Report of the Board of Selectmen
3 February 2004
Annual Town Report 2003
To the Residents & Property Owners
Town of Cranberry Isles
Another year has passed and we approach our Annual Town Meeting which this year could be one of the most significant in the 173 year history of our community. This letter is to inform you of some key events that occurred in 2003 and items of concern to the Selectmen for 2004. Elsewhere in
this Town Report you will find the 2004 Warrant which will be addressed by the voters at Town Meeting. Please study it carefully for your participation and advice is critical to successful operation of our Town. Also, please be advised that a number of property owners have asked that our Annual Town Meeting, while formally scheduled for 8 March 2004, be placed into recess and reconvened on 15 March thereby permitting greater attendance. Such a request will be offered at the 8 March 2004 meeting.
a. First - a Special Town Meeting was called on 4 April 2003 due to the pending sale of the former Jarvis Newman home in Southwest Harbor for which the Town of Cranberry Isles held the
right of first refusal for purchase. This home is adjacent to our Manset parking terminal complex and went on the market for $722,500. The Town had 20 days in which to make a decision, borrow funds, and purchase this property. It was the decision of the voters that the property be purchased, restrictions removed which affected Town property and the home resold. This
sale has as yet not occurred and several voters have now asked that the question be again placed before the voters to take a second consideration on selling the property or keeping valuable shorefront property now that it belongs to the Town. Keeping the property will result in a .0006 mil increased in the tax rate or 55.7 cents per thousand evaluation over ten years.
b. Second - at the same Special Town Meeting on 4 April 2003 the voters approved borrowing a principal amount not to exceed $190,000 and repairing the Great Cranberry Island public wharf. Wharf repairs were completed in October 2003 under budget and the Town is repaying this 1.89% interest loan plus principal over five years. Our total debt obligation for 2004, including municipal bond payments for the Manset parking terminal, Islesford Wharf repairs and Newman home purchase, is $387,500.84; these payments are offset, however, by funds collected in 2003 with the total amount due this fiscal year being $198,568.
c. Third - the voters are being asked to consider changing the method of fire protection provided to the community. For the past 173 years Fire Clubs on Great and Little Cranberry, whose membership has been drawn from friends and neighbors living on their respective islands, have
provided this basic of municipal service. The demographics of our Town, however, have changed over the past twenty years, radically in some cases, with each island unable to sustain a viable fire fighting capability which meets the minimal requirements of the insurance industry. Page 4 of last year's Town Report first discussed this very serious problem and the situation has only gotten
worse. Now many of our neighbors are losing their insurance coverage since our community is rated at the lowest insurance coverage level - Level 10. For this reason, Article 23 is proposed (in three parts) with an initial outlay of $91,800 covering three Fire Protection Zones. Money alone will not solve this problem; however, equipment acquisition, building maintenance and critical fire training is mandatory if we are even to begin the climb up the ladder of fire protection sufficiency.
d. Fourth - Solid Waste Removal continues as a major expense for our community. Progress in developing an alternative to the current methodology of waste collection and removal has been achieved with the issuance in November 2003 of a solid waste removal specification for public
bid. On 16 December 2003 proposal were received from two bidders: Courtney Chaplin of Islesford and Gray Enterprises of Great Cranberry. Following a review of each submission and a series of answers and questions posed to each bidder at the 6 January 2004 Selectmen's Board Meeting, an award for Solid Waste Removal was made to Gray Enterprises. In the near future Gray Enterprises will be constructing containment buildings on both Great and Little Cranberry Islands for trash compaction equipment, with fencing and gates to shield the sites from view. This contract covers a span of nine years for "grain bag" type household waste materials. Specifics on
disposal of other types of waste such as metals, white goods, construction materials and hazardous wastes will be provided directly to you by Gray Enterprises. The Selectmen meanwhile are applying for State EPA Transfer Station permits for each site.
e. Fifth - Mosquito Control on Little Cranberry Island continues to be of major concern to residents of Islesford Village. While concern by most citizens of the State of Maine over mosquitoes and their elimination is minimal, this is not the case for the Cranberry Isles. On 21 July 2003 the Selectmen received a petition, signed by 66 residents out of 109 registered voters from Islesford (60.6%), asking for assistance in controlling the mosquito population. A review of Town Reports dating back to 1932 reveals a systematic eradication program funded by the Town in the range of 5% to 18% of the yearly budget for this purpose with $2,000 to $2,500 being spent yearly in the 1960s for payment to Harry and Raymond Spurling to keep the drainage ditches open on Islesford. Two years ago the Town appointed a special Mosquito Control Committee and their report was published in last year's Town Report and is repeated again in this report for it is germane to the problem at hand. The petition received in July 2003 requests the Selectmen to consider an alternative to the chemical approach presented at last year's Town Meeting. Specifically they have requested that we "study and obtain cost estimates for clearing the former ditches and outlets to the sea [on Islesford]. ... To begin, the requestors suggest that the ditches that run from the middle of Islesford down through the old ice pond to the mini-pond and through the culvert onto the sand beach be cleared. It should also be determined if the level of the culvert might be lowered to more completely drain the mini-pond area."
