Town proceeds with plans for internet agreement with Camden

Hannan takes helm as Rockport Select Board Chair

Wed, 06/09/2021 - 6:30pm

    ROCKPORT — At a June 9 organizational meeting of a newly configured Rockport Select Board, Michelle Hannan was elected to serve as the board’s Chair for the remainder of her term, which expires in 2023. Hannan replaces outgoing Chair Debra Hall in the role.

    Hannan was nominated by Selectman Mark Kelley to serve as the board’s chairperson. Following a unanimous vote, Hannan nominated Kelley to serve as Vice Chair. He, too was unanimously elected.

    ‘I am very excited to chair the Select Board and I appreciate the Board’s confidence in my ability to do so. I am a Rockport native and am looking forward to working to continue to find ways to make Rockport better, reduce spending so our residents are not further burdened with tax increases and finding ways to bring Rockport as a whole back together. There are a few actions over the past few years that have left Rockport residents feeling divided. I hope we can move past that.

    We have some exciting times ahead with a new town manager [Jon Duke](also a Rockport Native) starting in July and I’m an excited to see what we can do to continue to make Rockport a wonderful place to live,” said Hannan via email June 9.

    The meeting, which lasted a mere 12 minutes, also saw the board and Rockport’s interim Town Manager Kerry Leichtman sign documents entering into an interlocal agreement with Camden which would establish a corporation through which fiber optic internet service would be provided to both municipalities.

    The June 9 meeting was held at the Rockport Opera House, and marked the first in-person gathering of the board since the pandemic. It was also the first meeting to be attended by new members John Strand and Eric Boucher, who were elected as selectman the previous day. Strand and Boucher join returning members Hannan, Kelley Denise Kennedy-Munger to form the current Select Board.

    In addition to other municipal housekeeping items such as distributing town bylaws and liason reports from the previous year to the new members, the board voted unanimously to appoint resident Bob Hall to serve on the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA.) The appointment of Hall was postponed last month when board members cited a possible conflict of interest with him being appointed while his spouse, Debra Hall, was still Select Board Chair. Bob Hall also serves on the Ordinance Review Committee.

    Interlocal internet service agreement with Camden

    The proposed concept of installing high-speed fiber optic technology and providing shared internet between towns appeared as a referendum item on the June 8 ballot and was approved by Rockport voters.

    Referred to in the board’s packet of materials as “Midcoast Internet Development Corporation,” the agreement that the Select Board and Leichtman signed seeks to unite Camden and Rockport to establish a fiber optic internet network which would provide service to both towns. The “purposes” outlined in the agreement allow the municipalities to engage in any of the following actions:

    -Own, construct, manage and maintain broadband facilities and to transfer properties and issue easements required for the facilities to support services authorized under the agreement.

    -Enter into any contracts associated with the design, construction, maintenance, replacement, and /or operation of the open-access fiber optic network or other associated broadband facilities to serve persons within the municipalities.

    -Make provisions for broadband services, including the establishment of rates, collection of revenues, and undertaking all other actions necessary and
    appropriate for a regional municipal utility district of this nature consistent with this agreement and the general law. 

    The document states that the agreement would last for a period of 20 years and would automatically renew after 20 years provided that neither town voted to terminate the agreement. Both Camden and Rockport would agree to form a non-profit corporation called “Midcoast Internet Development Corporation,” and this corporation would then Board of Directors, and Executive Committee, and present a fiscal year budget. The corporation would also be authorized to issue bonds:

    “...the Corporation shall be and hereby is authorized to issue revenue bonds in support of any of the activities undertaken pursuant to this Agreement. The Corporation is also hereby authorized to seek grants, contributions, and loans to fund its operations and capital expenditures, and to acquire, lease, encumber and sell property in furtherance of its purposes. Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to limit the powers of the Corporation as provided by general law.”

    The next meeting of the Rockport Select Board is scheduled for Monday, June 14 at 5:30 p.m.