Terry, Willey elected in SWH; sidewalks, sewer plant get nod

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Voters elected Chad Terry to a second term on the Board of Selectmen Tuesday. He received 182 votes, the most of the five candidates running for the two open seats on the board.

Allen “Snap” Willey, a recently retired town employee, was elected for his first term with 111 votes. Arthur “Hess” Pettegrow came in a close third with 107 votes. Jose “Jojo” Feliciano, Jr. received 56 votes. And Jose Feliciano, Sr. received 21 votes.

Voters also approved a bond issue for a Main Street sidewalk project and agreed that the town will help fund an upcoming major renovation of the wastewater treatment plant.

Dishing up a community dinner at Pemetic Elementary School before Town Meeting Monday evening were, from left, Abbe Baker, Shannon Snurkowski, Ellen Nolan and Dencie McEnroe. ISLANDER PHOTO BY BLAKE CASS

Before Town Meeting got underway in the Pemetic Elementary School gym Monday evening, the Board of Selectmen presented George Jellison and Pauline Norwood with plaques and keys to the town.

Visibly moved, Town Clerk Marilyn Lowell told residents that after serving as an election clerk for the town for the past 33 years, Norwood had “decided to pass the torch.”

Jellison is stepping down from the select board after serving three terms.

“For nine years George has dedicated himself to the town,” said Terry, current chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “That’s a lot of late nights.”

Bond funding for a new sidewalk along Main Street was approved by a hand count vote of 73-23. After the vote was complete, resident Ken Brookes asked Joe Marshall, the moderator, if voters wishing to register abstentions on the question could also be counted. Marshall agreed, and the vote count was amended to 73-23-6.

The sidewalk project has been in the works for two years. In March 2017, the town had been awarded $498,500 in grant funds from the Maine Department of Transportation for sidewalk construction along the 1,500-foot section of Main Street. At the time, the project had an estimated cost of $842,000, which would have meant a $343,500 matching commitment from the town. Now, though, the estimated cost for the project has risen to about $1.25 million, and may require up to $850,000 in town funds.

When asked what would happen if construction costs exceed the amount budgeted for the project, Town Manager Justin VanDongen said the town had two options. Officials could either scale back the project to Apple Lane, or they could call a special town meeting to ask for additional funds.

The sidewalk will “help immensely [with drainage], especially around Birch Street,” he said.

Residents were curious to know why the project has been delayed for years and why the estimated cost has soared. According to VanDongen, the state funding was delayed for at least a year. Terry said that the cost of the project is nearly double because “the state’s engineers changed the drainage requirements.”

Residents who were most vocal in this discussion identified themselves as bicyclists.

Brookes noted that Burlington, Vt., encourages biking.

“They are bicycle-friendly,” he said. “We are bicycle-unfriendly.”

Resident Betsy Holtzmann said she was once hit by a car as she was bicycling on Main Street.

“There’s no bicycle lane because the state would require one on both sides of the street,” said Scott Alley, the town’s road foreman.

A warrant article authorizing the select board to enter into an agreement with the Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District to pay debt service on a rebuild of the wastewater treatment plan was overwhelmingly approved.

According to Steve Kenney, manager of the district, the current facility has not had a major upgrade since it was built in 1974. “It’s not a question of how to upgrade, but how we will pay for it,” he told residents.

“Our biggest problem is solids,” Kenney explained. “When solids settle, the plant has no capacity for a storm surge because the tanks are already full and want to push the solids out. A third of our budget is dedicated to solids.”

“The town has neglected infrastructure for many years,” one resident said. “This is not the fault of the Water and Sewer District.”

“What we’re really talking about is if we will honor what the town has already voted on,” another resident said, referring to a 2010 vote before the district was created in which the town agreed to fund the district’s long-term capital projects.

The warrant article for $873,317 in special education funding for Pemetic Elementary School drew some debate.

Resident Corey Pettegrow said he thought that number included a “fluff factor.”

Resident Nancy Weingarten asked for the number and percent of special education students.

Superintendent Marc Gousse said that roughly 30 percent of the 143 students who attend Pemetic benefit from special education funding, which includes students with 504 plans.

“504 educational plans are for students who need accommodations but not one-on-one support,” he said.

Concerned with the amount allocated for special education, Weingarten asked for a breakdown of how many students have 504 plans. The vote was tabled so that Gousse could gather the information and provide a specific breakdown.

When Gousse returned to the podium, he told residents that approximately 29 students fall under the category of special needs and 14 students have 504 plans.

Blake Cass

Blake Cass

Blake Cass

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