SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Voters here on Nov. 4 will decide whether to prohibit houseboats from mooring in the town’s coastal waters, allow fishing from town piers and authorize a donation of $1,000 from the town’s thrift shop at the transfer station to the Westside Food Pantry.
At a public hearing on the warrant articles earlier this month, the food pantry donation was the only issue that drew questions and concerns.
The town created a Solid Waste Prevention Committee several years ago to operate a thrift shop at the transfer station to encourage the reuse of items that the original owners no longer wanted. The sale of such items has exceeded the cost of operating the swap shop, and there is now about $4,000 in the committee’s reserve account.
“When the swap shop was created, they never imagined that it was going to amount to this much money,” Tabbetha Newenham, the town’s finance director, said at the public hearing. “They figured people would just be trading things, that they might make a couple of hundred dollars. They never thought they would have four grand.”
Waste Prevention Committee members decided this summer that they would like to donate $1,000 to the Westside Food Pantry. However, there is no provision for the committee to make such a donation. The board of selectmen does not have the authority to approve it. So, last month the board agreed to ask voters if they wanted to approve the donation.
At the public hearing, town resident Sandy Johnson expressed concern about approving a donation from a town account outside of the normal budgeting process.
“There are many worthwhile organizations that could use this money, and if we just give it to one organization based on really no thought process, I just worry about what that opens up,” Johnson said. “We have a process for making these kinds of donations with tax dollars. And I think that if you do it outside that process, you’re opening yourselves up to a little bit of a mess.”
Selectman George Jellison pointed out that the thrift shop revenues are not tax dollars.
Newenham said she feels that because the members of the Waste Prevention Committee are volunteers and have put so much time and energy into operating the thrift shop, they should have some say in how the money is used.
“They are hoping that the swap shop will continue to do well and they can make an annual charitable donation,” she said. “Because, otherwise, the money just sits there and grows and grows. But ultimately, it’s up to the voters.”
Several board members said that at a future town meeting, they probably should ask voters to authorize the selectmen to approve Solid Waste Prevention Committee donations as part of the regular budgeting process.
Houseboats and fishing
The probation of houseboats in the town’s coastal waters was proposed by Harbormaster Adam Thurston. He said other Maine towns have enacted such bans to keep derelict vessels from taking up residence.
If voters approve the warrant article, houseboats will be allowed only at marinas that provide a permanent float or slip that connects directly to land, connection to the public water and sewer systems and a year-round supply of electricity.
Another article on the Nov. 4 warrant would lift the current ban on fishing from any town dock between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Voters also will be asked to authorize the selectmen to negotiate an easement agreement with Gordon White Associates for the parking area behind the commercial building on Village Green Way. The town needs the easement to continue clearing snow from the area without incurring liability for any damages.