The top level of the Dickman Street parking garage in downtown Augusta will be closed this winter after the contractor hired to clear snow from it failed to show up or respond to messages. The garage underwent major repairs over several years and had just reopened this fall. The top deck requires specialized equipment to clear the snow. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — The upper deck of the city’s downtown parking garage, which reopened in the fall following a lengthy closure for repairs, is closed again, likely until the spring thaw.

That’s because the contractor hired to plow snow from it has reneged on its promises, and now the city can’t find anyone to do the work.

The upper deck of the parking garage on Dickman Street, just above the city’s downtown Water Street area, is a suspended concrete deck which, according to Dan Mastrogiorgio, facilities manager for the city, requires specialized equipment for snow removal.

The deck can’t be scraped like a normal plow would do, as that could rip up the joint compound used in the structure. A traditional plow truck would also be too heavy. So what’s required is a contractor with a skid steer equipped with either a plastic blade or rubber skids that’d keep the plow blade from scraping the concrete.

City officials thought they had everything in order when they hired a contractor who submitted a $12,000 bid to plow the upper deck of the downtown parking garage this winter.

However, when the season’s first snowstorm came last week the contractor, Augusta-based Freyed Knot Tree Service, didn’t plow the deck, according to Susan Robertson, city manager. And the company, Robertson said, has been “nonresponsive,” to city officials, who have since sent the company notice it will terminate the contract, to be effective Dec. 18.

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Officials have since closed the upper deck to the public, placing Jersey barriers to block the entrance from below.

“There was no response from the contractor, no answer, nothing, he didn’t show up,” Mastrogiorgio said Tuesday. “We made the decision to close the top deck, as it’s obviously not safe, if it’s not plowed.”

Barriers block off the recently repaired upper deck of the Dickman Street parking structure in downtown Augusta. The top deck requires specialized equipment to clear snow. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The city sought another contractor with the right equipment to take over the job, without luck. Mastrogiorgio said that’s likely in part due to it being so late, as such work would normally be bid out well in advance. He said the city’s public works department doesn’t have the right type of equipment to plow the deck.

Repair work on the upper deck of the Dickman Street parking structure in downtown Augusta. The top deck requires specialized equipment to clear snow.  Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Freyed Knot Tree Services did not return a reporter’s requests for comment Tuesday.

Mastrogiorgio said typically, this time of year, the parking garage is less than half-full anyway, so the remaining parking spaces on its lower level should be more than adequate to accommodate the need for parking downtown.

“It’s completely sufficient,” he said of the remaining parking spaces in the garage. “As of right now the demand is not there for the city to throw an exorbitant amount of money to get someone to do it on an emergency basis.”

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Robertson, in her weekly memo to city councilors, said the city is investigating the possibility of using a second contractor to clear the deck of snow if there are any large downtown events that might generate a significant parking need, once or twice over the winter.

“This is not ideal and is not the situation we expected to be in,” Robertson said. “It may be that the deck will need to stay closed until it can be reopened for regular use in the spring when the possibility of snow has passed.”

Mastrogiorgio said the city paid Freyed Knot Tree Services $2,000 in November, but is requesting to be reimbursed since no work was done.

He said the city has a good lead on a contractor to at least plow the ramp of the parking garage, where there are parking spots, and which can be plowed with normal plowing equipment.

A $750,000 repair project on the upper deck, which had been closed the last couple of years due to deterioration, was just completed in October, fully renovating and repairing the deck.

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