Route 1 work delayed

Selectmen talk chicken feathers, land deal, staff openings

By Fran Gonzalez | Jul 01, 2018
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez

Searsport —

Selectmen have tackled a wide range of topics in recent meetings, from chicken feathers to electric car-charging stations.

Town officials have been considering the idea of developing an electric car-charging station for some time and Town Manager James Gillway on June 19 outlined a plan to bring this idea to fruition.

Gillway asked selectmen for authorization to have the town attorney draw up purchase, sale and deed paperwork for land at 5 Mortland Road, across from the superintendent's office.

He said the property could be used as a parking area and eventually a charging station for electric vehicles. The near-downtown location could encourage drivers, by way of signs and maps, to visit downtown shops while their cars are charging, Gillway said.

The agreed-upon price is $66,500, which selectmen approved.

In other land purchase news, a landowner who previously intended to develop a subdivision has backed away from the idea, Gillway said. Instead, he wishes to trade land with the town. He would trade a 1.36-acre property adjacent to Village Cemetery for a town-owned lot (map 1, lot 46) on the corner of Birch Lane and Main Street.

“It would give the town the ability to expand Village Cemetery,” the town manager said.

Currently the cemetery is “almost completely full,” and the new parcel would produce “quite a few cemetery lots,” he said. Selectmen agreed and approved the request for a land trade.

A number of staffing changes are on the horizon, Gillway said. The town will soon begin advertising for a transfer station attendant and a school resource officer.

“We’ve met with the school and their budget has been passed, and there is no reason to hold up. If we were able to hire someone in a short period of time, we could use the extra hand during the summer,” Gillway said, referring to a recently approved school resource officer position that will also boost town police coverage.

Katie Hessler is leaving her position as director of Carver Library for a librarian position in the  Ellsworth school district.

Gillway said it was a “deal she couldn’t refuse” because she currently lives Ellsworth.

“She’s done a great job for us and we’re very happy for her, just sad to be losing somebody that was so easy to work with,” he said.

The library is currently looking for someone to fill the library director position. Interested candidates can visit the library website (carver.lib.me.us/) for more information.

Jack Merrithew announced Marie Underwood would be leaving her position as chairman of the Historic Preservation Society.

“She’s done a great job over the years. She deserves a great deal of credit and thank you for her service,” he said.

A resident raised a concern to Gillway about a situation involving her neighbor’s free-range chickens (and ducks) and the small pin feathers they release. According to the resident, the feathers were exacerbating her allergic condition, and because of the  proximity of her neighbor’s chickens to her house, she was just “sick.”

Gillway said the situation might be resolved if the chickens were contained in a pen or caged, but also said, “It just isn’t going to happen,” referring to the neighbor’s reluctance to do so.

Maine Municipal Association does not have a specific template ordinance dealing with poultry, Gillway said, and “chickens are not regulated by the state,” like other livestock animals. He suggested creating a local ordinance.

Selectman Richard Desmarais said, “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here,” and wondered if there were any towns with a similar ordinance that could be used as a model. Gillway said he would research what Belfast had done, recalling the city has an ordinance in place. Selectman Jack Merrithew also said Bangor has something on the books for reference.

Gillway asked for the discussion to be tabled, so he could do some research and present his findings in the next selectmen’s meeting. He mentioned selectmen could suggest an ordinance but it could not be passed until next year's town meeting.

“It might stop it in the future but it will not alleviate this particular situation,” Merrithew said.

Gillway said he would see if an ordinance could be “applied retroactively or immediately.”

“I hope so,” the resident said. “I’m still miserable. I almost feel like I can’t breathe.”

The selectmen agreed to table the issue.

Selectmen also approved advertising in Maine Biz magazine in hopes of attracting people and businesses to Searsport.

“They have offered us a free quarter-page ad on top of the page advertisement we did last year,” he said. “We have a proposal from a new business coming to town and it would be great to build off that,” he said. “Talk about how easy it was to work with us.”

Gillman’s advertising proposal was approved unanimously by the selectmen.

Steps will soon be replaced at Carver Library, but according to Gillway, “we need to find a company with the expertise to do the work.”

The Maine Department of Transportation was slated to begin work on Searsport downtown roads this summer, but according to Gillway, they work in a three-year window and are “kicking it out” to 2021. It was expected the work would be done by now but the work has been delayed while Maine DOT deals with other issues in Wiscasset.

Gillway said he emphasized to DOT that the town "really want(s) it done before the summer of 2020.” He said DOT plans to start the project in fall 2019 and work through the winter as weather permits with the idea of completing the job in spring 2020.

Selectman Linda Payson said she had spoken with Chief Richard LaHaye and he passed along many thanks for all the well wishes he has received while he has been recuperating.

Selectmen Doug Norman asked about a letter of complaint that had been received from a Historic Preservation Committee member about the property at 386 Main St., which is in the process of being torn down by its owner. The letter noted how it was once a "spectacular example of Victorian architecture" but now had deteriorated to a point of being "dangerous to public safety."

Gillway said he spoke with Code Enforcement Officer Randy Hall, who is in the process of contacting the owner.

There was recent Public Works activity in front of the house and it would have been easy to knock down the structure with the owner's approval, Gillway noted; however, he said the property owner had not responded.

Merrithew inquired about completion of sidewalks on Church Street.

"We were ready to do it last week but had heard a crane would be coming to work on the steeple, and thought the weight of the crane would damage the new sidewalks," Gillway said. “We will probably get that done this week or early on next week."

 

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