Internet, roads, lights on Mount Desert ballot

MOUNT DESERT — Voters at the May 2 town meeting will be asked to authorize the town to issue bonds totaling nearly $1.2 million for projects including reconstruction of a section of Route 198, extension of high-speed internet service to the Pretty Marsh area, installation of LED street lights and creation of a streetscape plan for downtown Northeast Harbor.

Route 198 rebuild

Town officials want to borrow up to $500,000 to pay half the cost of rebuilding about 1.1 miles of Route 198 between Parkman Mountain and Sargeant Drive. The Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) has agreed to pay the other half through its Municipal Project Initiative.

Public Works Director Tony Smith and DOT engineers have determined that the entire 2.2-mile section of the road between Parkman Mountain and Eagle Lake Road needs to be rebuilt. Smith has described it as being “a very poor and ever-deteriorating stretch.”

But the DOT can only fund up to $500,000 per project per year through the Municipal Project Initiative. So, if the town wishes to complete the northern half of the needed road improvement, it will have to wait until next year to apply for the funds and go back to voters for authorization to borrow another half-million dollars.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.99 million.

Smith told the Board of Selectmen that if voters approve the town’s share of funding, the first phase of the road reconstruction likely would start in September.

Internet for Pretty Marsh

Residents of much of the Pretty Marsh area do not have access to high-speed internet service. The cost of extending such service to the 325 potential users in the area could be as high as $700,000.

Voters will be asked to authorize the town to issue bonds, up to $350,000, to split the cost with internet service provider Charter Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable.

But the cost to the town actually could be considerably less, according to Jeff Burnham, a member of the town’s Broadband Committee.

“There are three things that might lower the cost,” he told the Board of Selectmen. “The first is that, once the engineering study is done, Spectrum might find that it’s going to cost less. Second, there’s a possibility of negotiating [the price] with Spectrum once they’ve done the engineering. Third, we intend to apply for a ConnectMe grant.”

ConnectME is a state agency set up to “facilitate the universal availability of broadband to all Maine households and businesses.”

The town meeting warrant article that the selectmen approved states that the Pretty Marsh project would provide “high speed broadband internet service, including cable television and telephone service … by means of 23 miles of combined fiber optic and coaxial cable.”

The cable would provide the opportunity for internet access to residents of 31 public and private roads in the Pretty Marsh area, including Bartlett Landing Road, Indian Point Road, Oak Hill Road, Parker Farm Road, Pretty Marsh Road and Whitney Farm Road.

“The completion of this project should give access to everybody we’ve been able to identify who has no land-based access at all,” Burnham said.

“We think summer people will probably be almost as likely as [year-round] residents to want the service because, as one explained to me, it’s for security purposes. They can have video cameras and other things that communicate via the internet, and they can actually look at their properties when they are away.”

LED street lights

At last year’s town meeting, voters authorized the town to issue a bond of up to $150,000 for “technical and construction services” associated with converting all of the town’s street lights to light emitting diode (LED) technology.

Voters now will be asked to authorize borrowing up to $32,500 more for the project.

The town’s Sustainability Committee and Smith, the public works director, have developed a request for proposals (RFP) from companies “for the design of town-wide street light enhancements.”

“These enhancements entail removing or eliminating approximately 294 existing Emera Maine-owned mercury vapor and high pressure sodium street lights … and installing municipally owned LED street lights,” the RFP states.

LED lights are much more energy efficient and dark-sky compliant.

Streetscape plan

Voters will be asked to authorize the town to issue bonds of up to $274,000 for “architectural and engineering planning and design services” for a Main Street improvement project in Northeast Harbor.

The project would be based on a portion of the Village Center Plan produced last year by Richardson & Associates, a landscape architecture firm in Saco that the town hired to provide “concrete recommendations for improving the village’s appearance, functionality and vitality.”

The part of the plan for which the design money is being sought this year would focus on Main Street. The preliminary design plan calls for widening the sidewalk on the west side of the street, building a narrower sidewalk along the east side, burying utility lines and planting trees. It also proposes squaring off the intersection of Main Street and Summit Road and removing the island in the middle of the intersection of Main Street and Neighborhood Road.

Otter Creek Landing

Voters at the 2015 town meeting authorized spending up to $45,000 for reconstruction of the boat landing off Grover Avenue in Otter Creek. The town subsequently received a $45,000 grant for the project from the state.

At this year’s town meeting, voters will be asked to authorize the town to issue a bond up to $33,500 to complete the work, primarily the construction of a new bulkhead.


Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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