Downtown signs take center stage

THIS WAY, PLEASE — The same style and lettering is used by the town of Matthews, N.C., for all the signage in its downtown district directing visitors to public, educational and cultural facilities. The same should be done in Bridgton, members of the Community Development Committee believe.

THIS WAY, PLEASE — The same style and lettering is used by the town of Matthews, N.C., for all the signage in its downtown district directing visitors to public, educational and cultural facilities. The same should be done in Bridgton, members of the Community Development Committee believe.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Selectmen focused their attention Tuesday on several projects designed to promote Bridgton as a tourist destination. The first would create a cohesive sign design, easily recognizable to visitors, directing them to town services and cultural attractions, and the second would create a historic walking trail introducing visitors to some of the downtown’s historic homes and businesses.

Both projects have been talked about for years.

On other downtown matters, the board approved outdoor seating for Beth’s Café when it relocates this summer to the Cool Moose building, and agreed to allow the Bridgton Alliance Church to use Shorey Park this summer for a daylong celebration of local talent.

In town-wide matters, the board approved a 10-cent per square foot increase in building permit fees to bring Bridgton in line with what surrounding towns are charging, and agreed to have Fire Chief Glen Garland appoint a person within the department to fill a new part-time Fire Inspector position. They also clarified the Feb. 12 vote banning photos and comments from the Bridgton Police Department’s Facebook page, discussed holding an annual volunteer appreciation event and tabled action on a funding request to fight erosion problems at Moose Pond.

‘Wayfinding’ signage

Bridgton’s current “hodge-podge” of signs directing visitors to town services and cultural attractions needs to be replaced by a cohesive sign design, members of the Community Development Committee believe. Anne Krieg, Bridgton’s Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development, suggested the town use Community Development Block Grant funds to place “wayfinding” signs, all with a similar design, at nine strategic locations within the downtown, and possibly also construct three kiosks with downtown maps at the municipal building lot, Shorey Park and on Depot Street.

“The intent is to have a cohesive style and design” so that drivers could immediately recognize that the signs are pointing to the town’s public parking areas, library, municipal building, community center, Pondicherry Park and Main Street shopping areas, Krieg said. “Right now we have a hodge-podge” of town signs,” she said.

Arrows on a single sign could point to two or as much as three different destinations, she said. Any more than a few directions become confusing and/or a hazard for drivers, she said. It’s also important not to have too many signs, she said, which could lead to “sign pollution.” Right-of-way permissions would need to be obtained, and then design specifications and cost estimates could be drawn up. Krieg said she would return to the board in about a month with more details.

Historic Walking Trail

Twenty-one owners of homes and businesses dating to 1871 or earlier have already agreed to participate in the Bridgton Historical Society’s Historic Walking Trail project, and member Tom Stone said the society is anxious to begin work soon so that the trail could be ready by this summer. The society is seeking $3,000 from the town’s Moose Pond Trust Fund, which would pay for the production and printing of 1,000 brochures as well as a bulletin board with watertight enclosure to display a large laminated map of the trail.

The brochures and map would be placed at the trail’s starting point near the Depot Street entrance to Renys department store. The trail would cover properties on South High Street, North High Street to Farragut Park, the Fowler/Church Street area, Depot Street and Main Street. Students from Lake Region Vocational Center would construct the frame for the bulletin board, and need to start work well in advance of the end of the school year.

With state revenue cuts looming in the upcoming budget, however, the board hesitated on the request, saying an effort should be made first to see if local businesses would help finance the project. Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz suggested the board could approve $700 now from the trust fund and wait on the rest. Board member Woody Woodward agreed to talk to local businesses who were once part of a Bridgton Business Association that was 30 members strong.

Community Development Committee Chairman Mike Tarantino said the CDC supports the society project. “Being a tourist town, it’s a great thing to have,” he said. “We’ve got some beautiful, beautiful homes, really gorgeous, especially on South High Street.” Society member Lega Medcalf said all of the homeowners have agreed to pay $50 for small signs that would be placed on their properties to identify them as part of the trail. Society members would research the history of the homes and businesses and provide that information on one side of the brochure, with the map on the other side. QR codes would also be included.

The board agreed to table action on the project until their next meeting.

Beth’s Café outdoor seating

With assurances from Beth’s Café owner, Beth Doonan, that owners of the parking lot have given their permission, selectmen agreed to allow her to create café-style outdoor seating beside the Cool Moose building at 108 Main Street that she is in the process of buying to relocate her business. Doonan has already received planning board approval for the overall project, but the planning board felt the outdoor seating was a safety issue that needed selectmen’s approval.

