Internet, trash, parking plan aired at Town Hill meeting

BAR HARBOR — Dozens of residents packed the Town Hill Community Hall Tuesday for a special neighborhood meeting with the Town Council.

Expanded broadband service, solid waste disposal and the town’s downtown parking plan were the discussion topics requested ahead of time for an open conversation with councilors and town officials at the beginning of the meeting.

“It’s really a pleasure to have this open give-and-take,” resident Dessa Dancy said.

Two different versions of a proposed town budget will come before voters at town meeting next month, Town Manager Cornell Knight said. The Town Council version includes $50,000 in a capital improvement program account towards a $100,000 engineering study of a possible future town-owned fiber optic network to connect town buildings and facilities. The budget recommended by the Warrant Committee does not include those funds.

“The town currently has fiber to connect all its buildings and facilities,” Knight said, “provided by Time Warner at no cost through the cable franchise agreement.”

While that agreement has expired, council Chair Paul Paradis said the company continues to abide by its terms until a new agreement is agreed on.

A Communications Technology Task Force (CTTF) appointed by the council looked into the town building its own network to connect municipal buildings. The engineering study would be required to determine a good cost estimate for the project and put the work out to bid should the town decide to do so.

“Why should we raise the tax rate for something we don’t know is going to happen?” asked Warrant Committee member Jake Jagel.

Several residents said they would like to see rate quotes in writing from internet providers like Time Warner and FairPoint, and maybe others, for a “service-level agreement” for high-speed internet through their networks.

Knight said if the proposed funds are approved, it could show the companies “that the town is serious about moving ahead” and encourage them to provide those quotes.

Councilor David Bowden agreed. “Because we’re forcing the issue, we’d better start having some money,” he said.

CTTF Chair Matt Hochman said the task force is still talking with those companies and will report back. “All we’re doing is trying to gather all the data and make recommendations,” he said.

The council voted last month not to pursue a proposed six-month trial of a “pay as you throw” (PAYT) system for residential and commercial garbage. Residents who had been involved in the debate asked what the next steps would be.

Councilor Gary Friedmann requested the topic be put on the agenda for the May 17 council meeting.

Chamber of Commerce Director Martha Searchfield said the Chamber does not plan to pursue education activities about the particular PAYT proposal rejected last month, but does plan to hold a Lunch and Learn event about ways to improve commercial recycling rates. A date is not yet set.

“It’s important to get the different groups working on this together,” she said.

The Backyard Parking Committee is set to reconvene this summer and fall, Knight said, to recommend next steps on proposals for parking meters and/or a future parking garage behind the West Street Hotel.

Final reports from the consultants who worked on the project, including detailed results of a community survey, are available on the town’s website, he said.

Other concerns specific to Town Hill were briefly raised, including the desire for a sidewalk across Route 102 and the expansion of Arrowhead Road.

Resident Diana Vreeland asked whether complaints of code violations to the town’s Code Enforcement Officer could be kept confidential.

“Emails to a public official are public records,” Councilor Peter St. Germain said.

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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