Committee will review Bridgton Memorial School RFPs

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen agreed Tuesday to create a committee to review Requests for Proposals to redevelop the former Memorial School property. The action came as the town learned that the Bridgton Economic Development Corporation will only consider acting as a third party developer if no other entity steps forward.

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz read from a letter sent this week to the town from the BEDC, announcing its intention to take a "wait-and-see" approach. Under the current process, RFPs are due by interested third parties by mid-February in advance of an anticipated June Town Meeting vote on whether the town should take over ownership of the Depot Street property from the SAD 61 School District.

Under rules set for receiving up to $250,000 in Brownfields grant funding, the town must turn the Memorial School property over to a third party before it can be developed. The town has been working with the Greater Portland Council of Governments on a Master Plan for the property that, in its concept stage, envisions demolition of the vacant school building and construction of a "Town Common" complex of buildings that would include at least one larger building designed for community use.

The RFP reviewing committee will be comprised of a selectman, the town's executive assistant, town manager and a member at large of the board's choosing.

In other action, the board agreed to create a Memorandum of Understanding with SAD 61 to have a fire truck owned by Lake Region Vocational Center stored over the winter at the South Bridgton Fire Station. The engine is used by the center's Fire Science Program and is currently parked outside, and Instructor Rick Shepard does not want it subjected to the winter elements. Berkowitz said there are two bays available at the South Bridgton station, and that the engine will be parked at the end of one of those bays. The SAD 61 School Board must also approve the agreement, and the district will provide all the necessary insurance coverage, he added.

Selectmen also agreed for the second year in a row to have Bridgton become a member of the Maine Service Center Coalition. Berkowitz said the Coalition, which primarily offers legislative lobbying services, was instrumental last year in preventing drastic cuts proposed to local revenue sharing.

"That one issue was worth $190,000 to us," Berkowitz said, noting the amount Bridgton received from the state. The Coalition also keeps the town informed of any other legislation that may impact service center communities like Bridgton.

Berkowitz also noted he went to Augusta last week to testify against this year's pending cuts to the revenue sharing program. He said he was one of around 200 local municipal officials attending the hearing, and was able to read his testimony into the record.

Selectman Bernie King passed along a request from the owner of Portland Street Auto Body to have a bid process set up when repairs are needed of town vehicles involved in collisions. Currently the town's police cruisers are sent to Craig's Auto in Harrison after a crash.

Board member Bob McHatton noted that the choice of where to go for repairs may be necessitated by insurance requirements, but favored a bid process if it is possible.

The board also discussed having a host and hostess at the Salmon Point Campground to sign in guests and make sure the rules are being followed. The couple would be required to stay at the site assigned for hosting and would not have to pay to stay there. The board discussed additional compensation and tabled the issue until their next meeting.

In a related matter, the board voted 3–2 (Taft, McHatton) to contract with WJAB radio station 96.3, "The Big Jab," to promote the four vacant sites at the campground using $2,500 in marketing funding approved earlier. Campground Manager Gary Colello said he also investigated the benefits of contracting with WHOM radio, and concluded that even though WHOM had a wider listening audience, WJAB better met the target audience the town wanted to reach.


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