The City Council passed unanimously a moratorium on construction on paper streets last Friday.

City officials have described the moratorium as a “time out” designed to allow the city to take a look at its development ordinances and see whether there are any changes the city deems necessary.

In a strange twist in the debate, residents next to the construction site off Chestnut Street that’s been at the center of the debate got a scare last week when firefighters were called to determine whether live blasting caps had been scattered throughout the site. As it turned out, the blasting caps had already been expended.

Residents came to a special Friday afternoon meeting of the City Council to urge them to pass the moratorium, and to make sure the council was aware of the potentially dangerous situation that was discovered the day before the meeting.

Last Wednesday evening, Robert Foley of Mitchell Street was walking through the site to retrieve his daughter who was playing there when he saw wires used for explosives detonation, as well as some used blasting caps used to trigger explosives. In addition, Foley also saw wires leading into holes in large rocks on the site that he believed could have led to unexploded blasting caps.

Foley said he did underwater demolition work for eight years, and he knew the potential danger posed by a live blasting cap. “A blasting cap is something that without a question of a doubt can take a hand, arm or leg right off,” he said. “We’re not talking about a firecracker here.”

Concerned over the safety of the children in the area who have been drawn to play on the rocky site, Foley called the fire and police departments on Thursday to have them look at the site.

Members of the Westbrook Fire Department as well as Code Enforcement Officer Rick Gouzie inspected the site and while they were walking up the partially constructed road, tangled lengths of detonation wire as well as several expended blasting caps were in plain view.

What caused the most concern, however, was a large boulder with a hole drilled into it. Coming out of the hole, which was filled with small pieces of gravel, was an approximately 6-inch length of orange wire that looked like it could have led to an unexploded charge. Seeing that, Fire Chief Gary Littlefield and Fire Inspector Lt. Chuck Jarrett made the decision to close off the site and call in experts from the state Fire Marshal’s office and the State Police.

After representatives from both the Fire Marshal’s office and the State Police looked at the site, officials called Drilling and Blasting Rock Specialists of Gardiner, the company that was doing the blasting, to have someone from the company come to the site.

The blasting company employee determined that there was no danger. Fire officials said the blasting company employee said the charge had indeed exploded, but instead of blowing debris up, the blast had gone down, and it was not evident from looking at the top of the hole that the charge had gone off.

Once it was determined the area was free of unexploded charges, Littlefield directed the blasting company employees to walk through the site and pick up every piece of blasting wire and all of the expended blasting caps.

Foley said he was relieved there were no live explosives on the site, but he added he is still concerned that the area is dangerous. “I will not let my kids play back there,” he said.

Now that the moratorium has been approved, the Planning Board and the City Council will be looking at the city’s land use ordinances and will determine what changes need to be made. The City Council’s Committee of the Whole will be discussing the issue at a future meeting. The date of that meeting had not been set as of the American Journal’s press time.

A close up view of one of the expended blasting caps discovered on the ground at a construction site off Chestnut Street on Thursday afternoon.Fire Chief Gary Littlefield (left) and Fire Inspector Lt. Chuck Jarrett examine a length of detonation wire at a construction site on Thursday afternoon.Fire Inspector Lt. Chuck Jarrett (left), Code Enforcement Officer Rick Gouzie (center) and Fire Chief Gary Littlefield look at a potentially live explosive charge embedded in a rock on Thursday, The charge was later determined to have been expended.Fire Inspector Lt. Chuck Jarrett takes a closer look at a hole containing detonation wire. Officials later determined there was no live charge in the hole.Fire officials were concerned that this hole drilled in a rock at a construction site off Chestnut Street still contained an explosive charge. It was later determined that the charge had already exploded and there was no danger.

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