Westport Island firm on track toward million-dollar bridge rehab in Newcastle, Thomaston

Chesterfield Associates plans to add jobs
Fri, 03/06/2020 - 1:15pm

    Later this month, Chesterfield Associates President E. Davies Allan expects the Westport Island firm to start a $1.4 million state job. Allan said it will pay more than any job the firm he started in 1968 has done for Maine.

    The marine construction and lighthouse repair firm just finished a $3.2 million job on a marine railway on Lake Champlain in Vermont, Allan said. The firm grosses $22 million a year and employs six people at its main office and yard in Westport Island and about 50 in Westhampton, New York, he said. “And we will triple the size of our (local) staffing for this (Maine) project.”

    Other work he anticipates the firm will get should keep those new local jobs long-term, he said.

    As of Thursday, March 5, the contract with Maine Department of Transportation to strengthen supports at railroad bridges at Nichols River in Newcastle and Georges River in Thomaston was not a done deal. MDOT spokesman Paul Merrill said in email responses to questions from Wiscasset Newspaper, the department still needed the firm’s proof of bonds and insurance. “This is routine. I don’t see anything that makes me think the department won’t award the bid. The bid amount is in line with our expectations for the cost of the work,” Merrill wrote. A lone, $1,414,761.50 contract would encompass the work at both sites, he said.

    Merrill said the project drew five bids, opened Feb. 26. Asked why Chesterfield Associates’ bid was picked, Merrill said: “We go with the lowest bidder who is capable of doing the work.” 

    A March 2 MDOT “notice of intent to award” letter Allan forwarded at Wiscasset Newspaper’s request states the firm is the apparent successful bidder.

    In a phone interview Thursday evening, Allan said part of the project’s appeal was, it is near home. “We work all over New England so it’s awful nice to have a contract this size within a half hour of our home office.”

    In 1996, the firm rebuilt 1,400 feet of the timber railroad tressel in Wiscasset for $800,000, Allan said. He likes any chance to work on the railroad he hopes will one day have riders again. Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has studied a possible pilot Midcoast branch; recent checks with NNEPRA have yielded no new word.

    What prompted plans for the Newcastle-Thomaston bridges’ work? Merrill responded: “We conduct routine inspections of bridges. These two were found to be in need of maintenance.” Both are early 20th century, he said.

    Allan was looking forward to the work. “I particularly like it because the access is difficult and it means a great challenge for us. And we enjoy that.” The Newcastle site must be accessed via the Sherman Lake public ramp or by a rail truck, which the firm has, he said. “And we will have barges in the Nichols River.”

    Allan projected starting around the third week of March and finishing by late October. 

    The firm worked with Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Museum in Alna in 2018 to move a 30-ton bridge to Trout Brook.