News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, March 8, 2018
Penobscot meeting signals support for better internet

Casting a vote

Gerald Markley votes in favor of a warrant article.

Photo by Monique Labbe Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Monique Labbe

Broadband internet—and what the town should do about it—was the topic of longest discussion during the annual Penobscot town meeting on March 6.

This year’s meeting is to be held in two parts, as a printing error in the school section of the town report prompted the selectmen to postpone those items to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 13.

Article 48 asked the townspeople to raise $5,000 to be used toward a study focused on determining what the next, most prudent steps would be to bring broadband internet to Penobscot. That $5,000 is the first of two installments, the second of which would be on the 2019 town meeting warrant.

Both installments would be matched by the Island Institute for a total of $20,000.

Several in the audience spoke in frustration over the time period of the study, which would take almost two years to complete before even talking to broadband internet providers, while others said that the money is expensive for just research.

Harold Shaw noted the importance of moving the town “into the 21st century.”

“We’re at a point where no business, school, professional, can operate without [the internet],” said Shaw. “It is critical to every element, to every part of our society, to have adequate service.”

School board member Fred Briehl echoed Shaw’s sentiments, noting that in order to continue having a healthy school population, fast internet speeds are needed to bring those families to the town.

After nearly half an hour of conversation, the question was called and voters approved the article.

Of the 60 articles on the warrant, only one article was voted down by the townspeople.

Article 56 asked if the town would vote to give a 2 percent discount on taxes paid within 30 days after commitment. This was an article that had been approved by voters during past town meetings.

“I urge you to vote against this,” said selectman Paul Bowen. “Where do you think that discount comes from? It comes from your money. It is essentially a scam.”

Bowen went on to explain that interest from the bank used to pay for that discount; however, the banks “are not paying interest anymore.”

The audience agreed with Bowen and voted it down.

The town also approved the sale of liquors and spirits, something that had not been approved since The Prohibition, according to Bowen. Prior to town meeting, stores in town were only able to sell beer and wine.

Voters also approved $3,000 for the Blue Hill Public Library, even though the Finance Committee only recommended $2,838. Several community members spoke in favor of the library and the services it provides to the people of Penobscot.

When all was said and done, voters raised and appropriated roughly $550,000 for the municipal budget.

In election matters, Harold Hatch retained his seat on the Board of Selectmen for another three years, while Gerald Markley did the same on the school board. Sally Bridges will continue her work as the town clerk for another two years.

Town meeting will reconvene March 13 to take up the remaining school articles.

Answering request questions

Jamie Roy from Eastern Area Agency on Aging answers a question about the organization’s $2,000 request.

Photo by Monique Labbe
Casting a vote

Gerald Markley votes in favor of a warrant article.

Photo by Monique Labbe
The moderator

Longtime town meeting moderator Sherm Hutchins takes his place behind the podium.

Photo by Monique Labbe
Discussing the transfer station

Harold Hatch answers a question about the transfer station.

Photo by Monique Labbe