News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 11, 2018
Snow renews concerns for Castine Selectmen

by Sharon Bray

Before the latest blizzard, the board of selectmen faced citizen questions about how the town could keep its year round businesses open through the winter.

Meeting January 2, the board handled other routine business but carried on the most lively discussion when businessman Ken Eaton told them, “The town needs to take steps to clear sidewalks in the area where businesses stay open.”

Eaton said he had fallen outside MarKel’s where thin snow covered an icy patch. Although, Eaton said, he had no serious injury, he wondered if an older resident might have fared worse. “We’re all getting older, you know,” he added.

He said he had cleared some snow banks with the plow on his pick-up truck and helped one business woman over the sidewalk snow bank to the door of her shop.

“We’ve only got a few businesses,” he said. “Too bad to make it harder in winter.”

Gus Basile, chairman of the board, said the town gets “a lot of requests” to take care of sidewalks. At the time of the meeting, he added, trucks were downtown removing snow.

Eaton said he would be happy to work with the selectmen to develop a policy aimed at keeping downtown sidewalks open and safe. In the past, municipal officers tried unsuccessfully to enact an ordinance requiring owners to keep sidewalks in front of their businesses clear of snow.

The town should find “an alternative to a punitive policy,” commented Brooke Tenney. To which Basile responded that he did not think it “punitive” to have owners keep sidewalks clear at their businesses.

Basile recalled a few years ago he offered to donate a nearly new snow blower to the town for clearing sidewalks. That plan failed when a few people proposed clearing all sidewalks from the library to Water Street and the dock.

At that time and on January 2, board members said the town does not have enough personnel to clear sidewalks.

“Why can’t the person who plows the streets plow sidewalks?” asked Liz Parish. She added that since the town had rebuilt the sidewalks, they should find a way to make them year-round usable.

“When the snow banks get too high, the town does take care of them,” noted Selectman Peter Vogell.

Selectman Colin Powell stated, “We need a clear policy with details.” But no meeting to work on the issue was announced.

In other business, the board agreed to accept Christian Walker’s resignation from the historic preservation commission and appointed Patrick Haugen to fill the seat with Arthur Leighton as an alternate. Both men had submitted letters offering to fill Walker’s seat.

The board approved Town Manager Jimmy Goodson’s revisions to the policy on utility charge abatements. Goodson said he consulted former manager Dale Abernethy and revised wording to make the policy easier to explain to abatement applicants.

In his report, Goodson said Central Maine Power is scheduling tree trimming in town for 2018, and he planned to talk to their arborist.

Goodson also said he had met with Dick Hutchinson of Penobscot about the process of training for community problem solving, which is being implemented in that town. Castine could consider working with Hutchinson.

The town will put out requests for bids on food service on the dock as Dudley’s Refresher does not plan to open the take-out stand this year.

The selectmen will meet next at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, January 16, since that Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. They plan to join Maine Maritime Academy officers at the academy for a town-gown meeting Wednesday, January 17, at 8 a.m.