May 29,2020 (Week 4) Newsletter (COVID-19)

Bristol Notes - May 29, 2020 (Week 4)

For the Bristol Selectmen:

Chris Hall, Town Administrator


 

PROPERTY TAX

A sign that at least some things are normal: you should see this year’s tax bills in your mailbox sometime around the second week of June. (No jokes about death and taxes, please.)

On May 13th the Board of Selectmen voted to raise the mill rate, from 6.75 mills to 7.25 mills, due to the increase in the school budget which was passed in 2019. Half of that increase was passed along in the 2019 tax bill, and the other half now, because the school budget is on a July to June academic year rather than the January to December fiscal year of the Town. This means that for every $100,000 of assessed value, there will be a $50 increase in property taxes. The Selectmen very much regret the need for an increase, and have done everything possible to avoid increases in spending in 2020, but the 2019 hit to the school budget (due to increased student numbers and special education costs) was too big to avoid a tax increase. The school accounts for roughly 70% of all property tax spending.

Bristol still has the lowest tax rate of any Maine town over 2,000 people.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE:

As of Thursday, May 28, Lincoln County reported 20 cases of Covid-19, an increase of two over the last week, with two cases in hospital. 13 people have recovered. One Portland resident now in hospital there was doing construction work in Bristol this month, so the danger of the virus circulating here is real. Alfred Ajami’s graphs are on the next page 4. He notes that, despite Lincoln County having avoided the worst effects so far, “it looks like Maine, and especially Cumberland County, are not yet trending in a favorable direction.”

A reminder: travelers from outside Maine are asked to please respect the 14-day stay-at-home quarantine period. The same 14-day period applies when you travel (or return) to other New England states.  No date has been set for the end of the self-quarantine rule. It is likely that it will be lifted in coordination with other New England states.

Ajami Graph

NEWS FROM AROUND TOWN

Bristol Town Office

A reminder: as reported last week, the Town Office will reopen to the public on Monday, June 1st. Hours will be Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4 pm. People entering the building will be asked to wear a face mask, and there will be a limit of not more than four people doing business (or waiting) in the office at a time. To avoid possible waiting in line outside, please see of you can do your business online by clicking here. To meet with Code Enforcement Officer Joe Rose, or to apply for a marriage license (the paperwork for which can take some time), please call for an appointment: 207-563-5270.

Bristol Consolidated School

There are just two more weeks to go in the school year. So winds down what must be the strangest semester in the history of Bristol Consolidated School. Kudos to the Principal, teachers, staff and the parents who have worked to make distance learning a success at little notice. Around 80% of students have been attending online sessions regularly, though the proportion of kids who do not have access to adequate internet service is a big concern.

BCS Principal Jennifer Ribeiro reported in a letter to parents last week: “While school as we know it has clearly been turned upside down, it is amazing to see all the different ways we have been providing instruction and skills practice remotely. …. Although it’s difficult to replicate an in-person education, students are maintaining strong connections with staff and each other.”

There will be online events for the graduating 8th grade class and for the school-wide Devil Pride Week (June 8-12). There will also be one in-person event, when the winners of the bikes and gift cards donated by the Bristol Masons to students who participated in the Bikes for Books reading incentive program will receive their prizes in the parking lot.

Brief briefings:

Harbor Room - The Harbor Room restaurant has been sold, and will reopen as soon as a liquor license is granted to the new owners. I won’t forecast an opening date – but a Notice of Public Hearing for the liquor license will be published in next week’s Lincoln County News, to be held by the Board of Selectmen on June 17th.

CHIP – the Community Housing Improvement Program – reports that their drop-off and pick-up shed at The Carpenter’s Boatshop on Old County Road, is closed for the time being due to the coronavirus. Usually, anyone is free to bring clean furniture and working (under 10 years old) appliances to the shed; and anyone can pick up an item that they need. www.chipinc.org

The Hardy Boat – which returned to New Harbor from winter storage on Thursday – will resume sailing effective Saturday June 20, most likely with one Monhegan and two Puffin Watch cruises a day at first. No more than 49 tickets will be sold for each cruise.

