Citizen petitions aired at public hearings

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Be it a money pit or a town treasure, the Town Hall perennially evokes strong emotions in Bridgton, and this year the emotions are running very high indeed.

Last week’s official public hearing on the issue proved a case in point, as Bridgton Selectmen sparred with Dave Crowell over whether the stabilization project should go forward as planned.

Crowell and others, who signed a citizen petition authorizing Question 2 on the June 9 referendum, want to know all the costs to repair the historic North High Street building before spending any money.

Selectmen say voters have already clearly spoken in favor of the planned $400,000 Phase I repairs. Bids are due May 28, with a contract signing on June 2, but a “no” vote on June 9 will leave it dead in the water, at least until another vote is taken to okay the total cost of repairs.

Crowell said the board’s plan for “stabilizing the building sounds like it’s just to keep it from falling into the ground.”

Not so, said Selectman Paul Hoyt, who clarified that the $400,000 is for the most pressing and basic repairs, mostly related to water intrusion that has damaged the hall. Another $300,000 figure given by engineers is for alternate spending, said Hoyt, such as granite steps and a new roof.

“So, we do know” what the costs are, for both the work approved by voters at last year’s Town Meeting, and a future wish list of exterior work, said Holt. It’s inside the building where the costs aren’t yet known, he said, but the board hasn’t yet asked the voters if they want to put money into that.

Selectman Bob McHatton added that, “As far as the final number, we’re working on it — and that total would be spread out over 10 years or so.”

Their words didn’t convince Crowell, who said he’s “shocked” that selectmen aren’t, at the same time, seeking to know what it would cost to replace the building with a structure that would better serve the needs of recreational programs in town.

Question 3, granting grandfather status to all residents and businesses on the town’s downtown sewer system from any changes in their current allocations caused by future amendments to the sewer ordinance, drew almost as much debate as the third citizen petition referendum to fund the Lake Region Bus Service. Glen “Bear” Zaidman, a member of the Wastewater Committee, tried to explain how a “yes” vote to Question 3 would cripple future development of the downtown.

Town Manager Bob Peabody summed up the selectmen’s stance most succinctly, saying Question 3 “doesn’t allow us to manage the system. Everything stays status quo.”

Amendments to the sewer ordinance are needed to reflect today’s needs of the sewer system and leachfields that, in terms of allocation, are essentially maxed out, Zaidman said. Such changes, he said, “won’t take anything away from an existing business” but would allow the town to better manage the system.

He added that the Wastewater Committee, which he has chaired, has been working diligently on the changes and planning for future development of an expanded system for a long time.

Discussion also took place on several ordinance amendments drawn up by the Planning Board, and more on this issue will be in next week’s paper.

 

Please follow and like us: