Boothbay approves JEDC expenditures totaling $76,000

Selectmen authorize payment for town’s portion of regional economic development master plan, Festival of Lights
Posted:  Saturday, June 17, 2017 - 8:15am
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During the Boothbay selectmen’s June 14 meeting, Joint Economic Development Chairman Wendy Wolf, left, and Mary Ellen Barnes of the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission explain how a regional economic development master plan would benefit the region. BILL PEARSON/Boothbay Register

Boothbay Selectman Chuck Cunningham is an enthusiastic supporter of what the Joint Economic Development Committee has accomplished during its two-year existence. The JEDC operates on funding contributed by founding members Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor. The JEDC sponsored the Festival of Lights last winter as its first major economic development event.

Cunningham joined three other selectmen June 14 to execute a $25,000 contract with Green Tree Events to continue  managing, coordinating and assisting in marketing the event with other partners for another year. He also supported spending $2,400 for “collateral events” promoting the second annual Festival of Lights. The committee hired Thaloblue, a Lewiston design firm, to develop festival promotional materials. The $2,400 funds local merchant “bag stuffers,” according to JEDC Chairman Wendy Wolf.

Local merchants would stuff patrons’ bags this summer and fall promoting this winter’s Festival of Lights. Under the economic development agreement, expenditures are shared equally by Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor.

Cunningham was less enthusiastic about a third proposal. The JEDC proposed spending up to $40,000 to facilitate a strategic master plan for the Boothbay peninsula.  The master plan would incorporate comprehensive plans of the four peninsula communities — Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Edgecomb and Southport — in developing a long-term strategy to guide regional economic development.

The JEDC proposed hiring Camoin Associates along with Wright Pierce, an engineering firm, and MRLD, a Portland landscape and architecture firm, to develop a regional economic master plan. Camoin and its partners would develop a strategic plan by examining the region’s infrastructure, downtown development, affordable workforce housing opportunities advanced by possible land use changes, and potential tax increment financing (TIF) or other development projects based on local needs.

Cunningham liked the proposal. What he didn’t like was the lack of financial support from Edgecomb and Southport regarding the master plan. Neither town is contributing financially to it. Southport joined the JEDC two years ago and contributed $5,000 for wayfinding and increasing local broadband access. Edgecomb joined this year and hasn’t made a financial contribution.

Cunningham had concerns about Boothbay taxpayers paying for a project benefiting two partners who weren’t willing to make a similar contribution.

“Personally, I have a problem with spending Boothbay tax dollars benefiting two partners who aren’t contributing any money. I think if they want to be a part of this, they need to pony up $1o,000 apiece.”

Selectmen Dale Harmon and Kristina Ford disagreed. They believed the master plan would provide valuable information on neighboring communities  and would be valuable to Boothbay in long range planning.

“I understand your heartburn about Edgecomb and Southport not contributing financially,” Harmon said. “The reality is we need this plan to move forward. It will provide us with guidance by looking at our comprehensive plan and matching up our needs with local resources.”

Ultimately, Cunningham joined other selectmen in supporting the proposal.

“I will make one last comment. I will support this with the expectation that Edgecomb and Southport will step up to the table and pay their share for other things in the future,” he said.

The selectmen are considering meeting with other towns’ boards to discuss each town’s participation in future regional projects.