frame is three months.”

Turner said that while the bridge will be closed to traffic during construction and vehicles will be detoured to other streets, one side of the bridge will remain open for bicycles and pedestrians.

Turner said the Kennebec Water District must be involved in the project because it has lines under the bridge. Summit Natural Gas also will be involved because that company has gas lines under it.

The city’s Public Works Department is scheduled to be doing a project nearby during the bridge work.

“We’re going to be doing a paving job on Gilman Street at the same time, and rebuilding the sidewalks,” Turner said.

He said he does not know the exact age of the bridge, which has been in place more than 100 years. “Some of the pictures on the old town reports showed gas lanterns on it,” he said.

The bridge was the subject of intrigue in 2015 when a bronze plaque that had been missing many years was returned to the city and found to have belonged on the bridge. The exact circumstances of its disappearance are unknown.

The bridge was dedicated to Lorenzo Eugene Thayer, mayor of Waterville in the early 1930s. Thayer was the only mayor of the city who died while in office. The plaque, imprinted with “Thayer Memorial Bridge” and placed on the bridge after Thayer’s death on Sept. 3, 1934, at age 51, disappeared in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The plaque was not seen again until Benton businessman Jim Goodwin returned it to the city in the spring of 2015 after discovering it under a pile of debris that had been in his garage for years. Goodwin said he thought workers might have collected it along with other debris when they cleaned out a house as part of an estate in Waterville.

Turner led the charge to research the plaque’s history and discovered an indentation on the bridge that perfectly matched the size of the plaque. Turner and the city hosted a re-dedication ceremony June 12, 2015, at which the spiffed-up plaque was presented, speeches were given and Thayer’s few remaining relatives attended. They included his grandson, Whitcomb Rummel Jr., of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and his great-nephew, Henry Dillenbeck, of Winslow.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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