Selectmen ahead of the curve, approve CDBG funded projects

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Like good students, Bridgton selectmen completed their assignment nearly a month ahead of schedule.

The assignment was to make decisions on how to use Community Development Block Grant money from Cumberland County.

The estimated grant is $180,000 — of which $125,000 is earmarked for bricks and mortar projects, $30,000 for administration and $25,000 for social services.

Selectmen approved:

  • $6,340 for the Navigator program, run out of the Bridgton Community Center which assists residents in seeking social services, etc. It is a resource and referral hub that services Bridgton’s elderly, mid to low-income, disabled and veterans.
  • $5,000 for the backpack program for Stevens Brook Elementary School, which provides non-perishable, nutritious food to children in need that they can take home and eat when school meal programs are unavailable. The program serves about 30 families each week.
  • $6,000 for Family Crisis Center. Initially, the figure was $4,000 with Family Crisis seeking an additional $2,000 from Bridgton’s regular budget. Since they were under the estimated $25,000 figure, selectmen decided to fund the entire Family Crisis request with CDBG money rather than ask for taxpayers to pay.
  • Selectmen had little discussion regarding $45,000 for the Lower Main Street road project or $35,000 to improve the town rink, located behind the Town Hall on North High Street. Public Works Director Jim Kidder said the current “warming room” that juts off the main structure needs to be torn down and rebuilt. The plan also calls for installing exhaust fan equipment to pump out warm air inside the structure, thus enabling to ability to retain ice.

Board Chairman Greg Watkins questioned the Junior Harmon Field project, ticketed at $45,000. He wondered if the money could be better spent elsewhere since the snack shack and dugouts are made of concrete and not falling apart.

Town Manager Bob Peabody relied on the recommendation of Rec Director Gary Colello as to best use of CDBG money. Colello cited problems with the existing snack shack, which is limited in terms of storage space (and it had trouble keeping rodents out, which caused damage to items kept in the building) and bathroom facilities. Colello noted the facility is in constant use, both from a recreation program standpoint as well as a place where neighborhood kids play.

If work is done there (construction of a new snack shack and moving of the dugouts back, creating better sight lines for fans sitting in the stands), Watkins wondered if a PVC pipe, which shields a water line, could be addressed. At the moment, the pipe is above ground.

Selectmen voted 4-1 to approve the Harmon Field project, Watkins opposed.

Peabody will now submit the town’s proposed CDBG fund usage to the county for review. The submission deadline is March 28.

In other business:

Giving grass another try. Rather than filling Depot Street walkway area with artificial grass or hardscape options like pebbles with an epoxy finish or stamped concrete, town officials appear willing to give natural grass another try.

Lucia Terry of Perennial Point of View unveiled a plan to address areas utilized by the Bridgton Farmers’ Market. Loam would be brought in and a “hardy” grass seed used. Water has been an issue in the past, but a fire hydrant could be tapped to provide the water (twice a day at eight minutes each, Terry said) needed during the growing cycle.

By trying to grow grass, the attempt would be done in two phases. Some Farmers’ Market space would be closed down until the grass matures and is ready for foot traffic. Once grass takes hold there, then Terry would replant in the other area, moving the Market to the new turf. Terry suspects it will be a two-year process.

Public Works Director Jim Kidder will take a look at the proposal and let selectmen know if his crew has time available this spring to assist in removal of current soil and haul new loam to the site.

Lock down. Before the tragic shooting in Florida, police and Stevens Brook Elementary School officials had scheduled for a lock-down drill. Last week, the school and law enforcement (Bridgton and Maine State Police) went through the exercise.

Bridgton Chief Richard Stillman commended SBES teachers and staff for their “diligence in protecting our students.”

Distracted driving. Don’t fidget with your cell phone while driving! The Bridgton Police Department has been awarded a “distracted driving” grant from Maine Highway Safety to conduct enforcement of distracted driving laws.

Officers have been out watching for drivers using their phones and taking appropriate action. Operators under the age of 18 are prohibited to use any mobile device and texting while driving, which carries a $310 fine for a first offense for all operators.

Resignation. Gisele Perry, a part-time per diem assistant clerk resigned, effective Feb. 23.

Nominations. Looking to be more civic minded in 2018? Run for town offices. Nomination papers will be available this Friday, March 2 at the town clerk’s office. Positions available include:

  • Two selectman posts, three-year terms;
  • Two planning board posts, three-year terms;
  • One planning board seat, two-year term;
  • One planning board alternate, three-year term;
  • Two SAD 61 board directors, three-year term;
  • One Bridgton Water District trustee, three-year term.

Filing deadline is Friday, April 13.

Next meeting. Selectmen will meet today, Thursday, at 4 p.m. in the upstairs meeting room to discuss the proposed budget. Meetings are open to the public.

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