Bridgton selectmen notes: Resident concerned about BH’s future

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

With Bridgton experiencing unprecedented growth, resident Ursula Flaherty is concerned about whether the local hospital will meet the needs of the community in wake of numerous physician departures and some reduction of services.

“Hospitals are facing complex issues,” Flaherty told selectmen during the public comment on non-agenda items, especially since the state will not expand the Medicaid program. “Access (to healthcare) is difficult now. My physician is now making appointments six months out. A number of people are experiencing it. After talking with some physicians, this is a serious issue…Churches and the hospital are pillars of the community.”

Noting how other small hospitals around the country have closed, Flaherty wonders what is happening at Bridgton Hospital and what does the future hold for the facility. She suggested that selectmen set up a meeting with BH president David Frum to get some answers.

“It’s not unreasonable to check in with the hospital about its future plans,” Selectman Carmen Loan said.

Selectman Bear Zaidman made a motion instructing the town manager to set up a meeting with Frum.

In other business from Tuesday’s Bridgton selectmen’s meeting:

Tax rate dips: Dennis Berube of John E. O’Donnell & Associates, the town’s assessing agent, likes when he can deliver good news that the local tax rate has dropped.

With Bridgton’s assessed property valuation jumping $14,447,598 to $974,168,446 and a slight increase in personal property value (about $6,000), Berube reported that the tax rate will be $14.80 per thousand of valuation, down from $15.30.

“I can’t always deliver good news,” he said. “I don’t create the trends, I evaluate them.”

One bump is enough? A temporary speed bump was installed prior to the busy summer season at Highland Lake Beach to create a safer environment there. For the most part, it has worked.

Most motorists slow for the two sets of “bumps,” but officials have seen others either try to avoid the bumps by “hugging their vehicle close to the fence” or simply travel through the parking lot. The town added orange-colored traffic barrels to the sides of the road to keep traffic in the travel lane, but one individual actually stopped, moved the barrels aside, and continued on.

If speed bumps are working well to slow down traffic near the beach, some business owners on Depot Street think the “bumps” could improve safety there, as well. Twenty-three people signed a petition requesting selectmen approve installing temporary speed bumps on Depot Street.

Are they needed?

The Bridgton Police Department conducted a study from May 22 to June 3 monitoring the speeds of traffic on Depot Street. Deputy Town Manager Georgiann Fleck reported that during that study period 7,921 vehicles traveled that roadway. The posted limit is 25 mph. The study showed the number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit as follows:

6 to 10 mph — 281

11 to 15 mph — 810

16 to 20 mph — 2,228

21 to 25 mph — 2,731

26 to 30 mph — 1,371

31 to 35 mph — 401

Many of the excessive speeds occurred between 2 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Selectman Carmen Lone, who is executive director of the Bridgton Community Center, feels she has a different perspective than others regarding traffic speed. Because BCC sits back from the roadway, Lone hasn’t seen a lot of traffic seriously exceeding the posted limit. Meanwhile, she knows that other businesses are closer to the roadway, and traffic may appear to be going faster than it actually is.

Jim Kidder, head of Public Works, said Highland and Depot are two completely different scenarios. Safety concerns for kids crossing to the beach drove the idea to place speed bumps there. When bumps are added, signage must follow, Kidder said. He noted that when Depot Street was redesigned, the idea was to keep that stretch of roadway free of signage clutter. If bumps were added, signs would be needed to warn motorists and cyclists.

Selectmen rejected the request 4-1 (Bob Murphy voted yes).

Great reviews on Birthday Bash: Bridgton’s 250th celebration received rave reviews, which was music to Events Committee member and Bridgton Historical Society assistant director Michael Davis’ ears.

Davis gave selectmen a general overview of Saturday’s happenings, which he estimated was taken in by 800 plus/minus people on Depot Street. Davis thanked all volunteers and others who assisted with the event, as well as those who provided valuable advice. He admitted there was a bit of a learning curve — in the way of timing and deadlines to meet — but felt in the end the public seemingly enjoyed the Bash.

Board Chairman Lee Eastman credited the group for positioning a “celebration” banner in Shorey Park, which he felt was more effective than the overhead banners (which he termed as “overrated”). Apparently, Art in the Park folks agreed, taking up the spot to advertise their upcoming event.

Davis noted that the deadline for placing items into the time capsule to be opened at the 300th celebration has been extended to two weeks, rather than the end of this week. The capsule held 46 hand-addressed letters, and half of those were handed out to folks during Saturday’s event.

Selectman Fred Packard was a letter recipient. The letter was from his parents, who took part in the 1968 celebration. He plans to open the letter when he gets together with his sister.

“It does bring back memories from a long time ago,” he said. “I do thank you!”

Davis has been busy as Historical Society postman, delivering all but 10 letters. He is hopeful that the 46-letter mark can be topped, as well as folks including some other artifacts from the current time. Those items can be dropped off at the Historical Society Museum, located on Gibbs Avenue, or the Town Office.

One question to be raised Saturday was how did a copy of a newspaper reporting on man’s first walk in the moon find its way into the Bridgton time capsule? That event occurred in 1969. Davis found out that organizers did not seal the capsule until 1969, and felt it important to include that monumental event.

Selectmen concerns: Selectman Zaidman told fellow board members to develop two questions each to be used during Community Development Director interviews, scheduled to begin soon. Questions will be forwarded to Town Manager Bob Peabody for review.

Zaidman also voiced concern regarding the town’s dispatching system. He said too many times calls to Public Safety at the town office go to voicemail. While he recognizes “things are busy,” Zaidman would like to take a closer look at the situation.

From the deputy manager’s report:

  • Roof replacement begins this week at Fire Station 4, located on South Bridgton Road/Route 107. Motorists are encouraged to use caution when in this area since large equipment will be entering and exiting.
  • Police Chief Richard Stillman recognized the efforts of his officers during the busy July 4th week, which saw the town host a road race attracting over 2,000 people, fireworks that filled the elementary school fields and parade.

“It is a long and difficult two days, but you all should be proud of the work you do and the impression you leave,” Chief Stillman told his officers.

  • The Bridgton Historical Society presented the Town of Bridgton with one of the special commissioned posters created for the 250th Birthday Bash to be permanently displayed at the municipal complex.
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