BAR HARBOR — Studying the potential of sharing municipal services with other Mount Desert Island area towns will be one of the top priorities for town councilors here over the next five years, according to the goals adopted by the seven-member group during their annual goal-setting session this fall.
Councilors also plan to review the town’s process for siting and permitting public utilities, determine the need for a commercial property revaluation and continue budgeting with an eye on keeping property tax hikes to a minimum.
With several major infrastructure projects on the horizon locally, including the state-led rebuild of a portion of Route 3 and the likely acquisition of the international ferry terminal property on Eden Street by the Maine Port Authority, councilors have stuck to a no-nonsense set of goals that allows for a focus on the matters at hand, council chairman Paul Paradis said.
“We’re trying to get the basic stuff done, do what we’re supposed to be doing, which is being good stewards and making sure the important stuff gets done,” Paradis said.
With their focus on municipal collaboration, town councilors are mirroring the larger League of Towns group, where collaboration also was embraced as something worth exploring this year. The council’s goals include investigating collaboration in several areas, including public safety, human resources and the looming change to municipal trash contracts in 2018.
The league also has prioritized looking into these areas, making the Penobscot Energy Recovery Center (PERC) trash-to-electricity plant contract their number one priority this year.
“On and off for the last five years, we’ve been talking about human resources in all the towns,” Paradis said.
Bar Harbor already shares a police chief with Mount Desert in an arrangement that recently was extended for a year and could become permanent. A shared administrative position also is under consideration.
The goal of reviewing the siting and permitting process for public utility installations and making recommendations for improvement grew out of the public discord that has arisen in response to Emera Maine power company’s plans to build an electrical substation on a formerly wooded site in a residential neighborhood, Paradis said.
“We’re not expressing an opinion of any sort, but we’re going to look at it and maybe find some areas that do need to be tweaked,” Paradis said.
Many of the goals carry over from the current year, including work on a redesign of the solid waste transfer center, the feasibility of building a sidewalk from Town Hill Playground to Knox Road, and investigation of options for a parking garage downtown.
New to this year’s goals is a plan to develop a land use ordinance amendment to make existing shorefront rental cottages conform to local codes and to determine the cost of improving broadband service within downtown and providing it to areas currently not served. The League of Towns also is looking into options for greater broadband coverage within the region.
Establishing the relative need for a revaluation of commercial property values is included in council goals as a response to comments heard from citizens, Paradis said.
“Over the years … there are some that feel that residents are paying the freight for the businesses. The only way to prove or disprove that is to have the assessor look at it,” Paradis said.