ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES Diners in a “parklet” on Cottage Street on Sunday, a local effort to promote physical distancing by allowing businesses to rent public parking spots adjacent to the business. The town’s purchase of the concrete “Jersey barriers” used in some of the parklets will be reimbursed by a state grant program.

State grants to pay for COVID-19 education, prevention projects

By Liz Graves and Sarah Hinckley 

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — “As many more visitors arrive from out of state, which we want them to do, we need to be ever more vigilant” in working to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, Governor Janet Mills said in a media briefing last Friday. 

Towns and cities “are in the best position to protect residents, employees and visitors,” she said in announcing a round of grants to municipalities and their cooperating agencies for public health and safety efforts. These grants will use up to $13 million in federal coronavirus relief funds from the CARES Act. 

Under the Keep Maine Healthy program, which will reimburse towns for expenses incurred between June 8 and Oct. 31, Bar Harbor was awarded $127,000, Southwest Harbor $79,115, Mount Desert $28,730 and Tremont $16,239. 

Each of the four MDI towns included some funds in its grant application to go towards a partnership with Healthy Acadia and the three local Chambers of Commerce. The joint project will take the form of island-wide communications, newspaper PSAs and organized efforts among the three chambers and the four municipalities, according to Bar Harbor’s grant application. The island network has already been established and 10,000 masks have been distributed for frontline workers. 

In Bar Harbor, the grant will allow for the town to add hours to an existing part-time position. Nina St. Germain, who works as a part-time engagement coordinator, is a designated resource officer under the proposal. She’ll continue providing every-other-day COVID-19 updates and coordinating community forums (six hours per week). Another 12 hours per week is listed for education and training for local businesses, and two hours per week for fielding complaints of violations. 

Public kiosks with hand sanitizer and masks for visitors and businesses, expected to be set up soon, are the largest single item in the town’s grant application at $45,500. The budget also includes cleaning, signs, concrete barriers for the “parklet” program, the tent rental for the Town Meeting and postage for a higher-than-usual number of absentee ballots. 

The town will contract with the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, a total of $5,800, to create and distribute signs and brochures, hold training events for businesses and create education materials for the town website and local social media. 

Southwest Harbor’s grant application includes $30,000 for physical distancing and public health supportto increase the frequency of cleaning public facilities, distribute masksinstall protective barriers at the town office and add touchless soap and hand dryers in public facilities. There are also funds for code enforcement staff time for public education, material distribution and fielding complaints. 

Another $20,000 for public education efforts include a digital sign for public safety information and signs throughout downtown requesting mask use while in the areas where social distancing is not practical. 

“The Town of Southwest Harbor will use the funds to promote public health, protect municipal staff and support local business,” Town Manager Justin VanDongen wrote in an email to the Islander. “We have installed protective screens for forward-facing employees, participated in public distribution of masks and will assist local business navigate the ever-changing regulations produced by the pandemic. Signs will be produced to streamline operations in the Town Office and promote CDC guidance in our public spaces.” 

Tremont Town Manager Chris Saunders said the funds in that town are slated to be used to cover cleaning supplies, personnel costs for cleaning, his participation on the Downeast COVID-19 Task Force, installation of a barrier between staff and the public at the town office, as well as the island-wide  public engagement campaign. 

“I applaud the partnership of our towns and cities in this effort,” Mills said. 



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