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Executive Council OKs North Country Projects

Published Wednesday Sep 1, 2021


Executive Council OKs North Country Projects

Milan State Park in the state’s Great North Woods region will get a lift after the state’s Executive Council approved almost $500,000 for repairs to the historic gatehouse.

Also, the council approved a retroactive contract to create the Office of Outdoor Recreation within the Department of Business and Economic Affairs and approved money to fix roads and bridges within the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters tract at the very tip of the state.

Arnold Graton Associates of Holderness got the contract for the project in Milan on Wednesday and the work will begin as early as the end of this month.

The council approved money to maintain more than 253 miles of road and 20 bridges within the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters, which is open to recreation and hunting but is privately owned.

The historic 1939 Milan State Park structure has a failing foundation which the state fire marshal’s office has deemed hazardous and the building has been closed, wrote State Parks Director Phil Bryce in a request to approve the contract for $434,000.

Under the scope of work, Graton, with extensive experience in covered bridge work, will jack and lift the historic structure, remove the concrete and build a new foundation.

The project first went out to bid in October 2019 and no bids were received. It was rebid in April of 2021 and two potential bidders attended a mandatory view but only Graton bid on the project.

While there is a considerable amount of federal funds available to parks through the current COVID-19 recovery, this contract uses 100 percent state funds from the capital budget.

The council, at its meeting at Salem High School on Wednesday, also approved the expenditure of $392,082 from a trust fund set up for stewardship of the 146,000 acre Connecticut Lakes Headwaters tract near Pittsburg.

Bryce explained in a letter that the Department has a stewardship endowment available to tap for the purposes of maintaining the roads, which are privately owned, but which the state has a conservation easement and there is a separate endowment for stewardship of the tract.

The trust fund allows for interest to be used for maintenance and the fund has been doing better than expected with a 9 percent annual rate of return, rather than 4 percent expected, Bryce wrote.

There is $1,087,859 available in the stewardship account and $1,052,962 for roads. The council also approved federal funds to ensure that the new office of the outdoor czar is funded.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the state Department of Business and Economic Affairs explained to the council that the retroactive contract was coming before them in part due to delays caused by COVID-19.

Scott Crowder was chosen to be the director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation and Industry Association within the Department of Business and Economic Affairs and the job is to create and support the state’s “diverse outdoor economy” by coordinating and promoting it.

Federal Northern Borders grant money has been tapped to start the new wing.

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