Another camel



A request for $30,000 in taxpayer money to help fund the creation of a paid staff position for the Hub of Bar Harbor was discussed by the Bar Harbor Town Council last week. The request was withdrawn during that meeting as supporters sensed a lack of council consensus on the idea. It is far from dead and buried however.

As stated on its website, “The Hub of Bar Harbor is a citizen-led organization interested in the betterment of downtown Bar Harbor as an economic engine and as a center of community pride.” One focus of the group is to maintain the economic vitality of the downtown; another may be the improvement of streetscapes and building facades.

Among its most notable achievements have been the distinctive way-finding signs, which were funded primarily by a portion of cruise ship passenger fees.

The Hub’s board is a Who’s Who of local business owners and civic leaders. Design charettes held this past spring identified numerous areas that could be addressed to improve the local quality of life and enhance the visitor experience.

In approaching the town for tax funds to hire staff, rent an office and expand its footprint, the Hub hopes to take a major step forward in furthering its agenda. A question for elected officials and residents, however, is who should bear the cost of creating yet another cooperating agency obligation. Also, what potentially redundant resources already exist, such as in the town’s planning department or the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, that could be brought to bear to accomplish the same thing?

Over the past two years, the Hub has received a total of $3,000 in taxpayer support. An additional $30,000 a year is far below what actually would be needed to hire a professional staff and open an office. The Hub would be responsible for soliciting grants and donations for an additional $60,000.

With no question over the earnestness of the organization or doubt about its positive contributions, the question then becomes one of who should pay to expand its role.

Property owners outside the core area, in, say, Otter Creek and Town Hill, undoubtedly will agree that taxing them for such services is unfair and cannot be justified.

If there is sufficient need or demand among downtown commercial property owners for the Hub’s services, perhaps the council should consider establishing a special tax district to fund such services.

In a letter to the council, Hub supporters promise that the request for $30,000 is not a “camel’s nose proposition” and that they would not expect to increase it beyond that amount in coming years. But a camel’s nose under the tent may be the perfect analogy. Whether or not residential taxpayers are willing to feed yet another camel remains to be seen.

 

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