Bob Neault put his heart and soul into Causeway project; resigns from committee

Bob Neault stands outside his law practice on Tuesday evening. (De Busk Photo)

Bob Neault stands outside his law practice on Tuesday evening. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Bob Neault has put his “heart and soul” into the Naples Causeway.

While that is not a literal statement, as the Causeway Restoration Committee (CRC) Chairman, Neault has literally logged thousands of hours into the planning and construction process that transformed one of the most visible sections of Naples.

“Everyone in my office knew it had to be this way. I couldn’t half-do this project.

It was all or nothing,” Neault said.

“I cannot even begin to calculate the hours,” he said.

“During the start of it, we met every Wednesday night from 6 to 9 p.m. Then, we had meetings during the day a couple times a week. As the design phase progressed, there were road trips to visit contractors, and see various things. As construction started, there were MDOT (Maine Department of Transportation) progress meetings,” he said.

“There were continuous phone calls. I was always getting phone calls to weigh in on what was coming up,” he said.

“Everyone knew that there would be issues to address. It was difficult for work product to flow through my office because of the time I was devoting to the Causeway,” he said, adding “I had to adjust my practice.”

“The Causeway was very dear to me; and, I think that it was something that I had to do for the town. And, I enjoyed doing it,” Neault said.

This month — four years after the committee was formed — Neault resigned from his role as chairman.

The Bay of Naples Bridge and revamped Causeway has not only been the talk of the town, but it has been recognized as the winner of a couple awards.

In January, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce named Neault the recipient of the Community Service Leadership Award.

The chamber’s annual awards banquet offered a chance to tout the Causeway project.

“It was a nice night, a good opportunity for other businesses and other members of the chamber to learn about the Causeway,” Neault said.

“It was a pat on the back to the whole committee. All of us put time and energy into the project,” he said.

More recently, the Naples project was named as the first-place winner of the northeast regional America’s Transportation Awards. The Causeway reconstruction project won the award for small projects (under $25 million) in the category of Quality of Life/Community Development.

Neault was thrilled when he heard the news, especially since the northeast region includes not only the New England states but spans to Virginia and Washington, D.C. He said the prestigious award will be a boost during the fundraising phase for continuing projects slated for the Causeway.

Neault said there is ongoing work including a roof for the amphitheater that was built in 2012, and upcoming features like a children’s splash park, a recycling waterfall near the Causeway Marina property, and a heritage park to educate people about the history of locks on the Songo River.

“These designs are in flux, but they are part of the original design,” he said.

Neault’s primary reason for resigning from the CRC is the need to refocus his complete attention on his business, the law practice of Robert Neault and Associates, where he is the sole attorney.

“I need to spend more time on my business and family,” Neault said

“I can see with a new town manager, there are going to be a lot of hours to get people caught up. I just cannot continue to put the time I have committed already toward the ongoing effort,” he said.

(In mid-June, longtime Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine left his position for the town manager job in Bucksport. Meanwhile, the Naples Board of Selectmen chose Denmark Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak, a resident of Naples, to fill the vacancy.)

Neault’s role as chair was often that of a diplomat and negotiator.

“The part of the process that I enjoyed a lot was to get us, as a committee, to a point where everyone felt comfortable saying what they wanted to say. They were able to put their ideas forth without fear, and reach a consensus,” he said.

Most recently, residents from Belgrade Lakes have sought Neault’s advice. As occurred in the town of Naples, when talk first began about replacing the swing bridge, an upcoming construction project in Belgrade Lakes has created factions among its residents.

The people from Belgrade Lakes visited the Causeway, and listened to Neault speak from experience.

“One of the first things we did was a workshop. People came in and said what was on their mind; they were not stifled in any way. We ran it as a town meeting; and everyone had the opportunity to speak. Then, we narrowed down the similarities and differences,” he said.

“We discovered a lot more similarities than differences in terms of the overall goal for how Naples should be,” he said.

During the construction period, which hit its height between 2010 and 2012, Neault said he had to be aware of what he wore as often he was outdoors on the construction site when it was muddy, icy or snow-covered.

Now, what has been constructed, a fixed bridge and a Causeway with public greenspace, provides a wonderful backdrop for multiple activities.

“On the typical evening, I think we see more people spending more time on the Causeway itself. We see a lot of families with strollers. Folks are able to pass right by each other and not feel crowded,” he said.

For Neault, the crown jewel on the Causeway is the amphitheater.

He said Goodine’s going-away party was held on the third floor of Merced’s on Brandy Pond.

“The view from upstairs, looking at the amphitheater from across the river, was the most talked about topic,” he said.

“It was so pretty, and most people hadn’t seen it from that angle,” he said.

“For me, my favorite part of the Causeway, it would have to be the amphitheater. I hope it gets used — a lot,” he said.

 

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