On June 8, voters in Rockport will choose two of four candidates to serve a three-year term on the Rockport Select Board. Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region. Here, Candidate Eric Boucher discusses his position on various topics.
Please provide a biography of yourself and explain why you decided to seek a seat on the Select Board?
I was elected to the Rockport Budget Committee in 2019 and in working with the team I realized there was more I had to offer to support the Town of Rockport. I see an opportunity for growth in the community and want to contribute my time and efforts toward that effort.
I grew up in Islesboro, where I learned the value of neighbors helping neighbors in small communities. I returned to Rockport in 2014 to care for my ailing mother. Since then, I have worked with various locally owned Rockport businesses.
I currently work as an Assistant Team Lead at Philbrook and Associates, working with companies to support their business and bookkeeping needs. I have spent my career working in the field of business management and finance. For over 10 years I owned and operated a small business services company that provided bookkeeping and management services. I have invested in and managed real estate in Maine and understand the need for affordable housing in the local area.
I hold a bachelor’s degree in business management and have worked toward my MBA with a focus on accounting.
Previously, I served on the Landscaping Committee of Plantation Florida. In 2019, I was elected to our Budget Committee and also serve on the RES Redevelopment Task Force since its inception.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Rockport today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
The biggest priority I see is the underfunded road maintenance budget. We voted on and passed a bond measure to catch up on the prior deferred road work and maintenance. The town needs to continue encouraging sustainable economic growth to improve the taxable value thereby increasing town revenues, without increasing the property mill rate. Failure to solve this problem means we will be looking at poor road quality again in the future.
The second issue is water level rise. Coastal properties are at risk of rising sea levels. The town needs to respond to this potential threat and be proactive in protecting our property. Attention to this issue is necessary to protect our sea-faring industries.
Thirdly is public safety. Rockport has the highest vehicular accident rate in the area. This is a sad statistic, and we must work with the DOT and public safety to address this problem. Education and enforcement are two mechanisms that could be utilized to address this issue.
How will you protect the Rockport taxpayer as you shape and govern a municipal budget, and juggle various interests that request municipal funding throughout the year?
As a member of the Budget Committee, I feel it is important to explore all options to increase revenue to the town. There are options we need to explore related to grants and donations that can add to the budget. I would like to increase the public participation when it comes to being stewards of the town finances.
Rockport's economy has roots in agriculture, fishing, artisanship, boatyards, the arts, education, and health care. How will you protect and encourage those legacy sectors?
These ‘legacy sectors’ have existed for longer than most of us have been alive. I do not feel these sectors are at risk. If any risk exists, it will come from climate change. Moving forward, rising sea levels may be a factor in harming some sectors. Industry and the town will need to change and adapt, for Rockport’s legacies to live on.
How do you see Rockport positioned in the larger regional Midcoast economy?
Rockport provides many services in the Midcoast region, including the hospital, landscaping, steel, agriculture, and others. Rockport also benefits due to the geographical location of routes 1, 90, and 17 all passing through. I feel that Rockport can continue to utilize its location to provide a centralized hub for businesses to operate. We must view each business as an opportunity to enhance our town, while ensuring that all growth is well planned.
What is your vision for the RES property?
I am Vice-Chair of the RES Task Force and we have discussed many options. Unfortunately, due to COVID, much of our work was put on hold. We are getting back on track and hopefully will soon have a solid direction for the property.
Personally, I would like to see a nicely designed property that will be a mix-used property to include residential, commercial, and green space. Being located where it is, this area is perfect for a gateway development to show how vital Rockport is to the Midcoast region. Further, a well-planned multi-functional site will greatly improve the tax base of the town and help keep overall property taxes down.
What are your thoughts on the wastewater disposal issue and the idea of building Rockport’s own facility, as opposed to sending wastewater to Camden and Rockland?
The increase of wastewater rates has been of considerable concern recently. I am glad the town has sought options to help control future costs. We need to continue to explore options to determine if the expense of building our own facilities would align Rockport’s cost with the surrounding communities. It is unreasonable to continue to have users pay rates exceeding those of the towns in the interlocal agreements.
The Camden-Rockport Pathways Committee has proposed a long-term plan for safer and healthier pedestrian and bicyclist provisions. Have you read that plan, and do you support it?
I support the concept of increased pedestrian and bicycle mobility through adoption of the committee’s recommendations. There are many areas in the towns that lack adequate safe space for people to walk and bike. Increasing these paths could help reduce vehicular traffic, while encouraging beautification of the towns. The costs of such projects should come from varied sources such as grants and donations. Taxes should be used to help fund the project only sparingly, if at all.
How best should all Rockport citizens access high-speed, broadband internet, and what is your position on Article 26 of the Rockport Town Meeting Warrant?
The need exists to provide all citizens access to broad band as shown by the current pandemic. People need to be able to work and learn from anywhere. Municipalities, however, are not in the business of owning broad band utilities, but I support the idea of public/private partnerships to provide this service. I will support the Midcoast Internet Development Corporation if there is no added cost to the Town of Rockport.
Should the town build a parking lot at the head of the harbor near the Goose River Bridge, as currently proposed?
With the limited space, I feel that adding a parking lot would be a difficult task. I would have to explore this further to decide if it would be feasible. There is a lack of parking in the downtown area, and we do need to address this concern in some way. We need to be positive this location is the best option before moving forward.
Where is your favorite place in Rockport?
My backyard is my favorite place by my pond and with my pets.
What is your position concerning short term rental regulations in Rockport? Does the town need an ordinance governing short-term rentals, and if so, what is your vision for them?
Short-term rentals (STRs) are a hot topic right now. I see the benefits of STRs, but I also understand there are concerns with how the STRs impact home values as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. STRs provide housing for summer staff for many of the local businesses and improve the available space for people coming for summer vacations and large events. I am concerned that limiting STRs could cause a negative economic impact in our area. However, I am not opposed to some form of regulation addressing short-term rentals, such as requiring registration of the property, inspections, and active management. As the current board has placed a question on the ballot, we will have a better understanding of how the overall community feels about this topic. Once we have the results of this question, we can continue to explore what is best for all.
Free space! Please add additional thoughts as you see fit.
I would like to see more people become interested in the local government. I see many positions each year go unfilled by residents. Everyone should try to be involved on some level, either through volunteering, working on a committee, or running for office.