June 26,2020 Newsletter (COVID-19)

Bristol Notes - June 26, 2020 (COVID-19)

For the Bristol Selectmen:

Chris Hall, Town Administrator

COVID-19 Update

The trends that were evident in the last Bristol Notes newsletter have continued. Alfred Ajami writes, “Nationally, 26 states have seen their coronavirus cases increase in the last week. New cases are up 77% in Arizona, 75% in Michigan, 70% in Texas, 66% in Florida and 47% in California, even though testing rates have increased on average less than 10%. Nationwide, cases are up 30% compared to the status at the beginning of June; this upward change is also reflected in record number of hospitalizations, which are the ultimate indicator of increasing disease burden.” Locally we remain thankfully almost untouched by the coronavirus. As of June 25, Lincoln County still had just two active cases (21 total diagnosed, 19 recovered), representing just one new diagnosis in two weeks. State-wide, Maine deaths reached 103, an increase of three.

How is Midcoast Maine doing so well, when we have a high percentage of seasonal residents whose other homes are in states with high infection rates? There is undoubtedly an element of luck, but credit must go to the many people who have quarantined themselves on arrival, to those who have sacrificed travel and holiday plans, and to all who wear masks in public and in stores. Thank you all. This is not a time to let down our guard. The tragic death toll in Florida, the Carolinas, and Arizona – dependent like us on tourism and seasonal residents – shows how real the threat is. The sudden outbreak last weekend among Houlton’s first responders in northern Maine shows that nowhere is completely safe, in the absence of a vaccine. Bristol is still at risk.

Maine is ahead of much of the northeast in reopening. Starting July 1st, almost all Maine businesses can reopen, but indoor bar service is still barred. The Maine CDC advised the Governor that the pattern of growing infections in other states makes it unwise to open bars at present. Outdoor, seated bar service has been permitted since June 1st and most, but not all, Bristol restaurants have reopened for meal service. The Anchor in Round Pond will stay closed for the season, but the Harbor Room in New Harbor will open under new ownership as soon as the state issues their alcohol license. Oh, and the Round Pond tennis court is open!


Liberty Pole: Half Way There!

On Monday, June 22, a crew from Tidewater Telecom placed the lower mast of the liberty Pole upright in its concrete base after a two year-long restoration effort by volunteers led by Russ Guibord. The next step is to mount the upper hoist and crosstrees. If no more problems are uncovered, the Pole will be rededicated on July 4th.

Bristol Mills Watering Trough

The watering trough in Bristol Mills, opposite the Town Office, was donated to the Town by the Bristol Village Improvement Society. Its historic role was to provide refreshment for horses, not humans! It is fed by overflow from a spring on the hill behind it.

People regularly fill their water bottles and containers from the tap at the trough for their own use. Please note that the Town had a test done on the water this month which, while showing no detectable levels of e coli or nitrates, does show an elevated count on the Total Coliform test. This probably means nothing more than leaves or soil in the spring, but it does mean we have posted a sign saying ‘not for drinking or cooking,’ and ‘boil before use.’ The watering trough is not considered a Public Water Supply by the state, as less than 30 people a day use it – if it was, we would have to install filters and conduct a great many more tests. Use at your own risk, and please, keep the tap turned on: this is artesian runoff, not pumped, so shutting it off does not save water or energy, and a steady flow of water will minimize any coliform buildup.

Dam repair work to commence July 6th

The first stage of work on the new fish ladder at the Bristol Mills Dam will start on the Monday following the July 4th weekend. This involves grouting and filling of voids at the downstream foot of the dam, in preparation for the construction of a new plunge pool (for the downstream run) and entrance pool for the new fish ladder. Work on the fish ladder itself starts on July 15th.

The work requires us to lower the water level in the pool above the dam, so regrettably the swimming hole will be closed from about June 30th to start the lowering of the water. A temporary sandbag cofferdam will be placed in the river by the Benner Road Stone Arch Bridge, behind the Masonic Hall. This will maintain the water level in the marsh and lakes upstream, while allowing much greater control of the water level in the short stretch between the cofferdam and the dam. We are grateful to Broad Arrow Farm for allowing access across their land to install and remove the cofferdam.

