Scores of Boothbay Harbor residents came out Jan. 27 concerned about the the footbridge concept Baker Design Consultants recently presented. Selectmen revealed the Maine Department of Transportation Small Harbor Improvement Program (SHIP) grant the town applied for in February 2017 has strict guidelines about projects matching the intentions stated on an application.
Selectman Wendy Wolf said if plans deviate from those intentions, the town would need further approvals from the Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies.
Chair Mike Tomko said if the town knows it is not ready to claim its grant money in July, MDOT must know by May to move the town's funds to the next calendar year. “There is no penalty to the town if, in fact, the town chooses not to accept the grant funds. We're not at risk for future application.”
Selectmen all agreed safety is the main concern for the footbridge and aesthetics are second. Tomko said no decision has been made on design; all agreed a curved concept is not in the town’s best interest, nor does it fit aesthetically.
Said Selectman Ken Fitch, “I think it's very important we take another look at this … The SHIP grant really outlined refurbishing the existing bridge and having the swing section work again … I never saw that before, so I think there's some real reason to be optimistic … it can be safe and aesthetically right for the town.”
Wolf said because safety is important, the town needs to look at how the future footbridge can better meet town and federal codes “in terms of ADA compliance and also load compliance (and) what we have to do in terms of elevation of the footbridge to keep it safe from storm surge or flood.”
Town Manager Julia Latter and Code Enforcement Officer Geoff Smith were charged with getting an independent engineering analysis of the footbridge's existing structure.
Resident Tom Minerich suggested the board seek a structural engineer nearby. “Somebody in the harbor, around this area, who knows the structure already.”
Resident Kay Wilder said she is happy selectmen have decided to take a slow, steady approach to the future of the footbridge. “It seemed like we were being pushed a little bit by thinking the grant money would go away. So, taking your time and getting all the information you need – that's the right way to go. Thank you for making that decision.”
Wilder's comment drew applause.
U.S. Census Bureau Partnership Specialist Becky Hayes Boober spoke on the upcoming Census and changes since 2010.
“I'm really here to talk to you about power and money – because that's really what the Census is. It determines the number of seats we have in Congress, but it also informs the redistricting here in the state of Maine.”
The Census determines how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives each state will have and how redistricting will work, said Boober. It is also how the U.S. government decides where $675 billion in funds will go. According to a recent George Washington University study, Maine received over $4.1 billion per year through 55 federal programs based on 2010 U.S. Census statistics. “We want to make certain that everyone in Boothbay Harbor and everyone throughout Maine gets counted …”
Citizens will now have four choices on how to submit Census information: online, via telephone, through the mail, and face-to-face with a Census canvasser. Most will receive a paper copy with their fourth reminder letter in March and those who do not respond by April can submit information with a Census Bureau employee who will work door to door in May, said Boober.
“That's the easy part. The safe part (is) the citizenship question is not on the Census this year. It's simply nine easy questions asking things like your age, date of birth, your name, whether you own or rent your home and a list of everyone living in your household.”
The Census will not ask for Social Security numbers, bank or credit card information, political contributions, or money. If anyone claiming to be a Census Bureau employee asks for any of this information, they should be reported immediately, said Boober.
The board voted unanimously to participate in the Census as a “complete count community,” pledging effort toward accounting for every resident.
Smith said the Museum in the Streets subcommittee is picking photos and narratives. The subcommittee has spent about $790 so far and is seeking to spend $6,120 to start production. The panel plans to bring visuals to a meeting soon.
The board granted a victualer license to Marcel's Submarine Shop at 25 Townsend Ave., former site of Caper's. "Welcome Marcel's. We look forward to another business who's planning to join Boothbay Harbor."
The fish pier study expired on Dec. 31 and has been extended by the Maine Coastal Program. Baker Design Consultants put in for the extension to review the realigning of the boat ramp, said Latter.
Absentee ballots for the March 3 presidential election will be available Feb. 3 in the town office. Nomination papers for local elections are available at the town office.
The broadband committee will meet next at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in the town office and hear from Consolidated Communications.