The Selectmen have been in contact with legal counsel, including the
Maine Municipal Association, since a Town just doesn't go digging ditches and
draining private or public wetlands without legal clearance from
homeowners, the Environmental Protection Agency (State & Federal), Inland
Fisheries & Wildlife, and Department of Marine Resources plus obtaining
civil engineering advice. $12,000 has been recommended to initiate a comprehensive course of action to address the petitioners' request.
Other areas of Town government which represent improvements in
infrastructure, town operations or are of concern to the Selectmen
a. Public Telephone System: Last year your Selectmen reported
in their annual letter that "we still have telephone service but a steady
decline in capability seems to have occurred this past year" and that Selectmen
Beal had written to the Maine Public Utility Commissioners on January 16,
2003 seeking their assistance. Conditions continued to deteriorate until Hurricane Juan passed up the coast of Maine to Nova Scotia in mid-September provided the last straw in
operating capability. At this point telephone service really began to fail for most of the Cranberry Isles and the Selectmen were force to declare a "Public Safety Emergency" which got
everyone's attention from Augusta to the corporate offices of Verizon. From a Verizon letter dated October 16, 2003 sent to the Maine PUC: "As a longer term solution,
Verizon planning engineers are preparing a plan to place a new twenty-four fiber
double armored cable from the mainland to Great Cranberry Isle next spring. The custom manufactured submarine armored cable will be placed from the mainland to Great Cranberry Island and will be steel encased on both shores, from above the high water mark to below the low water mark. The existing SLC-96 equipment on Great Cranberry Island [next to the tennis court-Main Road] will also be replaced." The current submarine cable was installed in 1963. Verizon engineers are also examining the rest of the distribution system to ensure its functionality and efficiency in today's high speed data environment. Most important of all is your participation in notifying Verizon every time you experience a problem or outage of service: The number to call is
b. Change of fiscal year dates for Town Operations: While public
law permits your Selectmen to determine the dates for the fiscal year covering
Town operations, it is our opinion that this is best left as a decision of the
voters since it also affects timing of the Annual Town Meeting. The school department is already
operating on a July 1st to June 30th fiscal year and
changing the Town's operation to match would be of some convenience but more
importantly such a change would permit participation in the Annual Town Meeting
by a large number of property owners, who are not registered residents and thus
unable to vote, but who contribute more than 85% of the taxes collected each
year. Unfortunately our community size has decreased over the last 30 years to just 168 registered voters and only an average of 55 voters attend Annual Town Meetings. Changing the fiscal year and timing for the annual town meeting would permit greater participation (voting or
not) and thus permit out community to draw upon a significant wealth of
knowledge and life experiences. It is true that we have always opened our meetings to comments from the non-voting public, but with a change of meetings from March to August this could produce participation in far greater numbers as demonstrated by our three Special Town
Meetings in the summer of 2002.
c. Municipal Facility Commission: The MFC is a successor group to
the former Land Management Commission and has been accomplishing numerous tasks
now associated with operation of the Manset property plus a host of other duties
outlined in Article 24 of the 2004 Warrant. The Selectmen are asking for your
review and approval of this MRC Charter for the work that this volunteer
commission performs is invaluable.
d. Lease of "Cranberry Isles Parking Lot" in Northeast Harbor At the 16 December 2003 Selectmen's Board Meeting a proposed lease with the Town of Mount Desert was reviewed and approved. This lease must now be accepted by the Mount Desert Selectmen and the Town's voters must grant permission to lease the "Cranberry Isles Parking Lot" to us. This proposed 10 year lease meets the needs of the both towns and is neutral in affect on the Cranberry Isles' Operations Budget in that parking spot rental fees cover all costs associated with this lease.
