Resident suggests food pantry funding be private, not taxpayer dollars

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Bob Casimiro created a trust to support the efforts of groups, like Community HELP, that helps those in need.

So, he encouraged selectmen Tuesday night to deny a $7,500 request from the Bridgton Food Pantry for Community Development Block Grant funds.

While Casimiro feels the pantry does admirable work, he believes funding should come from donations and grants from charitable foundations, not taxpayers.

“Of the 601 people who voted $10,000 last year for the food pantry, if each one of them donated $16.64 instead, it would not have been necessary to use taxpayer money,” said Casimiro, as part of a public hearing regarding proposed CDBG funding projects. He also pointed out that people seen smoking in front of the Methodist Church, home of the food pantry (located in the building’s basement) should give up cigarettes and use that money to purchase life essentials, including food.

Penni Robbins, director of the Bridgton Food Pantry, informed selectmen that this past month, the pantry serviced 97 families the first week, 78 the second week, 76 the third week and 78 this past week.

“We see 300 to 350 people each week, the ‘working poor’…of which 61 are seniors, many who are disabled. We see very few young people coming in anymore,” Robbins said. “As for the people smoking cigarettes, they are the volunteers.”

Robbins pointed out that the $10,000 granted last year was used to upgrade pantry freezers, as well as purchase racks to hold produce and bread items. She figures the pantry spends $1,000 to $1,200 per month to purchase food for needy families. Of the $7,500 request, $6,000 would be for food purchases while $1,500 would be used for transportation costs (working along with St. Joseph Church in Bridgton to move food from the Good Sheperd Food Bank in Auburn to Bridgton).

Robbins noted that remaining funding for food purchases comes from donations. She also pointed out that both local grocery stores — Food City and Hannaford — do outstanding work assisting the pantry.

Free items the pantry is able to secure at Good Shepherd are used in local programs — the backpack program at Stevens Brook Elementary School and a new program launched at Bridgton Hospital to outfit the elderly with a backpack of food upon discharge.

Ursula Flaherty of the St. Joseph Church Food Pantry encouraged selectmen to support pantry efforts.

Selectmen will deliberate on the proposed CDBG grant proposals at their March 14 meeting. What the town will recommend to the county for CDGB funding is due by April 1.

In other selectmen notes:

Remembering Earl. With the passing last week of former selectman Earl Cash Sr., who served three full terms and one 2-year term as well as a member of several town committees, officials paid their respect with a few comments.

Selectman Bob McHatton spoke of when Earl spoke, his words were like iron. “He would look at you eye-to-eye, and what he would tell you would be the same thing two weeks later.”

Board Chairman Greg Watkins read a short reflection, saying “I could speak about Earl and the jokes that were ongoing each time we saw each other, or the many stories of Korea and being in the service, or his time spent with Central Maine Power, all of which he would tell with such animation. However, tonight I would like to reflect on the countless hours over time that Earl gave to his community…After his years of service on the selectboard, Earl was a regular face as part of what respectfully came to be known as the ‘back-row club,’ a group of gentlemen who diligently came to selectboard meetings to stay up on the issues at the table and to offer their guiding opinion.”

Watkins asked for a moment of silence to honor and thank Earl for “the time he spent with us in our town and the selfless character that he possessed.”

No parking. With big snowbanks, vehicles parked in front of the Post Office can create a hazard by turning the roadway into a one-lane street.

So, police will stake “No Parking” signs there as a temporary measure until those banks melt away, and thus widen the roadway.

While it may cause an inconvenience for residents with mobility issues, Selectman Bob Murphy also noted that due to present snow conditions, parking there would make it difficult for emergency vehicles to proceed.

Interview panel. Town Manager Bob Peabody liked how the interview process worked when Bridgton sought new police and fire chiefs. So, he wants to follow the same path when seeking a new community development director.

The panel will include a member from the Community Development Committee, Land Use Committee, Planning Board, Selectman (Bear Zaidman will serve), a department head, Peabody and Deputy Town Manager Georgiann Fleck.

Also, selectmen gave approval to form a Broadband Committee, which is needed as the town applies for a $25,000 grant from ConnectMe. The group would look into the benefits of creating a broadband line here, and if so, where it would run. Town grant writer George Szok made the request. He noted that the town did apply for funding last year, but was not selected as one of the four municipalities receiving grant money.

Big Dog arrives. Robyn Lasco will soon be opening Big Dog Sports Bar & Grill in the former Campfire Grille location in West Bridgton.

Selectmen approved a new liquor license and special amusement permit for the new business, which was described as a “family-oriented” sports bar that will be outfitted with 12 to 15 flat screen TVs, as well as an air hockey table and coin-operated games for kids.

Lasco initially thought about adding coin-operated pool tables, but considering problems that might arise and detract from the “family atmosphere” she hopes to create, the idea was shelved.

While a site inspection gave Lasco the go-ahead to start the new business, Fire Chief Steve Fay had a few “concerns” regarding the property. However, he told selectmen that the town does not presently have an ordinance to address such matters. Thus, he declined to be specific regarding his “concerns.”

Selectmen did gain some perspective as to what the “concerns” may be when new ownership described how certain matters, such as the cleaning of exhaust hoods and installing new fire extinguishers, were being addressed.

Efforts recognized. Fire Chief Fay publicly thanked firefighters Adam Cook and Dalton Hulsey for shoveling fire hydrants on their own for two consecutive days (Feb. 17–18).

Socrates Café moves. After nine years at the Waterford Public Library, the Socrates Café is moving to the Bridgton Community Center, Bob Casimiro informed selectmen during the public participation segment of Tuesday’s board meeting. The move was necessary due to an issue with handicap-accessibility.

A regular at the monthly discussion group, Casimiro invited local residents to take part in the spirited conversations.

“At the end of the meeting (regularly attended by 18 to 22 people), we vote on topics to be discussed at the next meeting,” Casimiro explained.

Past discussion items included end-of-life issues, voting mandated, and are humans masters of fate?

The first meeting at the BCC will be on Monday, March 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.


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