Selectmen amend health center funding item
Boothbay selectmen are taking a cautious approach toward making a municipal contribution to the local health center. Selectmen voted unanimously March 13 to amend Article 24, which asked voters to authorize a “sum of $5,000” for the health center. Instead, the article will read “up to” $5,000, allowing selectmen the final say over the contribution. Selectmen are considering using a portion to pay for residents’ overdue medical bills or the local hospital bed fund.
Selectman Steve Lewis requested the change after expressing concerns about public funds being used for a private venture. “I’ve gone around, around and around on this,” Lewis said. “Last month, Patty (Seybold, BRHC board president) said the center would lose money for the first two years, and might break even or turn a profit in year three. And when they do make a profit they’d still request a municipal contribution. What is stopping others like LincolnHealth from coming in and asking for a donation. How do we say no?”
Selectman Kristina Ford didn’t see a problem with funding Boothbay Region Health Center and denying future requests from others. “It’s how you frame the question which will give you the right answer,” she said.
Selectman Chuck Cunningham also had misgivings about the health center’s request. He advised amending the warrant language from “sum” to “up to” $5,000. This allows selectmen to review other alternatives for supporting residents’ health care needs versus making a lump sum contribution.
The selectmen also added another nonprofit’s request to May’s town meeting referendum warrant. The board voted unanimously to recommend a $500 municipal contribution to the American Red Cross. In previous years, selectmen denied placing a warrant article requesting residents make a contribution because no representative made an in-person request. But this year is different. American Red Cross Central and Midcoast Chapter Executive Director Jim Bouchard reported the organization assisted eight Boothbay residents last year by providing $1,150 in services.
This is Bouchard’s first year in the job. He reported the Red Cross has three local volunteers (Candace Carrier, Constance Jones and Nita Tupper) providing assistance during emergencies. Bouchard also shared a personal experience of when his family received assistance from the organization.
“Several years ago, my wife was making donuts in the kitchen. A fire broke out and when I returned home I saw a Red Cross volunteer comforting my 14-year-old daughter. We didn’t need any financial assistance, but I was overwhelmed by what they do, and I continue to be overwhelmed by what they do on a daily basis,” he said.
In other action, selectmen approved hiring Tom Myette of Southport for consulting on local broadband internet needs. Myette will review three groups of local internet users: those paying too much for high speed internet capacity, entrepreneurs seeking ways to use broadband internet, and locations without high speed internet access. Myette will be paid $2,000 for his project, which is expected to consume 40 hours. His work may include surveying Boothbay Harbor’s internet needs.
Boothbay will ask Boothbay Harbor officials if they want Myette to survey their needs. If Boothbay Harbor accepts the offer, grant money would pay for Myette’s project. If Boothbay Harbor declines, the selectmen’s contingency fund would cover the cost.
No residents attended the municipal budget public hearing. Selectmen unanimously finalized the 31-article town meeting referendum warrant. The proposed budget is $2,168,998 which reflects a 3.32 percent increase.
Selectmen meet next at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 27 in the municipal building’s conference room.