David Lind, who retired after decades of service in the Air Force and with NATO, warns against the dangers of terrorism during discussion of a sanctuary community resolution at Bar Harbor's annual town meeting Tuesday. ISLANDER PHOTO BY EARL BRECHLIN

Parking meter plan expires, sanctuary resolution passes



BAR HARBOR — Some residents here found out the hard way that “it ain’t over till it’s over,” at open town meeting at the Conners Emerson School Tuesday night.

A bond question for parking meters and kiosks was defeated by a razor-thin margin of 141-137 on a written ballot, following failed attempts to determine a clear winner via a voice vote and a hand count on the question.

A substantial group of voters left after the show-of-hands vote on the $400,000 parking meter bond but before results were tabulated. As the votes were being tallied, several voters who had been seated in the back of the room approached election officials to say they did not think ballot clerks had counted them. Moderator Bill Ferm decided to clear up any confusion by calling for a second vote, via written ballot.

“I want people to feel comfortable that their votes were counted,” Ferm said in calling for the redo. Officials did not release the outcome of the vote determined to be invalid. On Wednesday, Town Clerk Pat Gray said that the number of votes cast in the hand count was not recorded. A total of 278 residents voted in the second round.

During debate, proponents of the parking meter bond cited the town’s long history with parking issues, saying the detailed plan put forward by the town Parking Solutions Task Force (PTSF) is an opportunity to generate revenue and encourage visitors to leave their cars at hotels and walk or bus into town.

The proposed smart meters would make parking enforcement less expensive and more effective, PTSF member Erin Early Ward said. “Now we still have old-fashioned paper tickets with carbon copies the police have to keep track of. This would switch enforcement to a much more modern system.”

Putting a price on parking in town lots and downtown streets would not affect the parking supply, but it would affect demand, Warrant Committee member James Kitler said. “It’s an economic good. Right now, the price is rationing, with the time limit.”

“I don’t understand why we are so hesitant to ask these visitors to help us pay for our infrastructure,” Chamber of Commerce director Martha Searchfield.

Opponents said they were concerned that the parking plan was still leading up to an unpopular plan for a parking garage in the “Backyard” parking lot behind the West Street Hotel. Others said they would support paid parking in town lots but not on the streets.

“I’m concerned that the bylaws of the PTSF still include a parking garage,” resident Dessa Dancy said. “I feel revenue generated should go into the general fund and not be sequestered for a garage.”

Resident Bo Greene said she would rather accept minimal tax increases than adopt a parking meter policy that would discourage her from doing errands in town.

Sanctuary community

Voters approved the “sanctuary community” resolution by a vote of 351-62. It contains the same language as one passed by Mount Desert last month, expressing a desire not to require local police to enforce federal immigration law.

Last month’s decision was hailed as making Mount Desert the first such community in the state, but the resolutions are not ordinances with the force of law.

“As a town, we already do things to respect difference,” said resident Brett Ciccotelli, who chaired the citizen initiative committee to bring the resolution to voters. “But not everybody knows that. We’re not looking to change the work that our police already do.”

The intent of the resolution, its supporters said, is to help residents, summer workers and visitors feel comfortable going to the police.

“If a victim of domestic violence needs to come to the police, they may think twice if they think the first question will be ‘Where are you from?’ or ‘Where are your papers?’” resident Art Greif said.

“I have no problem with anybody’s color or creed,” resident Bob Collier said, “but this is asking the police department to take a blind eye to something.”

Police Chief Jim Willis said most of his officers can’t enforce federal immigration law. Only Sgt. Chris Wharff is sworn in to do any of that work, and that is in connection with a task force on human trafficking, he said. It’s not the department’s practice to ask “personal identity questions” unless the information is relevant to an investigation.

“I believe strongly in the values of community policing,” Willis said. “We’re an extension of you. We have some parameters that we need to work in, but we’re going to do our best to meet everybody where we need to.”

Budget

A total budget of $14.7 million was approved, including increased funding for the YMCA and other cooperating agencies.

The Warrant Committee and Town Council brought forward two slightly different versions of the budget, differing on the parking meter bond and funding for the YMCA and other cooperating agencies.

Once the parking meter question failed, only the latter differences remained.

Representatives of the YMCA came to the council this year to ask the town to more than double its contribution to the organization from $49,544 to $100,000, citing an unsustainable financial situation.

The Town Council recommended half of the increase, to $75,000. The Warrant Committee recommended granting the full request. Voters sided with the Warrant Committee. They also approved a 5 percent increase to each of the town’s other cooperating agencies, a total increase of $1,981. A motion from the floor to add a $3,500 contribution to the Eastern Area Agency on Aging also was approved.

The Town Band will perform three additional concerts this year in late August, following Jeff Dobbs’ motion from the floor to add $2,400 to the band’s current $9,028 budget to pay musicians and expenses.

Zoning amendments and election of town officers will be voted on by written ballot in the Municipal Building on Tuesday, June 13, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (see related story).

 

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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