Group met but couldn’t act on potential parking fee changes
APR 21, 2023
BAR HARBOR—Interim Town Manager Sarah Gilbert came into the upstairs council chambers at the Bar Harbor Municipal Building and counted as two Bar Harbor police officers and Parking Solutions Task Force Members pushed tables together and sat themselves around it. In the regular seats were two members of the public.
It wasn’t enough. Phone calls were made. Erin Cough had already said that she couldn’t make it and was already on her way to Ellsworth for another meeting that had been scheduled first and occurred at the same time. Another member, Ron Greenburg couldn’t be reached. They were one short of a quorum.
There are five vacant spots on the 13-member board. Board vacancies and a lack of quorum (majority of members attending) for meetings are a common problem in Bar Harbor. The quorum is determined by the total number of seats including vacancies. So a quorum for the Parking Solutions Task Force is seven, even when the total number of sitting members (because of vacancies) is eight.
To fill vacancies for boards where the members are not elected, interested people fill out and return a Boards and Committees Application for both annual and mid-year appointments. Members are then recommended (or not) by the town’s Appointments Committee, which is made up of three councilors. The committee meets with potential members. The committee’s selection is brought forth and nominated before the full council. Any council member can nominate someone else on the list for the annual appointments. The policy does not currently specify if that is also allowed for mid-year appointments. The policy was last updated in September 2022.
So, because of that lack of a quorum, the Parking Solutions Task Force met on Thursday afternoon but couldn’t elect officers, make motions or decisions, take action or make recommendations to the town council. The members talked about several topics on the agenda instead.
“We’re never going to have a quorum,” one member said.
Gilbert said she’d have the assistant town clerk post about the openings on the town’s website.
The meeting will be rescheduled.
LOCAL RESIDENT/MDI DISCOUNT
The council’s FY2024 budget, which goes before voters in June, has an increased revenue line from parking meters. The council has recommended an increase to the parking fees. The committee discussed giving 50% discounts to Bar Harbor residents and possibly all MDI residents.
“The thinking is that we can use a lot of this extra revenue to offset the revenue for our local school,” Councilor Matthew Hochman said.
Special Services Lieutenant Christopher Wharff said there are different configurations that can be done to reach that revenue. The task force will discuss those at its next meeting, but it could include something like $2 an hour for the first few hours and then $5 an hour after. They also discussed potentially hiring a consultant to help them determine the best configuration.
The original proposal was to have a flat increase from $1.50 to $2 and $2 to $4 for different areas in town.
A new business that would take park visitors from downtown Bar Harbor and up Cadillac Mountain every hour on the hour was looking for help finding a place to meet customers and have them embark and disembark. The loading and unloading process would take 15 minutes each hour.
Bus loading zones for the 2023, 15-passenger Mercedes Sprinter were discussed, but there was no guarantee that the other busses would not be using those spaces. The business owner talked of potentially leasing a public space. Task force members also discussed using a privately owned space or the space in front of the Bar Harbor Historical Society.
JESUP LIBRARY REQUEST FOR PARKING METER AT THE JESUP
No representative of the library was at the meeting, but Gilbert explained that a few months ago, the library had discussed putting in a unmanned kiosk at its back parking lot and then sharing the revenue with the town. It was unknown who the library wanted to pay for the kiosk and/or meters.
UNSAFE STREET ENTRANCES
Jim Mahoney an Atlantic Avenue resident spoke of the safety getting in and out of side streets, and the proximity of parking spaces to crosswalks. There are parking spaces abutting next to those crosswalks, he said, and asked if studies that had been conducted earlier about these safety concerns had been completed. He asked that the town look to the safety of Atlantic Avenue as well.
Hochman believed that the study he was referencing was a Mount Desert Street study conducted by the Maine Department Of Transportation. Hochman was unsure if the study was completed or not. Several other areas in town were quickly discussed as being potential problems.
Bar Harbor Police Captain David Kerns said that they’ve had staff level discussion about looking at the areas comprehensively rather than a hodgepodge approach. “I can think of a half a dozen right off the top of my head.”
“There’s more than that,” Wharff said.
It was suggested that some of these areas could be looked at via the town’s streetscape study that focuses on Cottage and Main Streets.
“Small cars only” signs, crosswalk painting, and working with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine were all discussed.
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