BAR HARBOR — The consultant who helped guide discussions on where a new electrical substation should be built is now on board to lead a visioning process for uses for the former ferry terminal property.
But some are concerned the process is too “top-down” to effectively engage residents.
The town must decide by the end of November whether to exercise an option to purchase the property from the Maine Department of Transportation. Many stakeholders expressed frustration with the large visioning meeting in July, so this more extensive process was proposed.
Councilors unanimously approved $53,025 from cruise ship funds to be used for the process proposed by Elizabeth Swain of Power Engineers. Swain will meet with a “lead committee,” including Anna Durand, Joe Minutolo, Ted Koffman, Ruth Eveland, Tom Crikelair, Scott Hammond, Kristy Losquadro and Heather Sorokin. They will head up, in pairs, four subcommittees to meet biweekly beginning in September to consider topics related to uses of the property.
Each committee will have 10 participating members – Bar Harbor residents nominated by the co-chairs and approved by the council, according to the proposal. All meetings will be open to the public. The process is expected to be complete by Oct. 30.
Councilors appointed the “leads” Tuesday after approving the project and budget. They were nominated by the town’s Appointments Committee, which met Monday. Some of the nominees had approached town officials with interest in serving after the process was first discussed earlier in the month, Councilor Matt Hochman said. Others were suggested by Durand, who first proposed a more extensive visioning process such as this, and by the chamber of commerce and other sources.
Town Manager Cornell Knight said he brought about 25 names to the Appointments Committee.
Several residents said they were concerned that the process of choosing the leads was not more open and public, but Knight followed the process spelled out at the last council meeting and in his Aug. 10 manager’s memo.
“We need to get started by Sept. 5, and the consultant wanted to meet with the lead committee,” he said. “We do plan to have public notices for other appointments” to the committees.
Carol Chappell, who was nominated as an alternate if any of the leads is unable to serve, said the appointment process did not “allow interested people to surface.”
She and others said another large community meeting at the beginning of the process would be helpful, to explain the process and recruit committee participants.
“I was taken aback by the idea that the lead committee would appoint members,” Durand said.
Councilor Stephen Coston said it was unfair to characterize the proposal as “top-down.”
“The idea here is to involve the whole community in public meetings,” he said. “We tried less organized community involvement at the previous visioning meeting, and people left feeling angry and more alienated. In an organized process, there has to be an organizer.”
Councilor Judie Noonan, who serves on the Appointments Committee, said the leads were nominated because they are open-minded and good listeners. “It was about who could move the process along in the best way,” she said.
Councilors urged anyone interested in serving on the committees to contact the town clerk’s office. Swain is set to present a more detailed plan at the Sept. 5 council meeting.