The site of a proposed solar array at Mitchell Field in Harpswell, where there is a 12-foot drop from the road into a meadow. Taylor Abbott / The Forecaster

HARPSWELL — The Board of Selectmen gave the go-ahead for committees to start planning for cell tower and solar panel projects at Mitchell Field.

Both projects are collaborative efforts by the town’s Energy and Technology Committee and Mitchell Field Committee. Among other things, they hope to establish stronger cell phone service on Orr’s and Bailey islands.

When the solar project is complete, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said, the town office and recycling and transfer stations will be powered by the array, with the possibility of more town-owned buildings being added in the future.

The solar array would be built in the upper meadow amphitheater at Mitchell Field, where the 10- to 12-foot tall panels would not block the view of the waterfront, according to Don Miskill, the Mitchell Field steward.

“We’ve proposed to have the solar field (on the upper meadow) and we’ve kept the bird-watchers in mind,” Miskill said. “We’re mindful of the piping plovers and when they’re nesting. The field is below the level that you’re driving at, so it would not take away from the scenery.”

According to Town Planner Mark Eyerman, the town will go through a public request for proposals, where businesses can submit their plans to the town. There is no arrangement in place with any solar company, Eyerman said.

According to Eiane, the two committees still need to work out the details of the array, sinces they have not yet agreed about how much energy should be produced.

“The Mitchell Field Committee is keeping in mind the holistic look of the field. We look at what else is going on and what the community will support,” Miskill said July 19 . “That is why we have said that we feel that the community would support enough solar that equates to what the town uses for power. We don’t want this place to turn into a solar field for everybody, because of the other uses for this field.”

The proposed cell phone tower will replace Mitchell Field’s recently demolished water tower. According to Miskill, the Mitchell Field Committee supports an “Eiffel-Tower-like” structure that is around 200 feet tall and provide coverage in areas that have been deemed “drop zones.”

The town is waiting on an expression of interests from cellular companies to determine which carrier will build the tower. According to Eiane, the town wants a carrier that will build the tower with its own resources, to avoid asking taxpayers to finance the project.

According to Miskill, there are a few different cell towers around town, but they do not give complete coverage, leaving parts of Orr’s and Bailey Island without a good connection.

“Before the water tower was taken down, you could see it from Orr’s and Bailey Island,” Miskill said. “The old tower wasn’t even 190 feet high, so the cell tower would give good coverage not just for Harpswell, but also South Freeport.”

There is no schedule for a follow-up discussion on the solar grid or tower, but Gary Vincent of the Energy and Technology Board reported at the July 18 meeting that the committee will be back around September with an update.


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