Mitchell Field is due to come up several times at Harpswell’s Town Meeting Saturday, March 14, with a cell tower lease, master plan update, and donation toward renovation of an administration building on the property all on the warrant. File

HARPSWELL — Mitchell Field will be in the spotlight at Town Meeting on Saturday, March 14, with a cell tower lease, master plan update, and donation toward the renovation of an administration building on the property all on tap.

Residents will also vote by line item on this year’s proposed $5.8 million municipal budget, up 3% over current spending. If the town’s assessment from School Administrative District 75 and the Harpswell’s total taxable valuation both remain the same, and taking into account the town’s 2020 estimated revenues of $2.7 million, the tax impact could be just 1%, according to Deputy Town Administrator Terri Sawyer.

Mitchell Field is a 120-acre former U.S. Navy fuel depot property on Middle Bay that the federal government transferred to the town in 2001, according to the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust. Aviation fuel was brought in on tankers and barges, and offloaded into storage tanks at Mitchell Field, according to Town Planner Mark Eyerman. A pipeline ran the fuel from that property to the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, which closed in 2011.

Article 32 of the Town Meeting warrant, to be approved by selectmen this week, asks voters to authorize that panel to forge a lease agreement of up to 40 years with a company that will erect a wireless communications tower, no taller than 200 feet, on a piece of town-owned land at Mitchell Field.

If chosen by the board, Blue Sky Towers of North Reading, Massachusetts, would be “fully responsible for all permitting, and all costs for construction and maintenance of the facility,” and would allow space on the structure at no charge for emergency communications equipment, according to Town Administrator Kristi Eiane.

Negotiations would take place if Town Meeting approves the article. Blue Sky proposes to lease the space from the town at $1,850 per month, with an annual adjustment, Eiane said.

The tower would improve cell and emergency communications alike. “We’ve been working on how to improve that, and I think we’re making some progress,” Eiane said.

Don Miskill, the Mitchell Field steward, said last July that while Harpswell has a few cell towers, they don’t provide complete coverage, and leave sections of Orr’s and Bailey islands without a good signal.

Article 31 calls for the town’s wireless communications ordinance to be amended to allow a cell tower to be located in the general area where a water tower once stood at Mitchell Field. Without approval of that article,  No. 32 is moot.

In Article 33, voters are asked to accept a monetary gift from an anonymous donor toward renovating much of Mitchell Field’s former Administration Building. The donor proposes a small kitchen, library, two bathrooms, a public meeting area, and outdoor showers. The town needs to determine how much the work would cost, and the gift would be for that expense.

The funds would not cover any work on the building’s garage, nor a subsurface wastewater disposal system and water supply for the structure; the town could seek grant funding for those projects, Eiane said.

Should the town accept the gift, a public planning process about the use of the building will take place. Estimates for work on the building will be provided at Town Meeting.

Article 28 would adopt an update to the 2007 Mitchell Field Master Plan. The update serves as a conceptual guide for future uses at the site; approval at future Town Meetings will be required for implementing elements of the plan and related costs.

“The Mitchell Field Committee felt that the basic policy directions of the Master Plan … were still pretty solid in terms of providing a direction for use of Mitchell Field, but that there had been some changes that had occurred over the past decade that should be incorporated” into an update, Eyerman said.

For instance, the existing plan covers reuse of the former Navy pier, which the town dismantled a year ago. Talks around placing a cell tower and solar array on the parcel have also arisen in recent years, Eyerman said.

The warrant and related documents are available on the “Town Meeting 2020 Information” tab at Town meeting is at Harpswell Community School at 10 a.m.

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