Boothbay Harbor Selectmen

TIF catches selectmen’s attention, harbormaster reports on summer

Thu, 10/15/2020 - 8:45am

    Boothbay Harbor voters may vote on a tax increment financing (TIF) district at next May’s annual town meeting. Midcoast Economic Development District’s (MCEDD) Max Johnstone spoke with selectmen Oct. 13 on how TIFs can help finance projects that make money for the town.

    Maine Department of Economic and Community Development’s website states a TIF captures new property taxes from projects within a district and applies those funds to public projects in that district. Johnstone said examples are sidewalk expansion, the footbridge, town-wide fiber broadband, or other infrastructure needs.

    “One thing everyone always jumps to is, 'Walmart is going to ask for some tax breaks if they wound up here.' That's not the type of plan I like to pass. Those are things we like to leave out of these plans … What it would be geared towards are some big public infrastructure projects that people have in town.”

    Johnstone said some people would consider a TIF more time and work than raising taxes for a project or taking out a bond. However, he said voters can reprioritize TIF funds later, while tax appropriations or bonds’ uses often cannot be changed.

    Chair Mike Tomko said TIFs have been discussed, but never followed up on. “Our master plan identified the downtown area as being something specific, but then we've had recent development along the east side on Atlantic Avenue, … discussions on housing and that it's imperative we work to get workforce housing in the area. There are some opportunities … that may possibly benefit from a look at (a) TIF.”

    Johnstone said if the town decides to work with MCEDD, that work toward a May town vote could start after the Nov. 3 election.

    A new harbormaster reports

    New harbormaster Jeff Lowell said settling into his first summer season was more like a rise to ambassadorship than as a patrolman of the waters. The community’s welcome to visitors proves not every harbor is built the same, he said.

    In early spring, merchants and community groups made welcome bags which included a map of the harbor, coupons and homemade cloth masks. Lowell said boaters were respectful of all the marinas' protocols concerning COVID-19 and visitors were respectful of town protocol on masking, distancing and other precautions.

    Patrolling was slow in the beginning which gave Lowell time to develop a rapport with visitors. “I told everybody I was the 'please and thank you' type of harbormaster. The first time I saw them I'd say 'please,' and the second time I saw them, I'd try to say 'thank you.' A lot of people respected that.”

    Lowell said he had issues with pinpointing GPS coordinates for moorings. Despite the learning curve, Lowell tried to make up for it through his interactions with the public and keeping the pump-out boat making daily rounds. He said the fall is giving him the chance to brush up on GPS.

    Resident Norm Pierce insisted Lowell is too modest. In a recent storm, the wind took a 40-foot vessel and its mooring for a ride toward Tugboat, Pierce said. When he called 911/dispatch and the Coast Guard, Pierce said he was received with little enthusiasm, so he called Lowell. “Less than 10 minutes later, here comes the pump-out boat … This guy comes out, bouncing up and down, and single-handedly grabs the pendant from the mooring that's been hooked and ties it to the 40-foot cruiser … I thank him and I'm sure the owner of the vessel thanks him. It needed to be said.”

    Other announcements

    Town Manager Julia Latter announced Town Clerk Michelle Farnham and Finance Officer Kathleen Pearce received a $5,000 grant from Center for Tech and Civic Life, to help plan and carry out a safe, secure election.

    Farnham and Pearce have begun buying items such as new stanchions, signs and more tables and personal protective equipment. The funds will also let the town rent a tent for voters waiting in line outside in case of inclement weather, added Latter.

    Selectmen approved a $38,470 public works purchase order for a 2021 Ford F-550 Superduty. Latter said a second purchase order will be coming, to outfit the truck for winter.