e. Hiring two new town employees: Deputy Town Clerk
& Facilities Maintenance Supervisor: The Selectmen believe
that the time has arrived when very serious consideration must be given to the
hiring of two town employees to assist in performing the myriad of details
associated with efficient and accurate operations within the municipality. Even though our Town is small in comparison to most Maine towns, the same laws apply, the same public
functions apply and the individual requests of its citizens must be address
promptly. Heretofore, these functions have not always been performed in the most professional or efficient manner since all the Town has as a work force is three Selectmen (two with full
time jobs) and a Town Clerk who also doubles as Town Treasurer and Tax Collector. The quantity of documentation which must be generated, issued, received, and/or filed plus
ordering of supplies, paying bills, maintenance of cemeteries, tagging dogs,
issuing licenses, death certificates, and then responding to the public
necessitates asking for your support in the hiring of a Deputy Town Clerk. Likewise, volunteer labor and management assistance is not enough when it comes to Town property of all kinds
located within the five island boundary or in Southwest Harbor, plus operation of leased properties in the Town of Mount Desert. The Selectmen concur with the recommendation of the Municipal Facilities Commission that a Facilities Maintenance Supervisor is required. Copies of their job descriptions are contained in this Town Report.
f. Great Cranberry Island Public Restroom: While our public restroom facility
on Little Cranberry continues to serve as an example of our concern for the
needs of the visiting public as well as islanders down at the docks and "caught
short", the facility on Great Cranberry at the Town parking lot is a total
embarrassment - a thing of shame. Last year we reported to you that the Great Cranberry Futures Group, a private not-for-profit organization, was offering some financial assistance for
the purchase of an exhaust system, but it has not helped. It is what it is! Two toilet seats on the top of a holding tank with no running water for washing up. Anything other than total
replacement of this facility would be a waste of funds. Article 16 of the 2004 Warrant
addresses this serious problem and our concern for public health.
g. Manset Transportation Terminal: While operation, maintenance and
oversight of the Manset property is performed under the aegis of our Municipal
Facilities Commission, the Selectmen want to advise you that we are continuing
to seek long term improvements in the fiscal management of Town resources, and
are presently seeking legal and fiscal guidance for creation of a Municipal
Corporation covering the Manset complex. Such a move would change the Town
from being recognized under law as a "private individual" to a "Municipal
Corporate entity". Article 32 of the 2004 Warrant asks for your permission to complete our
research and if the benefits are as presently promoted, then we would establish
this corporation on behalf of the Cranberry Isles citizens.
h. Town Assessor: The Board of Selectmen in October 2003 hired Mr. Roger Peppard, CMA, of RJD Appraisal Company in Pittsfield, Maine to be our Town Assessor. RJD Appraisal is a professional assessment and appraisal company which services more than 30
Maine communities (Stonington, Winter Harbor, Bluehill, Surry, Southwest Harbor, etc). The Town Office on Great Cranberry Island has been reopened and outfitted to permit the
Assessor and his staff to perform their duties in Town rather than offsite. The phone number for voice and FAX is: 207-244-7755.
i. Emergency Medical Technician: For
a number of years Great Cranberry Island has been fortunate in having two
Emergency Medical Technicians and a fully stocked ambulance maintained by the
local Fire Club. The Selectmen believe, however, that as part of continuing improvement to public
safety within the Town, Little Cranberry Island should also have at least one
EMT with equipment and is actively pursuing candidates to become EMTs. An individual who passes the initial comprehension screening examination would then participate in 120 hours
of EMT training over 3 months in Bangor. Clinical experience is included, with County Ambulance Service in Ellsworth providing periodic refresher training. Costs per individual are
approximately $750 for the course and per diem which we believe reasonable for
the benefits to be achieved. We hope that you will support this effort and encourage potential
candidates to apply to the Selectmen.
j. Shellfish Conservation Program: Three years
have passed since enactment in March 2001 of the Town's Shellfish Conservation
Ordinance. Since then all commercial digging of clams has ceased and what harvesting that has taken place has been limited to 20 or less resident license holders each year. While the State Department of Marine Resources has approved the shellfish conservation ordinance revision
currently on this years Warrant which would extend the ordinance's life for 5
more years, the Selectmen are unable to answer the basic question as to what is
the state of our clam and shellfish resource within the Cranberry Isles? There is no baseline survey on which we can judge the productiveness of our open clam flats, only anecdotal
stories. For this reason the Shellfish Conservation Committee and Selectmen believe that a biological survey of the Town's clam flats needs to be conducted to establish a baseline for the
health and productiveness of this important resource. A survey program to accomplish
this task, in conjunction with the University of Maine (Machias) Biological Sciences Division, is being
developed by our Shellfish Conservation Committee for implementation later this
summer if approved by the voters. Dr. Brian Beal of the University of Maine (Marine Sciences) has offered his assistance in organizing this survey, training the surveyor, and preparing a final
Richard F. Beal, Chairman
David M. Stainton
Orville E. Blank, Jr.