Rockport Town Manager's May 16 Report: Library, harbor, finance, public safety updates –

Wealthlandnews May 16, 2022
Updated 2022/05/16 at 6:27 AM

Town Clerk
Elections: Absentee ballots are now available for the June 14th election, so reach out to the clerk’s office at any time to request your ballot.
The election will take place Tuesday, June 1, from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. in the Richardson Room at the Rockport Town Office.
On the municipal ballot for election are: Select Board – James Annis and Denise Munger; Budget Committee – Zachary Herrick; School Board – Brieanna Gutierrez. Additionally, there are two three-year terms on the Budget Committee and two three-year terms on the Library Committee from which write-in candidates could be elected from.
Tax Collection: From April 1 to April 25 – real estate taxes collected were $4,158,951.20 and excise tax for same period was $59,229.75.
I want to thank all the residents who have been patient as we worked through staffing shortages through our tax due date period. Clearly none of this was intended or planned, but so many residents were gracious as we powered through. Many thanks to Town Clerk Linda Greenlaw for the many late days she put in to get the Town through this staffing shortage and thank you to former deputy clerk Brenda Kurr for stepping in and helping out in a time of need. We hope to fill the vacant assistant clerk position in the days ahead.
The town’s property valuation equalization project is progressing well. The contractor handling this project for the Town, KRT, reports that questions and concerns from Rockport residents only used half of the time available.
Assessor Kerry Leichtman’s bill to assist Maine communities dealing with big box store valuation issues, LD 1129, was approved by the Legislature and will become law this summer.
Assessing Assistant Molli Bennett and Deputy Assessor Caitlin Thompson have been out and about conducting inspections for new construction in preparation for this summer’s tax commitment.
Thank you so much to the Maine Masonic Charitable Foundation, Federal Masonic Lodge # 6 of Rockport for your generous donation to the Marge Jones Fields of $2,000. This gift from the Masons will go toward the construction of a new flagpole at the fields which can be seen from every playing field. We are so pleased the new pole is installed in time for Five Town Little League and Softball’s Opening Day ceremonies this coming Saturday.
The proposed town budget for the June 15 Annual Town Meeting is now online and available on the Town’s website. Residents who are looking for an analysis of the warrant articles to be voted upon can look ahead to next month’s newsletter which will contain an article-by-article breakdown of the budget.
The Town’s FY 2021 audit is complete and should be in hand in a matter of days. Auditors statewide are still experiencing delays from standard audit practices which typically saw audits complete in the fall following a fiscal year end on June 30. Hopefully, our FY 2022 audit will be back on track this fall.
The Town’s submission for reimbursement for damages incurred during the Halloween 2021 storm to FEMA is progressing now that the agency has assigned staff to manage this event. Unfortunately, we will not have a definitive answer as to how much we will receive in reimbursement in advance of the annual town meeting, where voters will be asked to provide the Town short term authority to borrow funds to begin making necessary road and bridge repairs.
Fire Department
The department has been quite busy with car accidents and assisting our neighboring communities via mutual aid due to structure fires.
Last week, the department took delivery of the trailer for the forthcoming purchase of a UTV. The trailer was funded from donations from Coastal Mountain Land Trust, Maine Water, and private individuals. With an increasing prevalence of calls to response for hikers in distress, the UTV will provide Rockport quicker times of response in those instances.
Also last week, those driving by the station during the regular monthly training would have wondered what they were looking at as training consistent of teams of fire fighters competing against each other to suit up in proper PPE and SCBA gear and then using water pressure from hoses against an opposing team of fire fighters to score a goal in a soccer like contest. Everyone was sufficiently drenched, but it provided a great team building concept to support the skills our fire fighters need in emergency situations.
In lieu of Taxes
Many thanks to Maine Coast Heritage Trust which donated $5,600 in lieu of taxes.
The Penobscot Bay Chamber of Commerce has awarded the Rockport Public Library with their 2022 Public Improvement Award, given annually to a public project which improves the communities in the Midcoast. A host of individuals representing the various entities critical to constructing this building will represent the town including members of the Rockport Library Foundation, the Friends of Rockport Public Library, the Library Committee, Library Director Ben Blackmon, and myself. The award will be presented at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala event at the Samoset Resort on Friday, May 20. With so many who had a hand in making that project a reality, it seems we could fill the ballroom, but Ben and I will do our best represent all of those who gave so much.
Thanks to the sponsorship of the Rockport Library Foundation, we will be holding a pair of huge events with bestselling authors! Chris Bohjalian will be at the Rockport Opera House on June 17 at 6:30 p.m. and Lily King will be here September 30 at 6:30 p.m. These are amazing events, and we could never have brought them to the community without the help of the Rockport Library Foundation!
The Friends of Rockport Public Library book sale is coming up on May 20th from 9am to 5pm and on the 21st from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The library is now hosting a weekly homework hangout program from 3pm to 5pm on Thursdays. Targeting students ages 13-18, this program is housed in the Teen Room for weekly study sessions, research assistance, and quiet crafting. Journaling and knit-craft materials will be available this month.
For the slightly younger kids, the library put on an egg hunt in Memorial Park on Easter weekend with over eighty participants.
Library staff will be attending the Maine Library Association’s conference at Sunday River on the 23rd and 24th of May.
