June 2019 Newsletter

Bristol Notes - June 2019


For the Bristol Selectmen:

Chris Hall, Town Administrator

Property taxes: it’s that time of year again!

Property owners were mailed their 2019 tax bills on May 30. Selectmen set the tax rate for 2019 at 6.75 mills ($6.75 per $1,000 of assessed value), up from 6.25 mills in 2018. This is the first increase for four years, driven by a 15% increase in the education budget.  

Bristol’s school budget is determined in large part by things we cannot control: the numbers of students, and especially the number and needs of special education students. In 2019-20 we expect to pay tuition for up to 12 additional students at Lincoln Academy, and because of demand for the Bristol Consolidated School’s Pre-K program, to add a second classroom and teacher for Pre-K students.

After four decades of declining student enrollment, it is good to see that the number of young families in Bristol is increasing – but this comes at a price. The good news is that at 6.75 mills, Bristol still has the lowest tax rate of any Maine town with over 2,000 residents. (The estimate published on the Mainer web site, 6.97 mills, is incorrect. http://mainer.co/maine-property-tax-rates-town/ ) But we are as usual shown up by our neighbors in South Bristol, who have the advantage of their trust fund to subsidize town activities!

Property taxes fund nearly 80% of the Town’s budget. Some Town expenses are funded from other sources of revenue (such as road maintenance from excise taxes and Parks from admission fees), or from surplus or grants. The major uses of your property taxes in the 2019 budget, totaling $7,013,618.12, are as follows:

  • Education, $ 4,480,780.78 (63.9 %)
  • County Tax (principally policing and courts), $ 1,394,082.26 (19.9%)
  • Bristol Fire & Rescue, $ 395,576.60 (5.6%)
  • All other (including transfer station, town office and service agency requests): $743,178.48 (10.6%).

Property taxes are now due, and will accrue interest at 8.00% beginning on September 16th.

Alewives are back!

The flocks of seagulls at Pemaquid Falls and Bristol Mills, and the ospreys patrolling the river, are a sure sign that the alewife run is well under way. The volunteer fish counters at the Bristol Mills Dam fishway noted the first arrivals on May 24, and by the beginning of June the migration was in full flood. The Fish Committee are hoping for a repeat of last year’s (recent) record of close to 250,000 fish returning. It is still possible to sign up for a 30-minute counting slot by clicking here.

School’s out! (Well, soon.)

June 18th is the last day of classes at Bristol Consolidated School. This will mean more kids near or on the roads – especially around the village districts in Bristol, including Pemaquid Beach, New Harbor, Chamberlain, Round Pond and Bristol Mills.

Bristol Fire & Rescue and the Sheriff’s Office are sponsoring a free Bicycle Safety Rodeo for kids Kindergarten up to Grade 8, at the School on Saturday June 22nd at 9 am.

In May and June we also welcome back our summer residents, and see the annual influx of tourists flocking to the Lighthouse, Pemaquid Beach and Colonial Pemaquid. By July, the number of people staying overnight in Bristol will rise from the census (winter) population of around 2,800, to a summer peak of around 9,000 people.

Please, take extra care driving over the summer, and slow down in the villages.

Parks passes

Bristol Parks passes can be renewed at either the Ellingwood Information Center in Bristol Mills, the entrance booth to the Lighthouse Park, or the booth to the Pemaquid Beach. These are still a bargain at $5 a year. If you do not have a pass, please apply at Ellingwood where your photo will be taken for your new pass; the first year is $8 for residents and real estate taxpayers, $25 for residents of campgrounds (i.e. payers of personal property tax only). The Information Center is now open seven days a week.

Route 130 paving

In April the Maine Department of Transportation awarded Crooker Construction, Inc., of Topsham, the contract for the long overdue repaving of Route 130 from the Damariscotta Town Line to Huddle Road (by the Harbor Room restaurant). This project has survived the cuts the DoT has had to make in its paving schedule, due to the increased costs of materials priced into bids. We were expecting work to begin in June, but the record wet weather this spring has pushed out the backlog for all construction work.

Key summer dates – expect traffic delays!

Now that our two local land trusts have merged into the Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust, you can find events that would in past years have been sponsored by the D.R.A. or P.W.A. at this page: https://www.coastalrivers.org/events/

Town projects update

The clearance of trees to the south of the Bristol Consolidated School marks the site of the new girls’ softball field. Bids are due for construction of the field by June 14th; the school’s Boosters are still raising money to fit out the field with lighting, dugouts and bleachers. The dimensions of a regulation softball field match those for Little League baseball, so the field will be used by the Little League teams during future school summer breaks.

At Pemaquid Beach Park, the Parks and Recreation Department is planning to start the construction of the new pavilion in September, after the summer beach season ends. Parks Director Lara Sargent has won another two grants for the project, totaling $16,400 for a boardwalk from the pavilion to the beach. The project will be put out to bid in July.

This summer Hagar Enterprises, LLC, will be the Town’s contractor to replace the Upper Round Pond Road bridge over the Pemaquid River in Bristol Mills. The metal culvert, installed in 1984 with a design life of 25 years, is badly deteriorated. The new bridge will cross the full span of the riverbanks, unlike the current culvert, and will have a natural bottom to ease fish passage. The concrete arch will be finished in stone cladding designed to resemble the former stone arch bridge removed in 1984. The bridge will be closed beginning the week of July 8th, for up to 60 days, though we hope to reopen at least one lane by August 28th, the first day back to school. This will depend on our unreliable weather! Traffic will be diverted via the Lower Round Pond Road, or Route 32 and the Biscay Road to reach Damariscotta. We very much regret the inconvenience of this.

We have now submitted the permit applications for the new fish ladder at the Bristol Mills Dam. The Town is taking a cautious approach to this major project, which is now likely to take place in three phases. This year, Phase 1 will include repair of the dam, upgrading the access road to the fish ladder, test boring to identify the underlying ledge, and completion of the detailed design. Phase 2 in 2020 will be the construction of the main ladder with its 16 rock-clad pools, in time for the spring 2021 alewife season. We expect to complete the job in 2021 with a bridge across the top of the dam for pedestrian access to the fish ladder, and new water control gates.

Do you have an unwanted, old stone wall on your property? The Town is looking for donations of stone – sized 8 inches and up, rounded surfaces – for use in the pools of the new fish ladder. Contact Chris Hall, Town Administrator, at (207) 563-5270 to arrange for delivery to the staging area at the Transfer Station.

Also in Bristol Mills, the long-running saga of the reconstruction of the Liberty Pole continues. The new mast has been delivered from the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, but we have run into two problems that are delaying re-erection of the Pole. Decay has been found in the upper mast (the part above the yardarm) which will need new wood sections to be set into it; and the stump of the old mainmast, set in a steel pipe buried in a four-foot-deep concrete block, has resisted all attempts to drill or burn it out with potassium nitrate (saltpeter). The volunteers working on the project would warmly welcome the donation of diamond drill bits!

The Town Office looks good with a new coat of paint, and the historic Harrington Meeting House will also see new paint on the south wall (facing the road) this summer thanks to the generosity of the Pemaquid Historical Association. The Lighthouse Keepers’ House (housing the Fishermen’s Museum) will see new custom-made windows installed thanks to a legacy from the late Bette Zwicker. While these are in the style of the originals, they will give far greater energy efficiency.

Finally, check out the Town’s generation of solar energy at:

Enjoy the summer!

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