The South Portland Fire Rescue Station near Cash Corner was built in the 1970s. An assessment of the indoor environmental quality found that remediation and renovations would be needed to address extensive mold accumulations in wall cavities, ceilings, insulation and other surfaces. Forecaster photo

SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council directed the municipal staff Tuesday to look into demolishing or restricting access to the ramp that extends from Deake Street to Willard Beach.

Councilors at a workshop also agreed that they’d rather build a new fire station than spend $1.7 million to renovate the Cash Corner station to eliminate mold and bring it up to code.

Safety concerns about the access point off Deake Street include the stairs, which lack a railing on one side and two steps at the bottom; the ramp, which hovers several feet off the ground because of years of erosion, and a stone retaining wall in between, which is leaning toward the beach.

Last month, a proposed contract with Saco-based Maineway Landscaping and Excavation to repair the stairs for $41,000 was removed from the council agenda after several neighbors aired concerns about spending the money. Residents instead said they’d be in favor of more expensive and extensive work to also repair the ramp.

So, rather than proceeding with repairs to the stairs and leaving the ramp and other issues for the time being, as recommended by staff, councilors said Tuesday they’d rather see the ramp demolished or restricted “as soon as possible” for safety reasons.

Owens McCullough, of Sebago Technics, said removing and rebuilding the stairs and ramp would require a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection, which could take time.

Councilor Kate Lewis said the city should get rid of the ramp to avoid potential injuries, an opinion echoed by other councilors. She said she worries that children would crawl under it, and that it could collapse.

McCullough said he would like to check with the DEP first to see if demolition alone would require a permit.

In the meantime, councilors said the city should erect warning signs.

“I think those two things should happen almost immediately before we have thousands of kids climbing all over these rocks … and the ramp,” Lewis said.

Councilors also said they’d like to look into long-term access at the end of Deake Street.

Many residents of Deake and surrounding streets said they felt the ramp should be the city’s focus because it is more useful and “inclusive” than the stairs.


Firefighters attended Tuesday’s workshop to talk about why the council should consider building a new fire station, rather than spending money to improve the existing one.

Capt. Chris Copp said he was concerned about investing in a station built in the 1970s. He estimated the department will outgrow the station in the next five to seven years

An assessment of the indoor environmental quality conducted last year found that significant remediation and renovations would be needed to address extensive mold problems. The study also found diesel particulates on many surfaces.

McCullough estimated an entire rebuilding would cost the city at least double what it would to demolish and reconstruct the living quarters, which is the area of greatest concern.

Still, councilors said they would be in favor of putting the project out to a bond referendum. Before they do, however, there are still many steps that would have to be taken, including identifying a site for a new station and figuring out where firefighters would work in the meantime.