Douglas Cole: Why I am running for reelection to the Rockport Select Board

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 12:30am

In case you hadn’t noticed, there is a lot going on in Rockport these days.  While the coronavirus has certainly made operations difficult for all of us, the town continues to move forward with many projects that I fully support and have been active in developing.

The Town is in excellent financial shape. By working as a unified select board, we have done our best to limit the municipal budget growth for the last three years.  At the same time we have kept the town’s allowable debt service very low. It is only 8% of what state statute allows. 

Any increases in the budget have been driven by our correcting years of deferred maintenance and working our Capital Improvement Plan into the budget.    

Thanks to our hard work, Rockport is in a very enviable position compared to the financial situation of many other towns in Maine. By making sure that we have comfortable cash reserves and a good credit rating, we are well positioned to move forward with other projects that need our attention.

It is worth noting that when the coronavirus struck our region this past spring, neither Knox County nor the school administrations were willing to revisit their budgets to see if any further savings could be wrung out. Rockport did, and although it was a relatively small amount, our effort on behalf of the taxpayers was worth it.

What makes our success all the more remarkable is that we have been able to maintain our financial strength while beginning to make up for the previous years of deferred maintenance. 

This year we will see the first results from the $1.6 million infrastructure bond that the town passed in November 2019. 

Historically low interest rates will allow us to afford to perform the work needed to rebuild many of our town roads, install safety equipment for our fire fighters and public works employees, and rebuild the Town pier. We are also now ready to address a long overdue replacement of the West Rockport fire station.

Thank you to the town citizens for supporting these initiatives at the polls.

Being a member of this very capable select board has been a rewarding experience and I believe that I have helped make valuable contributions to our town’s success.  I look forward to working hard on behalf of the town for another three years.

Civic participation is way up again at town meetings.  This is as it should be in municipalities that function under the select board model of town government.  “Maine is changing. Get involved.”  

Public discourse over the downtown parking, the proposed hotel, the new library, and short term rentals has been fierce.  This is a good thing and I support this participation.  

What are the immediate challenges we face?

No one likes to see tax increases.  I am very aware that it is easy for government to “spend other people’s money,” but there are some things we can do.

If we want to continue to limit our tax increases in the future, we are going to need to build our tax base by attracting new businesses to town.  If we can’t do this, the businesses will set up in neighboring towns, leaving Rockport to become more and more of a residential community.  As this happens, the only way to keep up with inflationary costs is to increase the personal property tax.  As much as some people might hope, we can’t continue to be a sleepy bedroom community with many non-resident taxpayers and a lagging business base. We need businesses that will provide year round jobs and provide services to the year round residents.

To help address this concern, the select board has reconvened the RES Redevelopment Committee.  This committee is working to find a suitable business partner to help with bringing new businesses to the old RES site, while preserving the village traditions surrounding this site.  This idea has been around for many years.  It’s now time to do something.

I have been very fortunate to be a part of these exciting times.

I would welcome the opportunity to serve one more term on the select board.  Rockport is in very good condition right now and I have enjoyed being a part of that.   When I first ran for select board I stated that I felt that the three things that Rockport citizens want from their government are:

1) infrastructure maintenance;

2) public safety: and

3) good education for the children.   

I continue to feel that way and continue to focus on these areas if I am reelected on August 18.