Opera House
In a project delayed several months due to a lack of available product, new LED stage lights were installed last week in the auditorium at the Opera House. The old antiquated system not only failed to work consistently but it required constant adjustment which was quite time consuming. The lighting upgrade should provide the opportunity for a wider array of events to take place.
We have three events scheduled for this month, a Family Movie Night on Friday the 13, a benefit for Charlie Frattini on Saturday the 14th, and a Bay Chamber Concert event. There are five more events scheduled in June and more on the way for the Summer Concert Series. We have several exciting acts performing in Town sponsored events at the Opera House, Mary Lea Park, and the Harbor this summer.
We hope to see a great turnout at the fundraiser for Charlie Frattini on the 14th. A spaghetti supper kicks things off followed by silent and live auctions. The event runs from 5pm-7pm.
Planning, Community Development and Codes Department has a new administrative assistant, Shenley Neely, who started on April 19 and received her master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Florida and spent over 20 years in the field in Florida before moving to Maine. We are grateful to have Shenley join our team so feel free to stop by when you are in the office to say, “hello!” She will be working directly with Orion Thomas, Planning and Development Director and Scott Bickford, Code Enforcement Officer. 
Public Works
The regular schedule of spring cleaning for our Public Works department began several weeks ago as street sweeping spread across the town. Dirt roads, such as Mount Pleasant and Beauchamp Point, were graded and gravel was added to provide a smoother ride. Catch basins are in the process of being cleaned out and striping should begin Friday given the recent spate of good weather.
Maine DOT is making plans to provide light capital paving along Pascal Avenue, Central Street, and Union Street this summer. Signs went up recently, though covered until the project begins, to make motorists aware of the project’s work zone.
As of May 1, the cemeteries have opened for the season and the Town’s contractor is completing the spring cleanup over the next few days. Some cemetery roads may still be quite wet, so please be cautious as your drive through the cemeteries.
Late last month construction restarted on the Route 1 sewer project, and we expect the project to complete in late June. This phase of the project may be more impactful for motorists as the installation of water and sewer services will require a single lane of traffic.
While the Town received a letter from the Town of Camden requesting payment for what they deemed to be unpaid sewer bills, the letter did not include a date for the Administering Committee to meet, as our Select Board requested. Hopefully, a meeting date can be set soon and avoid unnecessary legal costs for both communities.
I am pleased to announce we hired a pair of new deputy harbormasters, Rob Parent and Drew MacMullan. Rob spent over 24 years in the Coast Guard with stops on Nantucket and Chatham as station chief and lived in Rockport for several years when he was stationed in Rockland. Drew is no stranger to the Midcoast, working for years at Alford Lake Camp in Hope, but spent winters at marinas in Georgia and Florida. I am excited what Rob and Drew can provide for our harbor and do not be surprised if you see them around town as look to broaden our efforts to improve our parks.
All the town’s floats are now in the water after weather and tides were a challenge through April. Yet despite challenging conditions in getting floats in the water, our roofing projects took off as the Harbormaster’s building and the picnic kiosks all had their roofs replaced. Many thanks to Anthony Simaitis for quick work and providing additional help on some rotten boards.
Harbormaster Abbie Leonard is preparing to issue first-come first-serve dinghy stickers to those who have been issued a mooring from May 1st-June 1st. For those without a mooring, Abbie will issue the remaining available stickers on June 1st at 8:00am at the Harbormaster’s office.
Abbie is working through the waiting list and matching up available moorings with similarly sized vessels on the wait list.
A pair of new dinghy floats are being built this week and soon should be in the water.
Summer Concert Series Events at the Harbor
June 12th- Dave Mallett Band
July 24th- Right Track
August 14- Bay Chamber Jazz on The Water September 25th- Mallett Brothers Band
Police Department
Chief Gagne was out of work for much of the month of April and returned to duty last week. Many thanks to Sgt. Moore and all of our officers for filling in
Month of April Statistics
Total calls for the month: 491
OUIs – 4
Traffic offenses – 16
Radar Details – 34
Our officers are out and about trying to make our roads safer. We remind drivers to slow down in the Town and obey all traffic laws.
Rockport Officers administered NARCAN on two separate individuals and two lives were saved during the month of April.
Wellness Training
The Town Offices were closed on Thursday, May 12, from 9:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. so our staff could attend a Wellness Workshop. It has been a very stressful couple of years, so we wanted to take a little time to take care of our employees’ wellbeing. Our speaker is Abigail DiPasquale from Maine Municipal Health Trust on how to go from exhausted to extraordinary!!
The topic is “Battling Burnout” which is a closer look at how our workplaces can and should change to prevent burnout among employees and how changing the view of your work and your life can leave you feeling more focused, productive, and empowered. Plus, a bonus looks at how Mental Health First Aid can equip you to address mental health and substance use challenges at your worksites.
Town Buildings
The Town Office will be closed on Monday, May 30, for Memorial Day, and June 20 for the observed date of Juneteenth. In addition, our offices will be closed to business June 14 so that our staff can focus on election support.
With an uptick in COVID cases, as a reminder, please wear a mask if you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID. If you are COVID positive and need help accessing town services, reach out to the office and perhaps we can assist. There are a great number of online services available that all residents can use from the comfort of their sofa.
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