Buckfield approves ‘bridge in a backpack’

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BUCKFIELD — Selectmen went against the recommendation of the Road Committee on Tuesday night and voted to go with Gardner Construction Enterprises for a “bridge in a backpack” to replace Brown bridge on Darnit Road.

After considerable discussion and two votes, the board went with the second lowest bidder and a carbon-fiber technology.

Thomas Drummond Jr., director of sales and marketing for Advanced Infrastructure Technologies of Orono, gave a presentation to the board on the newly developed bridge-in-a-backpack technology that originated at the University of Maine.

Drummond said the bridge is carbon filled mesh that is blown into rounded shapes, put on a form and infused with resin. It is then shipped to the site and placed on a foundation and decked over.

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The structure does not impact the stream as it has a longer span. Drummond said the Navy is using the technology in ships and it is used in pilings, among other things.

Drummond said the life expectancy of the bridge is 100 years and it was developed at the university.

The Road Committee had all agreed to go with T. Buck Construction for the conventional type of bridge with aluminum piping. Committee member Jerry Wiley said that though they had recommended the conventional bridge, he was OK with the new technology. He did point out that the 100-year life expectancy was still theoretical as the technology has only been around a few years.

Drummond said there were at least six of the bridges in Maine already.

The Gardner bid was for $247,900 and the T. Buck bid was for $236,111. Town Manager Glen Holmes said both bids were over what the town had approved in the budget last year.

Selectman John Lowell motioned to go with the Road Committee’s recommendation. At first, Selectman Robin Buswell went along with Lowell, but Selectmen Eileen Hotham pointed out that the difference in the bid was only $11,000.

Buswell asked for a revote and went along with Hotham, while Lowell voted no. The contract then went to Gardner for the “bridge in a backpack.”

There was more discussion on the non-specific road work bids. There were three bidders, but Maynard and Sons was the low bidder and awarded the contract.

Holmes had made a matrix showing all of the areas of work being bid on,  such as equipment needed, material and manpower at the request of the selectmen so they could better evaluate the bids.

In other news, junior high school teacher Annette Caldwell and students Jessie Warren and Bryan Casey asked the board for permission to erect a kiosk on the railroad recreational bed, which would inform visitors of some of the history of the town.

The structure would be 10 feet wide, 8½ feet tall and 3 feet deep. The students brought in a model showing how the kiosk would look. The students would research the material to go in the kiosk.

Caldwell said that 96 kids were involved and that the project is called “Bucks on Tracks.”

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