SULLIVAN — The Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 Monday night to hold annual Town Meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, on the soccer field at Sumner Memorial High School.
School administrators say public access to the gym is not possible due to the possible resumption of some in-person classes in September. The town does have a sound system.
Attendance will be limited to 50 in keeping with pandemic-related state rules. Due to the pandemic and based on previous years’ attendance, town officials do not expect more than 50 voters to attend. Monday, Aug. 31 is the rain date.
At their meeting, live-streamed from the town office via the online platform Zoom, selectmen asked Interim Town Manager Stacy Tozier to contact Sumner administrators to see if any exterior lighting could be used after dusk at the annual meeting.
In a related move, the board decided to meet at 5 p.m. next Monday, July 20, solely to discuss projected operating expenditures and revenue for the 2020-2021 budget. That session will enable them to submit a draft budget to the town’s budget committee scheduled to meet Tuesday, July 21. Operating under a tight deadline, town officials must wrap up their budgetary deliberations in order for the town report to be compiled, printed and available to the public by Aug. 13.
Selectman Roger Wakefield reported that he had been working with Tozier and former Sullivan Town Manager Rob Eaton to prepare a draft 2020-2021 budget as starting point for discussion at Monday night’s meeting. He said their aim has been to “itemize everything within the goal of staying within last year’s budget.” He noted the town is asked and does contribute to many nonprofit organizations, ranging from Frenchman Bay Library to Maine Public Broadcasting, but the priority should be town organizations for the coming year.
Among the departments’ funding requests is Sullivan Fire/Rescue’s proposal to pay two of its emergency personnel — ideally a firefighter and emergency medical technician — each $4.03 per hour to be on call during an eight-hour night shift daily throughout the year. The intent is to make greater use of the town’s own personnel for local and mutual aid emergency calls and complement the ambulance service contracted from Northern Light Medical Transport. Having two poised to respond means one can drive the emergency vehicle while the other attends to those requiring medical treatment. “It’s nice to have an extra person, another set of eyes,” Sullivan Fire/Rescue’s information officer Jeremy Ogden told selectmen. He is both a firefighter and EMT.
Selectman Ray Daley said he needed more time to decide whether Sullivan Fire/Rescue’s proposal makes fiscal and practical sense. “I am just not sold on it yet,” he said.
In addition, Sullivan Fire/Rescue is seeking to amend the town’s Municipal Fire and Rescue Department Ordinance. Additions include an inventory of fire equipment and current roster of all Sullivan Fire/Rescue personnel. Another amendment would authorize the fire chief or designated officer to obtain goods and services in a manner approved by the town manager. “I think the idea is to get away from the “Mother, May I?” format,” Wakefield explained. He noted the department files monthly reports detailing its year-to-date expenses.
The fire station’s furnace needs replacing, but space is limited there. Selectmen asked Tozier to contact Dead River Co. to look at the facility and suggest what heating system would work best. The option of a suspended, propane-fired heating unit will be explored.
At the July 13 meeting, Sullivan resident Don Snoke, who heads the town’s broadband committee, reported on his recent inventory of all utility poles in Sullivan. His study revealed that only five local roads do not have access to the internet provider Spectrum, which offers greater megabit-per-second speed than Consolidated Communications, the predominant internet supplier in town. Recently, he also conducted a resident survey, drawing 40 responses. Of those, 30 respondents were Consolidated customers while only ten were with Spectrum for the same price. He also found Spectrum’s database, inherited from Time Warner, is flawed and that may explain why so few local residents are Spectrum customers.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, and high-speed internet an essential service for households whose members increasingly are working, learning and communicating online, Snoke plans to build a potential customer pool and approach Spectrum about a group rate. “I am pretty sure 80 to 90 percent would hook up to Spectrum,” he said.
At the July 13 meeting’s outset, selectmen revisited their June 8 meeting conducted via Zoom. That meeting’s first 15 minutes were not accessible online to the public due to a technical error. The board took up that meeting’s earlier business again, voting 3-0 to approve the May 11, May 26 and June 8 meeting minutes. They again voted unanimously to hold town meeting on Aug. 24 as well as deny a property tax abatement to James and Deborah Knowlton.
In the July 13 meeting’s public comment period, local resident John Keenan questioned online from home whether Selectman Russell Gordon was entitled to vote given his three-year term was due to expire in June when Sullivan’s elections and town meeting were to have been held. They were postponed due to the pandemic. Gordon responded, saying he had been instructed by former town manager Rob Eaton that he should continue to serve until elections were rescheduled and held. Gov. Janet Mills’ June 3 executive order specifies how Maine towns should conduct elections and town meetings during the ongoing pandemic.
In other news, incumbent Gordon won his bid for another three-year term in a 304-29 race against Keenan in Tuesday’s statewide Primary and local elections. Write-in candidates included Becky Sutherland, Conrad Smith and Jenny Minard.