Town tells outsiders to stay away; manager cites “moral authority”

MOUNT DESERT— Town officials are telling people who aren’t already in Mount Desert that they should stay away to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If you insist on coming, “You are putting your lives at risk as well as the many elderly and chronically ill residents of our community by arriving now,” states a message that was posted on the town’s website and on social media Thursday.

“Do not make our efforts any more difficult than they already are.”

The Board of Selectmen, in a special meeting Wednesday, instructed Town Manager Durlin Lunt to draft and post a strongly worded statement as part of the town’s response to the pandemic. In addition to telling potential visitors to stay away, Lunt’s message states:

“If you own rental property, do not open your building until the [Maine] Civil State of Emergency has passed.

“If you operate a hotel, campground, lodging facility or short-term rental property, do not open until the Civil State of Emergency has passed.

“If you have recently arrived, you must quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. Do not leave your property.”

The selectmen said at their Wednesday meeting that they didn’t think they had the legal authority to actually prohibit such activities as renting out homes or operating bed-and-breakfast inns. Lunt confirmed Friday that the town does not have the power to enforce the “orders” that have been posted.

But he added, “The town is acting on its moral authority, which is far more powerful than any statutory authority. We’ve made it very clear what we expect people to do. Should they choose to do otherwise, then they are just going to have to live with the consequences of their actions.”

*Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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