Town officials are considering whether safety of municipal workers — and a break on insurance premiums — warrants locking doors, erecting a barrier at the counter with a pass-through window and other modifications at the Town Office.

Bucksport's Safety Committee studied the building and returned a list of seven recommendations, including closing all doors; installing a sign by the stairs reading “no unauthorized personnel, see counter staff”; locking the front door during night meetings — this would require attendees to use the rear entrance to the building; adding a new wall and key fob security system for doors leading behind the counter and to the assessor's office; adding a gate, structure or glass with a pass-through at the counter to be used after the office is closed; adding a second door to the town manager's office; and conducting panic button, PA system and "run, hide, fight" training.

What the changes aim to protect workers from is vague at this point. Town Manager Susan Lessard said there was no incident in Bucksport that started the ball rolling. And while she stressed the importance of worker safety, she said the promise of lower insurance premiums was a major factor.

"The buildings hadn't been assessed in some time in terms of safety … to sort of control access and make sure people aren't going in places they shouldn't be," she said. "People being less than positive can be contained. The world we live in today requires us to look at the safety or our employees in the work environment."

Maine Municipal Association Spokesman Eric Conrad said the organization's Property & Casualty Pool Program has been around since 1987 and considers a wider range of safety concerns than the security measures being discussed in Bucksport. He gave the example of a town installing equipment to keep ice from falling off the roof of a building.

"We want to recognize and reward that kind of forethought," he said.

Bucksport is one of eight municipalities in the state to have received the Maine Department of Labor Safety & Health Award for Public Employers (SHAPE) for all of its departments, and the town has been recognized for safety by Maine Municipal Association. Both distinctions translate to lower insurance premiums, Lessard said.

On May 31, the Town Council referred the recommendations to the Infrastructure Committee. Lessard said the final decision will have to balance safety benefits with cost and the effect on workers and members of the public who come to the offices for services.

Lessard said erecting a barrier between town workers and the public would be a big change.

"That will engender a good deal of discussion," she said. "I know that providing good public service and being accessible is paramount. So, things that will impede that will be looked at long and hard before they're implemented."

Hotel suing to close walkway at night

On May 31, the Town Council met in executive session about litigation with the Fort Knox Park Inn. The waterfront hotel is suing the town to be able to close the portion of the town's waterfront promenade that passes in front of the hotel from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m.

Lessard said the hotel sits at roughly the midpoint of the walkway. She was not aware of any complaints or safety problems there and said closing the stretch by the hotel would compromise public use of the path.

"People walk early, people walk late," Lessard said. "It would cause them to have to walk around the motel."

Lessard said the town previously took the crossing by eminent domain. The owner filed the suit last fall, she said, and the case is scheduled for mediation the second week of June.