Changes afoot on Church Street

Also, members needed for new Special Events Committee
By Jordan Bailey | Jun 13, 2017
Photo by: Jordan Bailey Selectmen, church and museum representatives are considering adding a wider sidewalk and making Church Street one-way.

Searsport — The Board of Selectmen recently met with representatives from Searsport First Congregational Church and Penobscot Marine Museum on Church Street to discuss adding a sidewalk and converting the street to one-way.

The church and museum share the narrow street with a back entrance to the Searsport District Elementary, Middle and High School gym, and students use it as an evacuation route in emergencies. When cars are parked along the side of the road, selectmen said at a previous meeting, it is difficult for pedestrians, cars and buses to navigate.

Town Manager James Gillway said the group discussed adding a 5-foot-wide raised sidewalk with a curb the entire length of the road from Route 1 to the school gym, which would still leave enough room for a passing lane in the 24.5-foot-wide road. The sidewalk that runs part way up the road now is 4 feet wide — not ADA compliant — and would need to be replaced, and in the process an additional handicapped parking spot could be added in front of the church.

Gillway said church and museum members will discuss the options and a plan is likely to be presented to the Board of Selectmen by the end of the month. The town would pursue Safe Routes to Schools funds through the Maine Department of Transportation for the sidewalk project.

On June 6 during its regular meeting, the board established a Special Events Committee to begin preparations for the town’s 175th anniversary and assist in planning other town events.

“We are only a couple of years away from the 175th anniversary and a lot more planning has to go into that than an annual event,” Gillway said. “In fact, planning has to start now if we plan to make it as big an event as the sesquicentennial or the 125th, and the 100th. There’s a lot to do.”

Anyone interested in serving on the committee should submit an application at the Town Office.

In other business

Because of a low paving bid, selectmen authorized adding the town wharf to the list of paving projects to be funded with a tax anticipation note from Bangor Savings Bank. If the cost exceeds the remaining borrowed amount, TIF funds may be used. As of June 6, Gillway said, Public Works has completed paving overlays on Banks Terrace, Brigadier Lane, Savage Road, Cobb Road and Turnpike Road, as well as the west side of Old County Road.

One of the town’s Jaws of Life needs to be replaced, Fire Chief Andy Webster told the board, because the hydraulic pump is broken, making the device unrepairable. He said a dealer has offered the town a "demo unit" with only 10 hours of use for $18,000, and that comparable units run for $30,000 new. Selectmen authorized the purchase of the demo unit using Fire Department Equipment Reserve funds. Webster said the old unit will be kept for parts.

The board also authorized the purchase of a full-page advertisement for $2,250 in the Maine Biz Fact Book, an annual publication. The ad is intended to draw people to the town.

The town was notified it received a Maine Municipal Association grant for $1,400 for safety-related purchases.

During the communications portion of the meeting, Chairman Jack Merrithew suggested educating the public about ticks because of the rise in instances of tick-borne disease in the Midcoast, by making pamphlets available at the Town Office and distributing them to people buying sporting licenses. Selectman Richard Desmarais announced that the First Congregational Church will be distributing free food to those who need it June 16 from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and that a Downtown Revitalization Committee meeting will be held Thursday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m.

In an executive session, the board approved a worthy poor account request.

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Jordan M Bailey
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Jordan Bailey has been working for The Republican Journal since 2013. She studied philosophy at Boston College and has experience in marine science education and journalism. She lives in Belfast.


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