Smaller Harbormaster Facility Maintains View

            Marion residents will still be able to see the harbor at Island Wharf, based on a revised design for the proposed Maritime Center that was presented on April 26 during a special meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen via Zoom.

            In substantial contrast to the original design presented to over 100 attendees in the fall at the Sippican School, project representative Tim Sawyer said the footprint of the building is now smaller, but one thing that cannot be changed is the flood elevation.

            “We were trying to promote a public-elevation site…. We’ve stripped away much of that in the revised design,” he said. “We’ve pared it down to the basic necessities.”

            Shorter by several feet and not as wide, the revised design has stripped away a public reception room and restrooms. The intermediary deck was eliminated so that elevated decks only accommodate access to the elevated level, a 50 percent reduction. The building itself has been reduced by 29 percent.

            Sawyer said office has been consolidated and usage combined, eliminating the potential for private offices beyond that of the harbormaster, whose office will include a small meeting table. Outside there will be an open, shared administration space. A 10 to 12-person meeting table will do double duty as a break room.

            The building will have ADA access, the lift going from grade to the elevated level, and there will be a rear side egress.

            Thanking Selectman John Waterman for meeting a dozen times, Town Administrator Jay McGrail said that Monday’s presentation was meant to seek addition feedback and is a step in what could be a process lasting a few years.

            On May 1, with the selectmen’s blessing, the town will be seeking $300,000 in grant funding from the state Seaport Economic Council. The 80/20 grant match would require the town to seek 20 percent in the Fall Town Meeting. The project, he said, is estimated at $2,500,000 divided up in $1,500,000 for site design and engineering and $1 million for construction. Marion, said McGrail, would be on the hook for $500,000. Debt service would not affect taxes, he said, because it would come out of the Waterways Account.

            McGrail said the internal design team has put together a Q&A summary accessible by visiting It explains what has changed and why renovation of the current facility is considered not to be feasible.

            Invited to respond, Selectman Norm Hills said many of his ideas from the original design have been incorporated into the revised design, and preferred the floor be opened to public response.

            Reading from a letter to the selectmen, Jared Dourdeville respectfully stated his opposition to the project primarily based on its size. He noted that the current Harbormaster’s Facility measures 220 square feet and the project proposes 1,700 square feet, a factor of eight. Coupling the present facility’s three full-time employees with the state’s recommendation of 200 square feet per employee, he calculated based on a 600 square feet per employee that it would be a $1 million investment per employee. Acknowledging the pending grant funds, he said they are all tax dollars, regardless of the source.

            “It’s not fair to Marion residents to decide between the current facility and what we see here,” he said.

            Others who spoke said the harbormaster’s staff needs at least the amount of space in the revised design.

            Bob Partridge asked if consideration has been given to pivoting the building’s footprint by 45 degrees so that it falls between the bandstand and the northeast corner. Sawyer called the northeast an “underutilized corner” bound by required setbacks from the revetment wall and said the building has to move back to maintain the restroom pod locations. The intent, Sawyer said, is that the memorial gardens remain in place and perhaps be enhanced.

            Fresh off her meeting with the town’s Energy Management Committee, Alanna Nelson asked Sawyer about energy efficiency for the larger replacement building, the cost of utilities, discussion about solar panels, and the outlook on sewer.

            Prefacing his comments with his concern about the view, resident Edward Brainard II asked the town to consider a pile-driven system to lift the building up and down, a scheme he said would use low power and, in the unrealized case of a house he had planned, had the state’s blessing. He called this “a wonderful opportunity to put up something ground level” and said, “Don’t rush too fast.”

            Chris Collings, a member of the Marion Planning Board and volunteer director of the town’s boating program, noted how many people were enjoying community boating and was therefore happy to see the bathroom facilities remaining in place.

            Meg Steinberg agreed with Collings that shade on the bathrooms is more desirable, so they don’t look like two outhouses. “Also, the elevation facing the town with the huge doors looks uninviting, so forbidding,” she said.

            Complimenting the team on the work it took to revise the plan, Andrew Bonney asked about how the insurance cost is factored by the building’s size. McGrail said he will look into the matter. “It would be helpful to have a run rate,” said Bonney. Sawyer suggested that because the new facility would be constructed out of the flood zone per FEMA guidelines, Marion may wind up paying less to insure the building.

            McGrail invited the public to continue emailing himself or Harbormaster Isaac Perry with additional feedback.

            “If we’re successful with the grant application, then there will be more opportunity for feedback before design is final,” said McGrail, noting that more public sessions will take place before the Fall Town Meeting and that an updated document will be posted on the existing harbormasters page at

Marion Board of Selectmen

By Mick Colageo

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