Rockport Town Manager’s Dec. 10 Report: excise tax exemptions for firefighters, new library hours

Sun, 12/13/2020 - 5:00pm

    The following is the bimonthly report from the Rockport Town Manager to the Rockport Select Board, which meets Dec. 14, for a regularly scheduled meeting.

    I have worked with the Maine Municipal Association staff to develop two legislative bills that will be sponsored by Representative Vicki Doudera [D-Camden]. The first bill authorizes municipalities to adopt an ordinance extending an excise tax exemption to volunteer firefighters. The exemption would need to be on one vehicle that the volunteer firefighter uses to respond to calls. In addition, the bill would allow any local ordinance o enumerate addition eligibility criteria.

    It is important to note that this would be a local option and not required. Board member Mark Kelley brough this concept to my attention previously and I agreed that this would be some help in thanking volunteer firefighters and possible assist in recruitment in all municipalities. The amount of excise tax reduced in Rockport if this is approved, and an ordinance is approved, is approximately $3,300.

    The second bill relates to the lien costs that can be recovered by municipalities for wastewater liens. To adequately reflect the costs of administering the wastewater lien process, the bill increases from $13 to $25 the flat fee paid by a delinquent sewer or wastewater ratepayer. This concept developed from the discussions we have had in Rockport about the time and costs associated with the wastewater lien process. It should be noted that these fees have not been increased since 1987.

    I have included the language for these two bills with this report.

    Capital Improvement Plan & Committee

    Department Heads have submitted their new and updated requests for capital projects to the Finance Department and the draft Capital Improvement Plan has been created by the Finance Director. I am in the process of reviewing the plan. The Capital Improvement Committee meeting is scheduled for January 5, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. via ZOOM/Livestream for their review of the plan.

    Library Opening

    The Library will open to the public on Thursday, December 17, at 9 a.m.

    Because of the pandemic, 10 patrons will be allowed in the building at any one time. Patrons will be asked to keep their visits to 30 minutes or less to allow everyone a chance to see the new building and utilize the Library services. Masks are required to enter the building. The current library hours will be Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with Saturday hours being implemented in January 2021.

    I am pleased that the Town will be able to open the new Library building. There is still work to be done for the project to be complete, and some of the work, in particular the landscaping, will be completed in the spring.

    The lower patio base is expected to be installed so that it can settle and compact over the winter. Public Works will be building and installing a temporary wooden walkway that can be used as an egress from the lower level of the building so that space can be used as soon as the elevator inspection by the State is complete. This will increase the capacity to 15 patrons.

    I would like to say that thanks to Phil Builders & Architects, the project came in on budget.

    Charlie Frattini, Nate Yeater and Bettina Doulton are to be credited for constructing this library and making the beautiful space that it is and will be for the next century.

    Thanks also to architect Stephen Smith, and engineer Will Gartley. Thanks also to Public Works Director Mike Young, Owner’s Representative Mary Beth Van Keuren and Library Director Ben Blackmon for their assistance on the project.

    The Rockport Library Foundation also deserves a huge amount of credit, for without their fundraising efforts, the library would not have been constructed.

    They raised more than their original $2 million commitment for construction with the additional funds helping to purchase furniture, fixtures and equipment in the building and another donor provided significant funds to upgrade and complete the lower level of the Library into a terrific space for library programming and other community events.

    Tax Acquired Property Bid

    The bids for the parcel of tax acquired property at 280 Rockland Street were due on Monday November 30. The Town did not receive any bids. However, we will be re-advertising and have a few potential buyers that may be interested that contacted the Town Office after the bids were due.

    Employee Appreciation Luncheon

    As the Board knows, the Town holds a luncheon in December for employee appreciation where all employees gather and enjoy a meal. Unfortunately, this year we are not able to have all employees at one location. Instead, each department will gather, socially distanced in large spaces, to enjoy a meal. I will attend each of these luncheons and thank the employees.

    Public Works Truck Bid

    The Town received three bids for the new Western Star wheeler truck for the Public Works Department on December 9. The Public Works Director is reviewing the bids to make a recommendation. This will be brough to the Select Board for action in January.

    Maine Economic Recovery Grants

    The Maine Economic Recovery Grants, utilizing federal CARES Act funding, were processed, and distributed by the regional Economic Development Districts (EDDs). The Town of Rockport partnered with the Midcoast Economic Development District (MCEDD) to print and mail the recovery grant checks in MCEDD’s region of which Rockport is a part. To date, the Finance Department has processed 516 checks for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

    The Town is receiving $100 per check processed, amounting to $51,600 so far. The Phase 2 grants are still being processed by MCEDD and the State, and another round of grants is currently open.

    In Rockport, a total of 18 grants were issued totaling $1,128,551 to businesses and nonprofit organizations.

    Investment Committee

    The Investment Committee met on December 8 and reviewed the Investment Policy. They will be recommending changes to the policy to the Select Board in order for the Town to issue a request for proposals for investment services. The Town trust funds are currently invested with and managed by Bar Harbor Bank & Trust. The Committee will also be reviewing their bylaws at their next meeting to send to the Select Board for approval.

    Pascal Avenue Bridge Lights

    I have made good progress with MDOT on the lights for the Pascal Avenue bridge. MDOT has agreed to work with the Town to have poles and lights installed. We are working to identify lights that will match the decorative LED streetlights recently installed and that can be moved to the new bridge if, and when, that is constructed. I will have another update at the Board’s next meeting.


    Consent Agenda

    1. Committee Resignation(s):
       Parker Hackett – Harbor Committee
    2. General Assistance Donation(s):
       Two Anonymous General Assistance Donations
    3. Meeting Minute(s):
      •   November 9, 2020
      •   November 23, 2020 Manager’s Comments:These donations will help residents that do not qualify for the regular general assistance program based on the state guidelines. A heartfelt thank you letter will be sent to both generous anonymous donors.I move the Board approve the consent agenda as presented. (or amended after any discussion/changes).
      • Suggested Motion:
      • Donations:
        The Town received two anonymous donations, one for $100 to go towards heating fuel assistance, and one for $4,000 to go toward miscellaneous assistance.