Fire inspector proposal off the table
BAR HARBOR—Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain told the Town Council and Warrant Committee Tuesday night that her department’s budget didn’t have a lot of places to cut. She did suggest, however, that the town could look at increasing some of the department’s fees.
“Despite our best efforts to reduce our budget there are very few areas here where we can make any cuts,” Chamberlain said
She said she believed that none of her department’s fees had increased since 2017 except for short-term rental fees. The cruise ship disembarkation permit fees are now through her office after the land use ordinance change limiting cruise ship caps was passed this November. Those changes are currently in litigation and mitigation.
Councilor Erin Cough suggested increasing the short-term rental registration fees to offset the department’s request for short-term rental compliance monitoring via an outside company
Chamberlain said that they’ve found it “next to impossible” for two staff (herself and Mike Gurtler, deputy code enforcement officer) to monitor the short-term registration.
She said that she has resisted this request for a year, trying to get through a year of the ordinance to understand how it was going and if it would be possible for them to enforce it and make sure all property owners were on a level playing field.
The cost would be $43,000. Cough suggested increasing the fee for each short term rental’s yearly registration of $250 by $63-65. The town projects bringing in $230,000 in vacation rental permits and inspections for this fiscal year, almost half of the department’s revenue. It is currently the department’s top revenue stream. Building permits are expected to bring in $185,000 this year.
Chamberlain withdrew a request for a fire inspector, which had been a joint request with Fire Chief Matt Bartlett saying that they “believe this is not the time to be adding additional staff,” though she and Chief Bartlett believe this is a position that is needed.
On Tuesday, the council and Warrant Committee listened to presentations from the town’s fire chief, code enforcement officer and police chief as well as the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce before discussing potential increases to parking fees and estimating cruise ship fees for fiscal year 2024, which begins in July.
The meeting is one of several scheduled to discuss and refine the town’s budget, which is approved by voters at the town meeting in June. Both the council and the committee make recommendations about the budget. Former Town Manager Kevin Sutherland had made recommendations about the budget prior to his departure last week.
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This is the second of a series of articles stemming from last night’s budget meeting. It was all too much for one article. Apologies. Plus, I have to get some paying work done.
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