Bristol Mills Village Improvement Society is holding its delayed spring cleanup on Saturday, May 30. Bring gloves, garden tools, and bug spray: 9 am outside the Town Office.

A Day in the Life of Bristol Fire & Rescue

Chief Paul Leeman writes: “Friday, May 21st, was something of a record for Bristol Fire and Rescue with four call-outs in the space of 4 hours. A truck with a loader in tow snagged lines pulling down 4 utility poles starting a brush fire. The brush fire could not be extinguished until CMP Co. arrived to cut the power to the downed lines. A vehicle fire which was next to a garage and a 250 gallon LP tank had started to spread to the garage when firefighters were quickly able to knock the fire down. During this call First Responders were called out to a medical emergency with our Rescue 1 responding. As members were repacking 2400’ of 4” hose we were toned out to a two vehicle motor vehicle head-on accident with minor injuries .Each call was responded to rapidly and professionally by BF&R’s volunteers. Tanker support was given per automatic aid agreements by Bremen, Damariscotta, and Newcastle fire departments to the vehicle/structure fire. Each incident is always accompanied by its required record-keeping write-up, and by the extra precautions that must now be taken about physical contact because of coronavirus.”

Bristol is more fortunate than some of our neighboring towns in having a strong core of trained men and women volunteers. As our population ages, though, we always need and welcome more help. It is hoped that in-person training can resume soon if the virus stays in check. If you are new to Bristol and would like to help; if you are physically fit and would like to earn a few dollars when called out to serve your neighbors; or if you would enjoy the camaraderie and want to belong to a team that holds the respect of the community, please contact Chief Paul Leeman at [email protected] to discuss how you can get involved.

Pemaquid Mill Update

News from the Old Bristol Historical Society (OBHS): “On Thursday, May 21, at 4 pm, the Co-Presidents of the Old Bristol Historical Society, Russ Lane and Bob Ives signed a Quitclaim Deed with Covenant and Memorandum of Understanding thus transferring ownership of the Pemaquid Falls Mill, the Bristol History Center (aka the former Poole Brothers retail building), and the roughly one acre of land along the Pemaquid River from the Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust (CRCT) to the Old Bristol Historical Society.

“What began in late 2017, when Hammond Lumber offered the property for sale, resulted in over 400 donors coming together in a collaborative effort on behalf of OBHS and CRCT to contribute over $430,000 dollars for the purchase of the property. CRCT facilitated the funding and arranged for the eventual purchase in 2018.  For over a year CRCT and OBHS held discussions about our mutual ownership of the property which eventually resulted in CRCT deciding to hold a conservation memorandum of understanding on the land, and OBHS owning the entire property. OBHS was thrilled with this arrangement.

 “Already we have begun efforts in rebuilding the Mill, refurbishing the new Bristol History Center and proceeding to create an environment for nature trails, fish viewing, bird watching, and mutual sharing in this beautiful place in our town of Bristol. We offer our profound thanks to each and every one of you who contributed your time, funds, and dedication to making this dream a splendid reality.

If you are not a member, please consider joining: www.oldbristolhistoricalsociety.org/support

When will Town Meeting Resume?

Bristol’s annual Town Meeting was scheduled, fortuitously, for the week before Maine’s schools were closed and the coronavirus stay-at-home order went into effect. The small and socially-distancing crowd of thirty or so people quickly passed those Warrant Articles which had been unanimously supported by the Budget Committee – including the principal budget lines appropriating property taxes, thus allowing the Town to set its mill rate and commit taxes. The Meeting then recessed to June 16th, by when it was hoped that the virus would have passed enough to allow more townspeople to meet and debate the remaining articles.

It appears that the limit on gatherings to no more than 50 people will now remain in place in June and most likely beyond. The Selectmen have therefore agreed that on June 16th they will propose a further recess until Tuesday, August 4th, 7 pm at the Bristol Consolidated School.

 

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!