WINTHROP — The Town Council has agreed to spend about $19,000 to help a local family whose home is threatened by an eroding stream bank.

The town was already planning to help Pat and Tom Heiss as part of a larger, $476,500 repair of a dam near their home that was due to start next summer. That project is being funded jointly with the town of Readfield.

For years, the land around the Heisses’ home has been crumbling into the stream below the dam, which holds back the waters of Maranacook Lake. During the repair, workers were going to lay down heavy rocks known as rip rap to prevent further erosion of their Bowdoin Street property. In exchange, the Heisses agreed to give permanent access to their land for maintenance of the dam.

However, in recent months, the Heisses have been sounding the alarm that their home could already be suffering structural damage and might not remain habitable through the winter and spring. Just 6 feet of earth remain between a corner of their home and the stream bank. The erosion, they say, has caused their house to tremor in recent months.

On Monday night, the Town Council unanimously agreed to spend $19,040 to stabilize the stream bank ahead of the rest of the project, which is scheduled to start in June 2019. The contractor, H.E. Callahan Construction Co., says it can do the work after Nov. 1, but hasn’t specified a date.

The Heisses were “pleasantly surprised” by the decision, Tom Heiss said afterwards, although they still have some questions about the planned work.

Members of the Town Council deliberated for less than two minutes before agreeing to the proposal. The price tag was considerably lower than what Town Manager Ryan Frost had previously cautioned it could be. In early September, based on preliminary conversations with H.E. Callahan, Frost warned the Town Council the extra work might cost up to $100,000.

But late Monday, H.E. Callahan provided Frost with the $19,040 proposal, which will include additional surveying, establishing the construction site and installing a temporary dam that will allow the stream bank stabilization to happen.

“This is a probably a little less than we had anticipated,” Frost said.

While Readfield taxpayers are helping to pay for the dam repair next summer, they will not pay anything for the extra work on the Heiss property.

The project could take about two weeks, Frost said. He also thanked members of a committee that’s been planning the dam repair for their help, in particular praising Chairwoman Wendy Dennis.

Tom Heiss used to be on that committee, which includes Winthrop and Readfield residents. But he left it several months ago out of frustration that officials weren’t taking his concerns seriously, especially given that he and his wife had already agreed to give access to their land.

For several months, local officials have been saying that they want to help the Heisses, who first approached the town about their eroding property more than 10 years ago. On Monday night, the couple was cautiously happy with the outcome.

“I am totally surprised that it was a quick decision,” Tom Heiss said after the council vote. “I’m interested to see that it entails exactly what is in the specifications. … Pat and I are very pleased.”

“Relieved,” his wife added.

The couple is now working with H.E. Callahan to see if it can do further work on their stream bank below the site of the town project, which they would pay for out of their own pocket.

They’ve been helped by Steve McLaughlin, an engineer who is retired from a career at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. McLaughlin also attended Monday night’s meeting. He said he plans to work with the contractor to ensure the local project meets specifications approved by state officials.

“There will be a lot of eyes on that,” he said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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