April 2020 Newsletter (COVID-19)

Bristol Notes - April 2020 

For the Bristol Selectmen:

Chris Hall, Town Administrator


The Calm Before The Storm?

There are 8 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Lincoln County, as of Thursday April 2nd. 204 of Maine’s 376 confirmed cases as of today (54%) are in Cumberland County. The statewide numbers continue to grow rapidly. It is a reasonable assumption, though not yet officially announced, that ‘community transmission’ is occurring in Lincoln County.

The Governor’s stay-at-home order, the Emergency Proclamation banning all non-essential movements, went into effect at 12.01 am today, Thursday, April 2nd. It lasts – for now – through the month of April. This brings us in line with the great majority of states. We are all now under de facto quarantine, though with some important exceptions – travel to work (if your business is open); getting groceries; outdoor exercise; and so on. The full wording of the proclamation (Executive Order 28) is available by clicking here.

In practice, we are asked to use our common sense and sacrifice a little now to get us all through this quicker. Avoid gatherings, practice social distancing, and behave as if we are a carrier of the virus ourselves. The fact that many people may be carriers of the virus without showing any symptoms makes this last point critically important.

Essential Businesses Open in Bristol

Reilly’s market in New Harbor, King Ro in Round Pond, and our gas stations with convenience stores, Fairwind Marine, Dee’s, and Hanley’s, are operating normally but subject to the Governor’s restrictions on the number of people who can be in a store at one time. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to wait outside a little. King Ro Market – where space is constrained – requests that persons who have traveled out of state to the virus ‘hot spots’ like New York and Massachusetts call ahead to place their order and they will be happy to give you curbside delivery.

Grocery delivery is available from Main Street Grocery in Damariscotta, although Hannaford’s have suspended home delivery for the time being. Farm stands are open at High Hopes and Broad Arrow farms. It may be worth noting that the independent grocery stores, like Reilly’s, have generally been kept better stocked than Hannaford’s, although this situation changes daily. So far the supply chain has held up well – a big ‘thank you’ to the trucking industry. 

Bristol’s four Post Offices are operating normally. UPS and FedEx deliveries are normal despite a much greater volume of home delivery business than usual.

Bristol Parks and the Coastal Rivers preserves remain open for walkers, and outdoor walks are proving a truly ‘essential activity’ as people try to stay sane and healthy. No amenities are open at Pemaquid Beach or the Lighthouse Park, and users must respect the social distancing rules or the Town may be forced to close them off.

Finally if you want to try your hand at fly fishing, Maine Inland Fish and Wildlife released 500 trout into the Pemaquid River last week, sized from 10 to 14 inches. Good luck!

Unsung heroes of Bristol’s ‘Essential Services’

Two categories of public servants are often overlooked or taken for granted. Bristol Consolidated School’s kitchen staff are continuing to work to supply meals to around 90 students eligible for free school lunches. Each weekday they supply both breakfast and lunch (and two extra meals on Friday for the weekend), and the extra work of packaging for pickup or for delivery by school bus has added to their workload. This provides essential nutrition for many children whose families are hurting badly through layoffs and lack of fishing at this time.

The Bristol/South Bristol Transfer Station staff are seeing unprecedented volumes of traffic right now. It seems that many people are taking advantage of being at home to clean out their basements and yards! Both the bulk waste and recycling volumes were up close to 50%, comparing this March to last March. With this volume, and to avoid staff contact with the public, the recycling shed is closed and the public are asked to do their own sorting of recyclables into the green containers provided. There are some troubling stories of people being less than cooperative and expecting staff to handle their ‘stuff’ despite the obvious need for precautions to keep the crew healthy and working safely. If Lincoln County Recycling – through whom we sell our recyclable materials – suspends operations we may have to suspend recycling altogether for a time, and ask people to either store theirs or to add them to the household trash for a while. Please respect the new rules and call out a ‘thank you’ to the staff if you go to the Transfer Station, they will appreciate it!

