A screen shot of the Polco survey questions IMAGE COURTESY OF POLCO

Citizen survey site goes live



BAR HARBOR — A public survey about use of the former ferry terminal property is posted on Polco.us, a subscription service allowing towns and schools to collect feedback on town issues.

“Do you support the purchase of the Ferry Terminal property as part of a solution to reduce congestion of people, vans and buses from the downtown area?” the site asks. “How should development at the Ferry Terminal site be paid for?”

Users register through the Polco website using an email address. An account is “unverified” until the user provides an address and that address is cross-referenced with voter registration records.

“Polco has access to information that verifies voters because of the type of agency they are,” said Nina St. Germain, who is coordinating the project for the town. “It’s best to use your full name and physical address, and it will let you know if you’re verified or not.”

Users vote “yes” or “no” on questions and have an opportunity to leave comments. So far, most of the comments currently posted on Bar Harbor’s questions are anonymous.

Town Manager Cornell Knight told town councilors Tuesday that participation is exceeding expectations in the weeks since the first questions were posted. “We’ve had about 140 votes so far,” he said. “Polco was hoping for 50 by this point.”

In June, the council approved spending up to $8,700 for a year of the service, $4,800 of which would come from unused funds designated for a communication project approved earlier this year and headed by St. Germain and Ron Beard. That cost includes hiring St. Germain part-time to oversee “integration” of the service into town processes.

“We made a commitment to the people of Bar Harbor to improve civility and increase citizen engagement,” Knight said in a statement. “We know that many of our residents want to participate, but busy lives prevent them from attending lengthy meetings. This is an effort to meet them where they are.”

Citizens can become active by visiting polco.us/barharbor to create an account. A mobile app also is available. According to Polco’s privacy policy, they share only aggregated de-identified results. Participants’ detailed data and votes are never shared. This service is free to all constituents.

For information about Bar Harbor’s initiative, contact Knight at [email protected] or 288-4098. For more information about Polco, see the frequently asked questions page on polco.us.

St. Germain also has made presentations about Polco to the boards of selectmen in Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor and Tremont. Officials in those towns indicated they wanted to see how the service worked in Bar Harbor before making a commitment.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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