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Town votes to establish quasi-municipal nonprofit

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Nov 22, 2019
Source: Facebook

Islesboro — Island residents voted at a special town meeting Nov. 20 to authorize the Select Board to take the necessary action to set up a Maine nonprofit, quasi-municipal corporation to be known as the Islesboro Economic Sustainability Corp. The new entity will be tax-exempt, and will derive its funding from donations, with no tax money involved.

Select Board Chairman Arch Gillies noted that 78 people came out for the meeting, "a pretty big number for Islesboro in the winter," and the vote was 66-12 in favor.

Other items on the warrant at the Nov. 20 meeting were an amendment to the town's Shore Areas, Pier and Float Ordinance and an article asking residents to authorize the Select Board to enter into a solar power agreement for the town's salt shed, both of which passed.

In an earlier interview, Gilles said one Islesboro resident described the ferry rate change in May 2018 as an "existential crisis," and acknowledged that it caused many islanders to think about how often they used the ferry and how they could live with fewer trips to the mainland. The new corporation is intended to make the island more self-sustaining, he said.

The Select Board will oversee the operations of the IESC, and will appoint a governing board of nine, with at least five being island residents or property owners. The board will include a member of the Select Board and the town manager. Gillies said some residents expressed concern at the meeting about who would be making decisions for the corporation. Those decisions will be made by the governing board, which reports to the Select Board, he said. "It would be highly unlikely that the corporation would go forward with any project that didn't have the general approval of the Select Board."

He expects the Select Board to name the board for the corporation, and to approve bylaws for it, at its Nov. 26 meeting. He said the town is in a period of growth and he hopes the IESC will help keep it going.

"It's the kind of thing I think every community should think about," he said.

Roger Heinen, one of two residents — the other is Tom Tutor — who have taken the lead on developing the idea for the IESC, said he and Tutor will oversee the process of getting the quasi-municipal entity set up, and he hopes to have it up and running by early December. Heinen said he has worked on startups before.

He added that the new corporation has a pledge of $100,000 to help it get started, and will be seeking a dozen or so "founder donors" to enable it to take advantage of a $500,000 matching gift from a summer resident. With $1 million in hand, the IESC would be able to fund some projects as well as pay its minimal operating costs, he said.

In addition, he hopes the IESC will receive contributions from as close to 100% of residents as possible, with most of the fundraising completed by next spring.

The IESC board will also seek ideas from the community, for projects and priorities by meeting with organizations from the sewing circle to the sporting group and others, Heinen said. Board members will also meet with state officials and economic development groups around the state.

"It's important to get the message out that we're serious about doing this," he said.

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