After plans to restore and publicly display the remains of Wiscasset’s historic four-masted schooners were complicated by an outside claim of ownership, Wiscasset has been advised the remains of Hesper and Luther Little are the property of the town.
The Wiscasset Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to move forward with restoring and repurposing the recently uncovered pieces of the ships at their Tuesday, Dec. 15 meeting. The man responsible for salvaging the bow of Hesper after the ship caught fire on July 4, 1978 will be given special credit for preserving a piece of Wiscasset’s history when it is ready for public display, selectmen said.
Jay Siegars, of Westport Island, was 17 years old on a boat in the Sheepscot River when he spotted the bow of Hesper floating past the Westport Island bridge, he said to selectmen in a previous meeting. Siegars personally transported the bow to shore, where the town took control of it.
Siegars’s efforts to recover the bow from Wiscasset were unsuccessful and the issue lay dormant for more than three decades. When the bow and other portions of the ships were rediscovered at Wiscasset’s old landfill in November, Siegars reinitiated his effort to regain ownership of the bow.
At the Nov. 17 selectmen’s meeting, when selectmen were discussing how to reintroduce the four-mast schooners to the public, Siegars told his story and claimed he was the rightful owner of the Hesper bow. Since then, Wiscasset Town Manager Marian Anderson consulted with legal counsel and met with Siegars to discuss how to proceed.
According to maritime law, Siegars would have had to file a court motion within two years of salvaging the remains to assert ownership, Anderson said. Siegars did not and with the statute of limitations long since expired, Wiscasset is the legal owner the town’s attorney advised, Anderson said.
Wiscasset selectmen voted Dec. 15 to authorize Anderson to contact the Wiscasset Middle High School to see if students were interested in refurbishing the bow of Hesper to display to the town. Wiscasset Middle High School students were responsible for refurbishing the cannon on display outside the town office.
When the bow is ready for public display, selectmen voted unanimously to give Siegars credit for his role in salvaging it, and preserving what was once a Wiscasset landmark for future generations. Other pieces of Luther Little and Hesper were also recently uncovered at the old landfill, selectmen said.
Selectmen discussed the possibility of repurposing the rediscovered pieces of the ships to transform them into mock Boston Post Canes or other momentums to display or hand out to the public on special occasions. Selectmen authorized Anderson to reach out to the schools to see if students were interested in working with the town on repurposing other pieces of the ships as well.
In other business, selectmen continued to discuss refinancing the $2 million bond taken out to fund Wiscasset’s withdrawal from RSU 12. Selectmen were presented options for a 15-year and 20-year repayment plan for a loan from The First Bancorp to repay the bond. However, selectmen expressed concern the loan had not been placed out to bid.
The due date for the $2 million bond is Jan. 15, 2016. The selectmen’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Jan. 5, 2016, which would be close to the due date of the bond, but would allow enough time to pursue a better interest rate for the loan that will be needed to repay the bond.
Anderson was asked to explore placing the loan out to bid. Selectmen will determine how to refinance the bond at their Jan. 5, 2016 meeting.