As early as weather permits, Doonan plans to place three to five café tables, using two of the lot’s parking spaces adjacent to the sidewalk and building. Board member Bob McHatton wanted assurances that the seating would be separated from vehicles entering and leaving the lot, and Doonan said she’ll be using planters and ropes to ensure that drivers backing out don’t accidentally encroach on the seating area.

Spark Week in Shorey Park

As part of a weeklong “Spark Week” highway cleanup effort, the Bridgton Alliance Church plans to hold live performances on Saturday, May 25, from 6:30 p.m. until sunset, “to encourage (church members) to use their gifts,” church member Richard Hagerstrom told the board. Hagerstrom will be displaying his 30-year talent as a juggler, and there’ll also be a concert by a gospel music team called BAWT and a puppet troupe. Public Works Director Jim Kidder said there is an electrical hookup in the park that the church members can use.

Building permit fees hiked

It’s been eight years since Bridgton changed its building permit fees for new construction, Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Baker told the board. A review Baker conducted of fees charged by six neighboring towns showed Bridgton’s 18-cent per square foot charge for new residential construction tied with Fryeburg’s at the bottom of the list. Harrison charges 20 cents per square foot, while Casco and Otisfield charge 26 cents, Raymond 30 cents and Sebago 35 cents. Permit fees for unfinished new construction, such as garages, patios and decks, as well as new commercial construction showed a similar pattern, he said.

Baker suggested a 12-cent increase in the fees, but the board went with member Woody Woodward’s suggestion to keep the increase to 10 cents, to a new rate of 28 cents per square foot, so that Bridgton doesn’t send a negative message to builders of new homes or commercial buildings. Permit fees for renovations will remain unchanged at the current rate of $3 per $1,000 of valuation.

Fire Inspector position

Voters approved funding for an eight-hour per week Fire Inspector position last June, but until Tuesday, that position went unfilled. After earlier nixing Fire Chief Glen Garland’s recommendation to hire an outside person with training to fill the job, the board gave Garland the go-ahead Tuesday to hire a person from within the Bridgton Fire Department.

Garland said the department member currently has National Fire Protection Act training in conducting inspections and is willing to commit to eight hours a week. However, the board suggested more weekly hours may be required initially to get the program up and running, by creating a database of all residential and commercial properties requiring annual inspection. There is currently no ordinance mandating annual inspections of multi-family residential properties, but Garland said that type of property is where he wants the inspector to focus on first.

Garland said 85% of fire deaths happen in multi-family apartments, and “that is where we are seeing our biggest code issues.” He said he feels “very comfortable with this individual going out and doing this work,” and views the position as “a resource for the community” who will be offering advice and assistance rather than taking a punitive approach to fire safety code violations. The person’s identity was not announced Tuesday because Garland still needs to provide a formal offer and have it be accepted, he said.

Closing the book on Facebook

Berkowitz said it was necessary to clarify the vote taken at the last meeting on banning photos and comments from the weekly arrest log posted by the Bridgton Police Department on its Facebook page. He said the page will post a link to the arrest log on the Facebook page that will take users to the town’s read-only website, where the log will be provided. Comments made on previous logs will be allowed to stay, with the policy applying to logs posted from now on, he said. He noted as well that, because of the interactive nature of Facebook, there is nothing to prevent a user from commenting on the BPD’s Facebook page about an arrest they saw on the town’s website.

Volunteers deserve appreciation

Selectmen agreed that the town needs to hold some type of event to show its appreciation for all the time and talent given by its corps of volunteers, working on committees or assisting in other ways.

“Bernie and I thought it was a good idea,” said Board Chairman Paul Hoyt, referring to fellow selectman Bernie King. The event could take the form of a lunch or a dinner, he said.

Berkowitz said the appreciation could include an annual group photo of volunteers that could be displayed in the municipal complex. Bob McHatton said Bridgton held such events in prior years, which also included town employees.

“We could even make it a roast night — I’d be the roaster,” McHatton joked.

Moose Pond erosion project

The board tabled a request by Jeff Stern, speaking on behalf of the Moose Pond Association, requesting $2,000 in cash and $4,000 in in-kind support to serve as a match for a grant the association will be applying for through the Lake Environmental Association. A recent erosion study found 79 erosion sites around the pond, most of them requiring minor repair. But on Wildwood Road, a failing culvert crossing the road will need significant remediation, using alternative methods to replacement to keep costs down. The costs would be spread over two years, Stern said.


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