Bristol Notes - March 2019
For the Bristol Selectmen:
Chris Hall, Town Administrator
Town Election results – March 18th 2019
Bristol had contested elections this year for one position on each of the Board of Selectmen and the Parks and Recreation Commission. 455 voters cast a ballot.
Kristine A. Poland 175 votes – elected
Harry M. Lowd III 148 votes
Patricia M. Porter 121 votes
Parks and Recreation Commission:
Clyde R. Pendleton, Sr. 281 votes – elected
Gordon A. Benner 160 votes
Two members of the Planning Board were elected unopposed: Board chair Andrea Cox was re-elected and former Alternate member Andrew Poland was elected to full membership, replacing retiring member Robert Cushing.
Two new members of the School Board were elected, J.W. Oliver and Jessica Dimauro, replacing retiring members Sarah Mathieson and Bonnie Sablinsky.
Kristine Poland, joining the Board of Selectmen, is only the third woman to serve on the Board in the Town’s history, following Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Benner in 1944-45 and Mearle Estelle Norton in 1959-61. Kristine brings a wealth of experience to the Board: she served as Bristol’s first Town Administrator, for 15 years to 2016, and now works as Town Administrator in West Bath.
Town meeting report
Town Meeting on Tuesday, March 19th, saw around 100 people gather in the school gymnasium for a relatively quiet meeting. The major increase in spending is a $701,000 (15%) increase in the education budget, driven by increasing school enrollment and higher special education costs. The budget provides for an increase of 17 Bristol students attending Lincoln Academy, and for 10 more pre-K children over last year’s intake. It is notable that school enrollment has increased over the last three years after more than three decades of steady decline. The school articles passed almost without comment, with the exception of an article to construct the new girls’ softball field. This attracted discussion but eventually passed with just two opposing votes – perhaps helped by the presence of members of the girls’ softball teams raising funds by selling coffee and cakes at the meeting!
The other item that attracted discussion was the request for support for New Hope for Women, the non-profit that supports both women and men who are victims of domestic or elder abuse in Lincoln County. The request to the Town was for $1,045, which the Selectmen endorsed, but the Budget Committee increased this to $2,000 in recognition of the good work they do. For the Selectmen, Paul Yates questioned the wisdom of increasing an organization’s request which was presumably based on their budgeted needs, and also the fairness of increasing one non-profit but not others. These arguments fell on deaf ears, and the increase passed overwhelmingly.
The quiet meeting contrasted with the two previous years, in each of which the Town made a major change: hiring a full-time Parks Director in 2017 and a full-time Fire Chief in 2018. Both positions seem to have been widely accepted after initial concern whether they are needed. The positions reflect the growing pressure throughout Maine to professionalize local government to meet insurance and regulatory requirements for training, reporting and documenting operations – hard to do with volunteers alone. Nevertheless we remain a mostly volunteer Town government, and need residents to continue to take part in the many tasks needed to keep Bristol a thriving and caring community.
If you have not got your 2018 Annual Town Report yet, you can pick it up at the Town Office or read it online at https://www.bristolmaine.org/town-administration/pages/annual-reports-town-audits.
2019 Property Taxes
Selectmen set the property tax rate in May each year, once they know what we can expect in revenue sharing from the state and when the assessment of new construction (effective April 1) is complete. By way of a heads-up: each $100,000 increase in the school budget means an increase of roughly one tenth of a mill ($0.10 per $1,000 of valuation) in property taxes. Although the rest of the Town’s spending has been held down, 80% of your property taxes pay for the education budget. At this stage it looks as if the Treasurer and Tax Collector (i.e. the Town Administrator) will have to recommend an increase, hopefully of less than 10%. The good news is that we would still have the lowest tax rate of any town over 1,000 population. You should receive your bill by the first of June, and taxes are due by September 16th.
Update on Town projects
Pemaquid Beach Pavilion: the Parks and Recreation Department got the good news in early March that their bid for a $300,000 matching grant from the National Parks Service had been approved in full. With $600,000 in hand, the Parks Commissioners are now in the final stages of getting residents’ input on the design. Some 14 design changes have been made so far on the basis of public input; another public forum will be held on April 9th at the Town Office. The last date for public comment before the construction bid process begins is April 30th.
The Parks Department also received a generous legacy from the late Bette Zwicker, of Bristol Mills, for $167,923.15. Bette left the money to help maintain the Lighthouse Park. Bristol has some very generous residents!
With approval from the Town meeting in hand, the School is planning to start work on the girls’ softball field as soon as possible, with site clearing work due to start in mid-April. Around $235,000 has been raised or pledged so far, which should enable the field to be built – but additional funds are needed for lighting, fencing and dugouts. Contact Jennifer Ribeiro, the Principal, or Chris Hall, Town Administrator, if you can help with this worthy cause.
As this email goes out, the Selectmen are negotiating with bidder Hagar Construction of Damariscotta over the design and cost of a replacement bridge over the Pemaquid River on the Upper Round Road. The current metal culvert was installed in 1984 with a design life of 30 years. The cost of this may be higher than budgeted, as test boring has revealed bedrock to be much deeper than was thought. Redesign including piling down to bedrock is being studied, but it is possible this may have to be put off to the 2020 construction season. We hope not!
We are working to get the permits needed for the construction of a new fish ladder at the Bristol Mills Dam in time for construction this summer. Once the water behind the dam is lowered – after the summer swimming season – we will take the opportunity to complete the concrete repairs to the dam that were partially done in 2016. The bridge for access to the work, on Redonnett Mill Road, had a new deck completed this winter, removing the weight limit to allow concrete trucks to cross.
The new lower mast for the Liberty Pole at Bristol Mills has been turned in the traditional manner at the Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, perhaps the finest remaining restorer of historic wooden boats on the East Coast. In April we hope to take delivery and re-erect the mast, yardarm and upper flagpole. The 1864 Liberty Pole is dedicated to Bristol’s veterans, especially those of the Civil War. However there is no room on the small green by the Town Office for a full memorial to the veterans of all America’s wars; this gap is intended to be filled by the new Veterans Memorial Walk being planned for Ellingwood Park by the Veterans’ Memorial Committee.
New Harbor Methodist Church
The steeple of the New Harbor Methodist Church stands forlornly on the ground next to the church. Like many Maine churches, this historic 1885 building is facing a combination of increasing structural needs and an ageing and declining base of church members to support it. The steeple needs a six-figure sum to repair and re-erect it on the tower.
While we are careful to respect the separation of church and state, it is appropriate to point out the secular roles that this church plays in the life of Bristol – notably the food pantry which has been in great demand this winter, and as a meeting place for many groups. It should also be noted that this church sold the land for the New Harbor Fire Station to the Town in 1945, for the bargain sum of $250 – but with the caveat that if gambling or drinking takes place in the Fire House, the land will revert to the church trustees immediately. (Bristol Fire and Rescue be warned!)
There are many good causes seeking help in Bristol, but please consider adding the Steeple Fund to your list for support. For information contact the Minister, Rev. Kelly Harvell (207-677-3055), who also ministers to the Round Pond and Damariscotta Methodist congregations.
Bristol roadside cleanup
This spring’s Elmer Tarr roadside cleanup day will be Saturday, April 27th this year. You don’t have to be a member of the Lions, the Masons or one of the Village Improvement Societies to join in – just come to the Bristol Consolidated School between 8 and 9.30 a.m. to get your instructions, trash bags, and join a pickup party.
Volunteers make Bristol a great place to live!