The need for the new fish ladder was demonstrated by the heavy return of alewives this year. The backup of fish trying to pass the existing Denil fish ladder became so great that a bucket chain of volunteers carried some of the fish to the top of the dam. I don’t have the final fish count yet, but this year showed that the capacity of the existing ladder may be about 150,000 fish per year, while the pool-and-weir design we are using for the new ladder supports a migration of over a million fish at Damariscotta Mills. Thank you to all who have donated stone for the pools! Work on the ladder will take the rest of the summer, fall and into winter, but I am optimistic that we will be able to reopen the swimming hole later this summer as work continues.

This week’s good cause: the Round Pond Village Improvement Society

In addition to maintaining the two floats at the boat landing in Round Pond, the Round Pond Village Improvement Society maintains a tennis court and basketball court for public use (on the east side of Route 32 just north of the Munro Bridge, just before the boat storage yard). The tennis court can be booked by signing up in the book kept in the kiosk next to the court.

The Village Improvement Society has a major project this fall – the rebuilding of the ramp and float system at the landing. Donations for this major project would be very welcome – please consider sending a check to Round Pond Village Improvement Society, PO Box 182, Round Pond, ME 04564, or hand it to BJ Russell at King Ro Market.

Pemaquid Beach outdoor exercise classes

If you’re eager to get some healthy exercise, and meet your neighbors at a safe social distance, Bristol Parks and Recreation is offering the following ‘spaced out’ summer exercise classes at the Beach Park. Please bring a mask, water and a towel.

  • Tai Chi with Mary Anne Moisan: Wed at 8:30-9:00 a.m. Mon. and Thurs. at 5:30-6:00 pm.

Classes started week of June 22. $10 per session ($5 if you have a beach pass). Contact her at: [email protected].

  • Yoga with Sarah Plummer: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 8-9 a.m. $15 per session ($10 if you have a beach pass). Contact: [email protected]
  • Gentle Yoga with Michelle DiGirolamo: Wednesdays 8-9 a.m., July and August. Contact: [email protected]. $15 per session, or $10 with beach pass.
  • Nia classes with Anna Fiedler: Thursdays 5:30-6:30pm. 6 week session, July 9-August 13.

$60 for the 6-week session, $15 drop-in. Contact: [email protected]; (207) 449-0885.

Town Meeting recessed to August 4th

Maine still limits gatherings to no more than 50 people. The resumption of the 2020 Bristol Town Meeting has therefore been postponed to Tuesday, August 4th, at 7 pm at the Bristol School. If restrictions are still in place by then, the Selectmen will look at all options, including moving to a written absentee-ballot vote, combined with opportunities for residents to ask questions in advance. More options for voting are now available to Towns under the coronavirus emergency rules. We are feeling our way here, as are all Maine municipalities with Town Meetings. Fortunately we were able to vote through the non-controversial warrant articles in the space of 11 minutes in March, before the Meeting recessed in the hope of better days ahead!

A reminder from Fire Chief Paul Leeman
The dry conditions have caused the State to ban all outside burning, including campfires, until we get a good steady rain. We have had a couple of small brush fires in Bristol already this summer and some areas with downed trees present a very considerable fire danger. Please respect the ban!

If you’re planning fireworks on July 4th, check out the advice from the Maine Fire Marshal: https://www.maine.gov/dps/fmo/fireworks

Absentee ballots available

One more reminder: Maine’s primary and referendum election day is July 14, postponed from June due to the coronavirus. Absentee ballots can be obtained from town clerk Rachel Bizarro at the town office and returned any time up to the close of polls, 8 pm on July 14th. In-person voting will be at the Bristol Mills fire station from 8 am to 8 pm, with appropriate precautions on distancing. Residents enrolled in a party may vote in their party’s primary; all residents may vote on the two referendum questions, on bond issues for broadband internet and transportation.

Alfred Ajami’s Covid graphs: note the tragic rise in US cases as the virus now spreads rapidly in states that ‘opened up’ prematurely. The Portland area is still not looking good, though Massachusetts and New Hampshire are showing great improvement after the long lockdown.

Ajami Graph

Bristol Selectmen are continuing to meet in person, widely spaced apart. Members of the public may attend but are asked to wear masks. The next meeting will be Wednesday, July 1st, at 7 pm.

For more information on any of the matters touched on in this report, please email Chris Hall at [email protected]. Stay home and stay safe!