Peacock Calls For Looking Within and Without And Broadening Perspective
BAR HARBOR—While budget discussions and lawsuits about cruise ship limits take most of the attention and discussion for many, the Bar Harbor Town Council, Interim Manager Sarah Gilbert, Town Clerk Liz Graves and other staff and department heads continue to forge on with other tasks. One of those tasks is finding a new town manager to replace Kevin Sutherland, who resigned in January.
Town Manager Search
Gilbert is working as an interim town manager as well as finance director and the Maine Municipal Association will begin a search for Sutherland’s replacement.
A representative of the Maine Municipal Association will present to councilors on March 21 about the process and how to involve the public. The cost of the search is $6,400.
AMENDMENTS TO POLICY AND PEACOCK STATEMENT
At the Tuesday night meeting, the council approved amendments to the “Cable TV Public Access Policy” and the “Councilor-Staff Interactions Policy.”
Prior to that, councilors heard public comment as well as an introductory statement from Chair Valerie Peacock where she said,
“This past cold Saturday was a good excuse to slow down and stay home. After more than a few stressful weeks of town government, the day with my family gave me time to find some perspective. No doubt that the intensity of losing a manager, strategizing a lawsuit, building a new school, building a new budget that balances need with cost could lead one to believe that the sky is actually falling, that our town is falling apart.
“Or, it could also lead one to look around and notice our amazing staff who are working hard to keep the trains on the tracks and leaning in to solve our challenges. One might also see a council that continues to show up and slog through the work of finding paths forward in spite of the endless criticism. Or a warrant committee taking the time to look and listen carefully. Or a school committee continuing to advocate for the youth and educators in our community. One might also look around to see the community looking out for neighbors, hear about the nonprofits doing amazing work, and see that lots of folks are going about their jobs, taking care of their families. One might feel the bitter cold, or be in awe of the sea smoke and frosted tips of the Porcupine Islands and wonder what magic allows a sea duck to survive winters in Maine and be thankful for a warm place to lay your head.
“On Sunday, we skated through Great Meadow and the Beaver Pond at the end of Ledgelawn. I stood in the middle of the pond looking at Champlain and Dorr from a spot I’ve never stood before; I skated through trees, beside the Jesup path, around the cattails, and I reminded myself of one of the many reasons why I live here. After these past few weeks, I needed that reminder. It might be late to recommend a New Year’s resolution to you, but if there’s anything we can all do, it’s to broaden our perspectives, to look at things from different angles, from all angles. The good and the bad. Look for yourself, listen for yourself, look for the light.”
Hochman thanked the community and stressed how good it was to see how neighbors still help each other out despite political divisiveness. He also acknowledged the passing of Bar Harbor’s Agnes Smit saying, “She was a force of nature.”
Councilor Gary Friedmann also thanked all the department heads and interim Town Manager and Finance Director Sarah Gilbert for pulling together to keep the town going.
During the public comment section of the meeting, Annlinn Kruger began her comments by saying, “Welcome to season 2 of First Amendment Jeopardy.”
Kruger asked for the public reckoning about Kevin Sutherland’s tenure. Kruger and Sutherland clashed over her chalked messages about Leonard Leo, a conservative political player who is known for his support of conservative judges. He has a home in Northeast Harbor. Kruger has spoken at multiple council meetings during public comment about Sutherland and the council. She said that she voted for each member of the council but together they diminish themselves.
Peacock interrupted Kruger when she began to mention cruise ships. Subjects already on the council’s agenda or in litigation are not allowed to be discussed in public comment. The cruise ship disembarkation plan is under litigation. Kruger said that her remarks were meant to be general about transparency.
During the “Council Comments” section of the meeting, Hochman said that he respects everyone’s right to speak during public comment, but said it’s frustrating to hear that fellow councilors are in league with people or doing things against what the residents of Bar Harbor want.
“I know that nobody up here now is taking phone calls with Leonard Leo,” he said. “It’s not accurate. It’s not true.”
Also during public comment, an Atlantic Avenue resident asked about his neighbor’s sump pump water filling the streets, a problem Sutherland had spoken about during his tenure during his “Manager’s Minutes” at the Jesup Memorial Library. The water often fills the Atlantic Avenue street and freezes in the winter. One solution would call for two drains on Atlantic Avenue, which would go into his neighbor’s drive and a third drain. This would then go on the private drive, Hancock Lane, where, he said, a couple of residents are worried that construction would block their drives and that their structures could be damaged by digging.
Later in the meeting, when asked by the Town Council, Public Works Director Bethany Leavitt said she’d have to get back to them with an update about the situation.
Also during the public comment, Charles Sidman said that he wanted to make comments about the fiscal year 2024 budget. That was on the agenda, so he could not speak to it. There will be time for the public to speak about the budget in March.
Short-term Rental Registration Ordinance Amendment
Changes to the short-term rental registration were unanimously moved to a March 7, 2023 public hearing. If passed, there would be a flat fee for violations.
Regional Comprehensive Transportation Action Plan
Gilbert announced that the town had received a $200,000 Regional Comprehensive Transportation Action Plan grant. The town match is $50,000 that can be paid over five years and funded through capital improvement programs. The grant focuses on planning for safer roads, bikeways, and walking paths. The money is just for the plan, but the Federal Highway Administration told Gilbert that there would be implementation funds.
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