Revamp or get out of business?

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

The current fee structure and long-range plan for the town-owned Salmon Point Campground on Long Lake was the subject of a lengthy discussion, at Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting.

As a result of that discussion on Aug. 23, three different sets of proposed fee schedules with increases are now being looked at — one formulated by the town manager, one drawn up by Selectman Paul Hoyt and presented by him as a private citizen, and a third from the Bridgton Community Development Committee asking that fees at Salmon Point be increased and the additional revenue go to organizations that had funds cut this year, like the Library and Community Center.

A bigger question to answer down the road, other than what to do about the fee structure at Salmon Point, Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said this week, is how the town wants to run the campground.

“I think there’s a threshold question the board needs to address right off,” said Berkowitz Aug. 23. “Do we want to continue to run it (Salmon Point Campground) as an enterprise fund…or do you continue operating it (using a specific) business model…or do we get out of the business altogether and look at maximizing the return by leasing it?”

Some history…

The Bridgton Board of Selectmen had discussed current fees at Salmon Point and the possibility of raising them at their previous meeting on Aug. 9, with the understanding that they would likely make a decision on any changes at their Aug. 23 meeting.

Selectman Paul Hoyt, who rents a seasonal campsite at Salmon Point, spoke Aug. 9 of possibly expanding the campground and using the extra $10,000 in projected revenue he said would be generated by that to set up a reserve fund as suggested by Town Manager Berkowitz, to offset recreational fees.

Berkowitz said Aug. 9, “Dawn Taft did all of the research online to see where we stand (as to rates) with other area campgrounds.”

However, at that same meeting Aug. 9, Selectman Hoyt argued against an increase in some of the campsite rates at Salmon Point, saying the campground had certain “negatives” compared to commercial campgrounds in the surrounding area. Hoyt sat at the selectmen’s table, as he did this.

“I appreciate Paul’s report and his support of setting up an enterprise fund…but, the more revenue you generate is in the best interest of the taxpayers who funded (the purchase of Salmon Point) this in the past — I feel if we can establish more income, it’s good for the taxpayer,” Selectmen Chairman Arthur Triglione said Aug. 9,

This week, Berkowitz presented a draft rate increase fee schedule that would incrementally increase fees on campsites at Salmon Point.

A second proposed fee schedule was also introduced that was formulated by Selectman Hoyt, that would not increase campsite rates as much or as soon as the fee schedule prepared by the town manager.

Chairman Triglione said Tuesday night that Hoyt had presented those recommendations “as a private citizen,” and not as a board member.

The third proposal for a fee schedule is that of the Community Development Committee.

Chuck Renneker of the Community Development Committee was about to ask Selectman Hoyt to recuse himself from any decision on fee structures at Salmon Point Aug. 23 when Hoyt said, “I can cut you short — I plan to recuse myself.”

Renneker said members of the CDC had come up with a separate fee structure that could increase revenue at Salmon Point Campground by as much as $40,000 annually.

As Renneker made his points as to why certain increases should be instituted, such as the 34 waterfront and lagoon campsite fees being increased significantly, Hoyt offered a differing opinion, saying things like docks, the public beach and playground area there “are not part of the (campground) facility.”

“To not include the public beach (at Salmon Point) as part of the (amenities offered at the campground) — it’s just not reality,” Renneker told Hoyt.

“It’s not part of the (campground) facility,” Selectman Hoyt replied.

CDC member Ken Murphy stated, “I thought Mr. Hoyt was going to recuse himself from this discussion.”

Chairman Triglione stated that Hoyt, who was sitting at the selectmen’s table up to this point, was speaking “as a private citizen.”

“I would recommend Mr. Hoyt remove himself into the audience,” Chairman Triglione said, as Hoyt rose from his seat and came around the table and sat down in the front row of the public seating area. Triglione explained that Hoyt would be participating as a private citizen in the discussion about Salmon Point campground, but he would not be voting on the matter.

Selectman Woody Woodward runs a lodging resort on Highland Lake. As to the suggestion of operating Salmon Point as a business rather than a self-sustaining enterprise account, Selectman Woodward said, “I do get worried, when a town or other governmental entity gets into a business that other area businesses are in.” Local businessman Bill Macdonald said he agreed with Woodward.

No final decisions of any kind were made Aug. 23, but Triglione instructed his fellow board members to come to the next selectmen’s meeting on Sept. 13 prepared to make a decision.

“We will have a decision by our next meeting,” Chairman Triglione stated.

Please follow and like us: