Boothbay conditionally approves county EMA pandemic response plan

Selectmen concerned about EMS not being in chain of command loop
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 8:15am

    Boothbay selectmen were underwhelmed by a proposed Boothbay Region Pandemic Response Plan March 11, but gave it conditional approval anyway. Southport and Boothbay Harbor select boards had previously approved the plan drafted by the Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency in response to the coronavirus. The plan was developed on information from Maine State Center for Disease Control, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and United Nations World Health Organizations. The document states its intended for use as a “fluid and flexible” guideline for dealing with pandemic outbreak  problems and not as a “strict policy and procedure.”

    After reading the six-page document, which mostly spelled out communications between state, county and municipal officials, Boothbay selectmen described the initial plan as being rushed and lacking essential information. Selectman Steve Lewis complained  the plan’s chain of command included notifying selectmen, but not emergency medical service (ambulance) personnel. “How could the selectmen be in the chain of command and not EMS? What do they expect a selectman to do,” asked Lewis. “What disappoints me is the money spent on EMA and we get something like this.”

    Despite reservations, selectmen voted 5-0 to conditionally approve the local EMA agreement if EMS was placed in the chain of command. Town Manager Dan Bryer explained this would require Boothbay Harbor and Southport officials to approve the amendment. 

    In other action, selectmen approved the 34-article town meeting warrant. The proposed budget is up 5.48% from the current year’s $2,168,998. A proposed re-write of Boothbay’s municipal ordinances will not appear on the ballot. The planning board has worked on incorporating a 2015 comprehensive plan into a total  rewrite of the municipal ordinances. But the document won’t be ready for May. Instead, selectmen will submit the document for review by the town attorney and Department of Environmental Protection for a potential June vote. 

    Town attorney Sally Daggett previously advised submitting the updated ordinances for a public vote after she had reviewed the 300-plus page documents. But a majority of selectmen disagreed and wanted to replace the current ordinances with updated ones now instead of delaying. Boothbay’s effort to update the ordiannces began 7.5 years ago with the Comprehensive Planning Committee’s creation. In 2015, the committee submitted its plan which voters later approved. State law allows two years for municipalities to incorporate their comprehensive plan into municipal ordinances. 

    The planning board has taken nearly four years and a majority of selectmen believe it’s time for incorporating the plan. Selectmen voted 4-1 to pursue a June vote. Selectman and former planning  board member Mike Tomacelli urged his fellow board members to approve a June vote. “The clock is ticking. We missed our deadline two years ago for incorporating the comprehensive plan. This has been a labor-intensive exercise which has gone on for 7.5 years. I think the planning board needs a break and we can fix any problems should they occur at a later date.”

    Selectman Desiree Scorcia was the lone dissenter. She  wanted to follow Daggett’s advice. “I feel uncomfortable not following our attorney’s advice. The town has been involved with major lawsuits so I think we should wait and hear from her first,” she said.

    The new ordinances won’t include a proposal by Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to amend the land use codes. Daggett is reviewing the proposal but  hasn’t provided selectmen with an opinion how it impacts a consent decree stemming from a 2017 lawsuit settlement. The planning board would also review public comments made at two previous public hearings in making possible future revisions if voters approved the updated ordinances in June.