Thank you for Volunteering

The Town Office has a growing list of more than twenty able-bodied volunteers who are available to assist neighbors who are shut-in due to age, illness or disability. Subject to strict rules on distancing, these good Samaritans are available to help collect groceries or mail, take trash to the Transfer Station, or just check in to see that people are OK. It’s particularly important to identify people who do not have family and friends nearby to help them, and who may not wish to be seen as a burden. Do please reach out to your neighbors and check that they are OK. If you know someone who may need help, or would like to volunteer, please call the Town Office at 563-5270.

Earth Day 2020

For twenty years, Bristol has celebrated Earth Day (April 22) with the Elmer Tarr Roadside Cleanup. This event is Bristol’s annual recognition of the late Elmer Tarr, who walked from his house to Pemaquid Point every day picking up trash from the roadside.

This year the official cleanup – sponsored by Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust and supported by the Lions and the Masons, and many individual volunteers – has to be postponed until the fall. However – if you wish to get some ‘essential’ healthy exercise, it would still be much appreciated if you could clean up along the roadside by your property, while maintaining a safe distance from others of course!

Broadband Committee conducting survey of the Town’s Internet needs

As noted in the March Bristol Notes, a major problem highlighted by the Covid-19 virus is the lack of adequate internet access in some parts of Bristol. Generally speaking, residents can get internet service in any of five ways: by cell phone signal (and a hotspot device); by satellite; by cable television service; by copper telephone land line and DSL service; or by fiber telephone lines to the home. Each has its limitations: parts of the peninsula are still dead zones for cell phone service; satellite services are good for download, terrible for upload; cable TV is not available everywhere, and speeds depend on how many others are using the line at the same time; and DSL line speeds depend on distance from the telephone company’s switch. Only fiber-to-the-home offers the kind of broadband signal that provides reliable service for things such as videoconferencing.

Some have viewed broadband as a luxury, mostly used (or abused) for things like video gaming. The past month, though, has exposed how essential it is for housebound people to be able to consult with their physicians, or students to continue lessons from their school. It’s also essential for anyone doing business from home at this time. In Bristol, only about two-thirds of residents appear to have access to adequate internet service, from the evidence being gathered by the town’s volunteer Broadband Committee.

The Broadband Committee is now in discussion with Tidewater Telecom about what it will take to build out fiber to pass every home in Bristol – about 59 miles of road, on top of the 40 or so miles served by fiber at present. Typically, costs range from $15,000 to $20,000 a mile so we may be talking about a project of a million dollars or more.

Rural broadband almost always requires some form of subsidy – federal, state or municipal grants. We hope to collect data that will qualify the town for either federal money from U.S.D.A. Rural Development, or Maine’s ConnectME fund. Frustratingly, we may have a hard time qualifying as Bristol would be considered too wealthy a town on some criteria – although the build-out would likely benefit some of the less affluent people in Bristol.

This may be a major question in Town in the coming months – hopefully one where we can come together as a community rather than have us-against-them arguments. Ideas and help would be most welcome. Meanwhile, if you have not already done so, please fill out the online questionnaire by clicking here.

 

How do I support local fishermen?

April is not a great month for lobsters – they are still mostly offshore in deep water – and with almost no restaurant market globally, few boats are going out. To buy lobsters, if you don’t ‘know someone,’ try the local lobster co-ops. Reportedly the New Harbor and South Bristol Co-ops are still buying from fishermen at present, and should have lobsters for retail sale. Some fishermen advertise directly on, for example, Facebook Marketplace (search for ‘lobsters for sale’). In Round Pond, Two Ladies Lobster and Seafood is usually good for fresh crab meat as well as lobster – but call ahead. Otherwise, inquire at Reilly’s store in New Harbor, or King Ro Market in Round Pond. You may be able to connect with a lobsterman who will put you on a list for lobsters when he gets enough pre-orders to justify going out.

Thank you to our generous donors!

This week the Town has received $3,100 (as of Thursday’s mail) in contributions for the ‘Worthy Poor’ fund, and I believe there have also been significant amounts donated to the New Harbor Food Pantry. Very many thanks for lending a helping hand. Many of our neighbors need all the help they can get just now.

For more information on any of the matters touched on in this report, please email Chris Hall at [email protected]. Thank you for reading!