Winthrop High School students weed around the flagpole May 22, 2019, during a United Way Day of Caring event at Norcross Point in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

WINTHROP — Town officials will pursue a grant for improvements to Norcross Point, which is blighted by a dilapidated pier and docks, that could fund a further $150,000 in improvements to the landmark.

Town Manager Jeff Kobrock gauged the Town Council’s interest Monday in pursuing a matching grant from the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund to help improve Norcross Point.

To pursue the grant, however, it would cost Winthrop more money than the $80,000 in the current fiscal year’s budget to remove the cement pier from the public beach.

Generally open to pursuing the grant, some members of the council asked for more information about the project before committing more town funds to it.

Kobrock estimated that $20,000 — $5,000 for assistance from the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments and $15,000 for a landscape engineer — would be needed to craft plans for the grant, and an additional $50,000 would be needed to replace docks at the site. That $70,00, coupled with the $80,000 already budgeted, would qualify the town for $150,000 in matching grant funds.

Town Councilor Andy Wess is in charge of a committee looking into replacing the docks and reviewing the moorings at Norcross Point. He said the concrete pier was formerly used for large boats, but now is mostly used for swimming.

Wess said metal in the pier is beginning to rust and it’s an unsafe place for swimmers.

“(It’s) a place you don’t want 5- or 10-year-olds running around,” he said.

During Monday’s meeting, Kobrock that the docks had only one more year left in their lifespan, which would give the town a bit longer to pursue the grant if denied during this cycle, which ends May 28.

He said Norcross Point has already received funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and an official from the fund informally told town officials it would be a great candidate for the grant.

Winthrop Town Manager Jeff Kobrock speaks Monday during a remote meeting of the Winthrop Town Council. Screenshot via Zoom

“The program officer was extraordinarily positive being exactly the type of project they look for and that it had all kinds of positive elements,” Kobrock said.

Town Councilor Linda Caprara balked at the $15,000 price tag for the landscape architect, saying that putting in a dock was a seemingly simple process. Kobrock said the architect would provide the town with long-term plan that would give the grant agency confidence that their investment would be “capitalized on in the present, but also in the future.”

“It would be something the community could rely upon for many years in the future,” he said of the plan.

While the discussion Monday was to give Kobrock guidance and not to vote, Town Councilor Barbara Alexander was concerned about committing funds to the project before receiving any documents regarding its cost or seeing an official proposal.

“It’s not that I’m objecting to the idea of exploring this; I don’t object,” she said. “I don’t like the way we’re making these decisions.”

Town Councilor Barbara Alexander emphasizes a point Monday during a remote meeting of the Winthrop Town Council. Screenshot via Zoom

Caprara said it isn’t unusual that the council decide on issues quickly without seeing official documents, citing her 24 years on the board.

“I don’t care,” Alexander responded with exasperation, kicking off a heated rebuttal from Caprara.

“I know you don’t care, that’s fine, that’s your opinion,” Caprara said. “We can get double the money for other improvements down there. That makes sense to me. That is what I’m voting for.

“But I perfectly get how you want everything in writing,” Caprara added, “but there are things that we do here that come up that we have to tackle.”

Alexander later said that she supported looking into the grant, then allocating funds after seeing some sort of proposal or document. At the end of the discussion, Kobrock felt he had the blessing of the council to pursue the grant.

On Wednesday, Kobrock said the town will use the work of Wess’ committee as a starting point for the project, and has already enlisted the help of KVCOG. He said the town will “100%” have their application done by the grant’s deadline.

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