Big grant sought for BRAG fields

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen agreed July 24 to pursue a grant that would, if funded, provide up to $200,000 for improvements to the BRAG Sports Complex.

A decision must wait until next spring, but the town needs to apply now if it wants a shot at money from the federal Land & Water Conservation fund, said Anne Krieg, Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development. “It’s been unfunded for a couple of years,” but funding is now available, she said.

However, the grant requires a 50% match from the town, with awards capped at $200,000. If Bridgton won the full amount, voters would need to approve the match.

“It could be used for a playground, trails, a concession stand, bathrooms” or other amenities the complex will require to be a fully-functioning recreational facility for residents, said Krieg, who is working with Recreation Director Tom Tash on the grant project. The mission of the Land and Water Conservation fund is all about “having more children enjoy the outdoors.”

BRAG Board President Bill Macdonald said the board is willing to adjust its construction schedule to maximize use of the grant funds if they are awarded. No additional taxpayer dollars would need to be requested by BRAG if the grant is funded, he said.

Historical Walking Trail?

Bridgton Historical Society Trustee Lega Medcalf asked the board to consider providing up to $3,000 to help fund the society’s effort to establish a long-anticipated historical walking trail for tourists, focused on downtown historic homes and businesses. Streets to be included would be South High, North High to Farragut Park, Fowler/Church area, Depot and Main.

Owners of houses and commercial properties along those streets would be asked to agree to buy signs, made of wood or aluminum, that would be affixed to the buildings. The society is seeking the town’s help to fund brochures that would describe each historical building and provide a map for the walking trail. They also are seeking help to erect a weatherproof bulletin board, with a glass or Plexiglass enclosure, that would be placed at the starting point of the trail.

The society would do all the required research, compose the brochures and talk to property owners to obtain their consent.

Selectman Doug Taft said he’d rather wait to see what level of support there was for such a project before committing the town. He’d also like to see how many homes are involved, and whether the society might enlist the help from high school students in the project.

Softer lighting for downtown?

Community Development Committee Chairman Mike Tarentino told the board that a need for better Main Street lighting was among top concerns of Main Street commercial property owners. “They said the lighting in downtown in not bright enough and creates a ‘sleepy atmosphere,’” he said.

CDC members said the owners are unhappy that the existing decorative lamp post lighting is directed upwards, instead of downward and inward, so people can see the businesses better at night.

Other concerns raised by the property owners were: the need for better directional signs, especially for parking; a truck route to keep large trucks out of downtown; continued effort to win funding for a “Three Ring Binder” project that would supply high-speed Internet to the commercial district; and sewer improvements.

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said the town is already working on the Three Ring Binder project and sewer system improvements. The board acknowledged receipt of the CDC’s report.

Highland Lake Beach Talent Show?

Mody Botros of the Bridgton Rotary Club asked the board’s permission for the club to sponsor a “Beach Blitz” talent show organized by Lake Region High School’s Interact Club on Friday, Aug. 24, as a fundraiser for the Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. No equipment would be needed other than a PA system that could be hooked up to the electrical panel by the boat ramp, he said.

Selectman Doug Taft said allowing the use of the beach could be a “slippery slope,” since other groups, such as the Bridgton Community Band, have been denied its use in the past. “It was the noise factor” in the band’s case, he added.

Recreation Director Tom Tash said summer swim lessons would be over by that date.

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