Selectmen notes: Town supportive of market analysis study

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Once Bridgton constructs an expanded wastewater system and dresses up the Village area through the streetscape project, the town will be ready for business.

But, who will know it’s a good place to invest or relocate to?

Ryan Wallace of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine says the town needs to have all valuable data in one package, ready to be given to those who come calling.

With the blessing of the town’s Community Development Committee, Wallace unveiled to selectmen Tuesday night a proposal for an economic and market analysis.

“It is our understanding that the Town of Bridgton would like to identify development opportunities the town is best positioned to pursue and to obtain the tools to market and respond when investment opportunities are presented,” the work scope states. “Identifying and seizing on opportunities requires thoughtful, strategic and intentional action to build off existing assets and capitalize on new, forward-thinking development potentials.”

CBER assists communities with understanding their unique identity and how to sell those resources to others.

Wallace said analysis would include:

• Understanding Bridgton today, which would be development of a community inventory (such as land availability, the current socio-economic landscape, who are the long-standing businesses and the services they provide) and profile.

• Understanding Bridgton tomorrow, identifying key industries and sectors that Bridgton may capitalize on, potential development strategies and design a strategic plan.

• Provide tools to pursue the plan.

When looking at available data, Wallace was encouraged to compare Bridgton with other Oxford County towns, which is likely a better point of comparison than say Portland and other Cumberland County communities.

Chairman Lee Eastman noted that since the infrastructure projects will take up to three years to complete, the town can ease into the market analysis since money will be tight.

Town Manager Bob Peabody felt there is marketing money remaining in the existing budget, so that half of the analysis study could be funded with the balance coming in the future budget.

Selectman Bear Zaidman has seen some of Wallace’s previous work and believes he “would do a good job for us — it would be professional and we would get a great product.”

Selectmen asked Wallace to write up a contract proposal with the “scope of work” attached to be considered by the board at a future meeting.

Later in the board’s meeting, resident Ursula Flaherty raised the question where the town stood in hiring a Community Development Director?

Town Manager Bob Peabody said the position is currently being advertised in several publications across Maine, as well as New Hampshire. At this time, there have been no applicants.

Peabody noted that unlike past recruitments, the help wanted ad does not specify an application deadline, instead the town went with “open until filled” approach.

In other meeting notes:

Use the courts, not a committee? Bridgton continues to struggle with finding volunteers to serve on the Board of Appeals. At the moment, three vacancies exist — a regular position and two alternates (anyone interested, please apply at the Town Office).

Selectman Bear Zaidman wondered if the town might be able to save its staff time and save taxpayers money by eliminating the board and sending appeals straight to Superior Court.

Legally, the move could be done. The town would need to vote to change existing ordinances that mention the Board of Appeals as part of the process.

Selectman Carmen Lone questioned whether the process could be extended due to court scheduling.

Town Manager Bob Peabody cautioned selectmen that such a change could have other consequences, such as someone needing a property line variance — a simple matter that would normally go to the Board of Appeals, but could become complicated and costly to take the matter to Superior Court.

Selectmen agreed to hold a workshop to take a closer look at the ramifications of such a change.

Rework the numbers. When Board chairman Lee Eastman reviewed the particulars of the contract between the town and Milone & MacBroom for the Lower Main Street construction project, one line didn’t sit well with him.

The base figures call for:

• $92,000 for construction observation, 29 weeks at 36 hours per week, assuming no overtime.

• $8,000 for bi-weekly construction meetings by design engineer.

• $5,000 for construction engineering (assumes 40 hours of staff time).

Total: $105,000.

What caught Eastman and Selectman Bear Zaidman’s eyes (and angst) was adding $7,000 to the budget for direct expenses including cost of mileage (to and from the project) and printing/copying. John Adams, senior transportation engineer for the Portland firm, said the charge is “standard.”

Based on the $84 hourly rate for construction inspection services, Eastman saw the mileage charge as “double dipping” while Zaidman simply said, “It’s a lot of money.”

Both encouraged Adams to take another look at the numbers and resubmit the contract for selectmen’s approval. While Eastman apologized for having Adams make the drive to Bridgton and not return with a signed contract, he said the questioning of the mileage charge was “doing what is right for Bridgton.”

CDBG project proposals. Selectmen hope to tackle to major projects using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.

One, the town looks to address several structural issues at the Bridgton Community Center. Problem spots include exterior and interior doors, lighting, ceiling tiles, electrical upgrades, replace two outside windows and construct an entryway on the parking lot side to reduce cold air from entering the main room.

As for the need, “The Bridgton Community Center operates with limited funding while providing a diverse range of activities and programs at no fee or minimal fees,” the application states.

Two, to improve pedestrian safety along South High Street, officials propose to extend the existing sidewalk to Willett Road.

“The road is heavily traveled by automobiles, trucks and commercial vehicles both to the businesses and as a downtown bypass…The town has limited resources for sidewalk construction as it is currently undertaking three major capital projects,” the application reads. “Pedestrians will be safer as there will be less opportunity for vehicular and pedestrian conflicts.”

The funding requests will be sent to county Community Development Committee officials for review on Feb. 13. The committee will recommend funding to selectmen, who will make their decision by late March. Funds disbursement happens in July.

If approved, selectmen see the sidewalk being a two-phase effort. Once this section is completed, the town would look to extend the sidewalk down Willett Road, thus creating a safer walk for those accessing Pondicherry Park and Hannaford.

Appointments. Selectmen approved the appointment of Kevin Raday, Lucia Terry, Bob McHatton and Nelle Ely to the Project Liaison Committee.

The group will “facilitate communication (about details, schedules and concerns) and encourage cooperation” between stakeholders during wastewater and streetscape construction projects. The group will also report to selectmen.

Personnel. Paul Harmon has submitted his resignation from the Bridgton Public Works Department effective yesterday, Jan. 23. Harmon worked for the town for five years.

BFD news. The Fire Department thanks an anonymous donor for the BFD Christmas present to the membership last month and the Renys Foundation for a $500 donation.

BFD recouped $5,081.98 from the tractor-trailer incident on the Moose Pond Causeway on Nov. 15, 2017.

Firefighters Jordan Libby and Jason Tausek began Firefighter I and II instruction earlier this month. This is a 16-week program requiring two nights a week and all day Saturday.

Stay active. Looking for some fresh air and a chance to exercise, while also enjoying nature’s beauty? There are three miles of cross-country trails in Bridgton. Parking can be found at the Bridgton Highlands Country Club.

Circus coming. The Zebrini Family Circus will present three shows Sunday, July 21 and Monday, July 22 on the Stevens Brook Elementary School grounds. As a fundraiser, 20% of the gate fees for the two days will go toward the Summer Rec program.

Train the Trainer for Ticks and Mosquitoes free workshop is set for this Friday, Jan. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Bridgton Community Center. The workshop is presented by the Maine CDC as a prevention of mosquito and tickborne diseases.

Upcoming meetings. The next schedule selectmen’s meetings are Tuesdays, Feb. 12 and Feb. 26 at 5 p.m.

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