Boothbay Harbor is getting the (broad)band committee back together

Wed, 11/16/2022 - 4:15pm

    Boothbay Harbor is learning about a proposal for a peninsula-wide internet cable network. During the Nov. 14 board meeting, Selectman Tricia Warren reported on a Nov. 3 meeting with Fidium Fiber, a Consolidated Communications subsidiary, about establishing a broadband network for unserved and underserved peninsula residents. Warren attended a Nov. 3 meeting in Boothbay with Consolidated Communications Senior Governmental Affairs Manager Simon Thorne, who outlined the proposal to representatives from Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Southport and Edgecomb.

    Warren reported Fidium is proposing to invest up to $3.8 million in creating the network. Thorne identified Maine Connectivity grants as possible additional funding sources. He described $20 million available in the first round of Maine Connectivity grants, and $50 million in the second, according to Warren.  Thorne requested the four towns submit a regional application seeking Lincoln County American Rescue Plan Act funds as an additional revenue source. “It looks like a pretty good opportunity,” she said. “There is quite a bit of funding coming down the pipeline, and the fact Fidium is looking to put up $3.8 million is pretty compelling.”

    But other selectmen wanted to hear more information from Thorne prior to endorsing the proposal. “I could support sending an endorsement letter, but beyond that I would want to hear more,” Selectman Ken Rayle said. 

    Resident Tom Minerich asked if the broadband committee would be reconvened to further explore a regional fiber cable internet network. Board Chairman Mike Tomko responded, “Yes.”

    In other action, Boothbay Harbor is joining Boothbay in a collaborative effort to fight climate change. Selectmen voted 4-0 to seek a state Broadreach Coastal Fund grant. Boothbay Harbor will collaborate with Boothbay on the project which explores feasibility for “Living Shorelines” as well as supporting data collection to better predict tide levels on local infrastructure and shorelines. Sunrise Ecologic owner Shri Verrill will serve as a consultant in seeking the grant. She will receive a total of $4,800 from  Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor. If successful, the towns could receive up to $200,000 for addressing local environmental problems caused by sea level rise.

    Selectmen entered into a loan agreement with First National Bank of Damariscotta to borrow up to $160,000 for the LED (light-emitting diodes) street light conversion project. The agreement is for five years at 4.16% with a $29,759.51 annual payment. The board had three project bidders, and selected RealEnergy as the vendor. The new LED street lights include smart controls. Selectmen plan on reducing the loan principal with a $30,000 to $40,000 down payment.

    Boothbay Harbor has begun work on the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. Town Manager Julia Latter met with department heads Nov. 15 for a first meeting, and plans to continue with a second round the week of Nov. 21. Latter announced the budget committee’s schedule. The first meeting is Jan. 4. The final meeting will occur “sometime in March.” The committee will meet on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Last May, residents approved a $5.14 million FY 23 budget.

    Selectmen appointed Frank Fassett as a port committee full-voting member. The public works department is seeking a new member. Latter reported Sawyer Alley has accepted a new job, and his last day is Nov. 22. Latter will advertise for a replacement for a couple weeks. The police department is also seeking more manpower. The search continues for a new police chief and a patrolman. Latter has advertised for a new chief on national platforms and contacted Maine Criminal Justice Academy for potential candidates. 

    Latter reported the annual Sparkle fireworks display over the harbor is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3 beginning at 6:30 p.m. The display is part of Boothbay Lights, which runs from Nov. 18 to Dec. 18.

    Selectmen meet next at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28 in the conference room.