Museum in the Streets (MITS) is a concept gaining popularity with Boothbay Harbor residents, but many have expressed concerns that current plans exclude the east side of the harbor. Residents Chris Swanson and Geoff Smith have been updating the public on the project’s traction and came back before selectmen Sept. 9 with a message on a PowerPoint slide: “We listened.”
Swanson, Smith and Margaret Perritt met again with Barbara Rumsey from Boothbay Region Historical Society and ironed out an hour walking tour, which will include 10 east side sites for signage with historical facts and photos.
The estimated budget will be $28,378, Swanson said, for two introductory and 20 informative panels, one spare introductory and five spare informative panels, brochures, BRHS labor fees, posts and installation, photo reproduction, legal fees, and administrative and mobile application development costs.
Swanson and Smith said the timeline will be quite stringent if the funds can be raised: By the end of October, research and selection of panel content materials and the agreement with MITS will be signed and one-third of fabrication costs would be paid up front.
Site selection and panel subjects will be finalized in November, narratives completed in December, content materials forwarded to MITS in January, remaining balance paid and production to begin in February, panel completion and installation begins in April and the project will be completed in May, in time for the Maine Bicentennial.
Smith said fundraising will definitely sit with a local nonprofit, but the funds will likely be shifted to the town to disperse to MITS. Smith said maintenance would be the town’s job and except for brochure costs, which could be curbed to mobile apps, the only year-to-year costs would come from upkeep of sign posts. Those costs are likely to be minimal, Smith said..
Swanson said because the mobile app will be expandable, the extra history and stories from around town could and should have a place there. Smith encouraged people and groups to stay in touch with ideas for the app, to expand the walking tour experience.
“Our committee realizes every place in town has a history – every building, every street – and many of those are fascinating and we'd love to have a lot more, but in order to come up with something manageable to begin with, we did have to make some decisions to put something on and take something off.”
At the request of Swanson and Smith, the board voted unanimously to award up to $3,500 in seed money to get the project rolling.
East side ordinance issues
The Department of Environmental Protection has notified the town two details in the the east side ordinances will need correcting a town-wide vote.
“Nothing too complicated,” said Code Enforcement Officer Geoff Smith. “They were reviewed preliminarily during the development process. DEP makes no promises until they get them approved at the town level, which we did at town meeting.”
The Working Waterfront zone does not allow single family homes, but this was overlooked on the land use table which still appears to let seasonal homes be converted into year-round homes. “We don't allow either one and neither one exists … so it's just a matter of (changing) 'yes, it's allowed' to 'no, it's not.'”
The second issue was with language describing how the height of a building is calculated. Smith said that while everyone was so intent on making sure the language defined the starting point of measurements, language defining where the measurement stops was completely overlooked.
“With respect to the DEP, this is really just them again being somewhat nit-picky about a definition and catching what everybody including them just happened to overlook on the use table. It functionally does not change anything that was approved in 2019.”
Selectmen voted unanimously to allow Smith to place the new language in the codes pending a town vote and to begin the process toward a special town vote.
Fred Brewer, CPA presented selectmen with the town’s annual audit. Brewer said everything seems to be in order and though the undesignated funds balance is lower than last year it should not be interpreted as bad news.
“You've done such a good job collecting (outstanding taxes) this doesn't change a whole lot, just about $6,000 out of your undesignated funds,” said Brewer. On top of $250,000 taken out of the balance to ease tax burdens and $176,000 in excess revenue deposited, the balance is at $1,995,000, about $80,000 less than what the town started with in July 2018.
Brewer said the town is in good shape due to smart investments like paying cash for a new fire truck and refinancing loans. However, Brewer he suggested the town look at its tax code and consider changing the 8% of the budget which goes into undesignated funds. “Eight percent of the current year budget is $654,000. That's the minimum you're supposed to have … You're in excess of that by $1.3 million.”
The town should want to be around 12-15% of the budget in undesignated funds, said Brewer.
Other news and announcements
Public works will begin construction on Emery Lane starting Sept. 25, said Acting Town Manager Julia Latter. Foreman Nick Upham will be hand-delivering notices to residents on the road and promises no complete road closures throughout the week or so of work.
Latter said Baker Design Consultants will meet with abutters of the footbridge to the Fishermen's Memorial area Sept. 18. The consultant will speak with anyone concerned with how the project affects their property.
Selectman Tricia Warren announced the first Broadband Committee meeting is Monday, Sept. 16.
Resident Sarah Brewer's new business, Slice O'Country, was approved unanimously for a class A victualer's license.