2015-07-24 / Community

News Briefs

Fire department, Red Cross combine on detector project

Following a June 22 house fire at 305 Cat Mousam Road in Kennebunk that killed 25-year-old Kyle Szlosek, Fire Chief Jeffrey Rowe has announced an initiative aimed at preventing a similar event in the future.

Szlosek’s death was the first fire fatality in Kennebunk in more than 20 years, and state fire officials have said the tragedy could have been prevented had there been a working smoke detector in the home.

Rowe said his department has teamed with the Red Cross to provide a “completely free” smoke detector to anyone in town who requests one.

Requests can be made by emailing the chief at jrowe@kennebunkmaine.us.

The Red Cross is providing the fire detectors, Rowe said, which will be delivered by local firefighters.

“We’ll canvass the neighborhoods during the first couple of weeks in August,” Rowe said.

In addition to installing the smoke detector and providing tips on maintenance, firefighters also will provide education on home fire safety, Rowe said.

New coating approved for fire station floor

The West Kennebunk Fire Station is not getting a facelift, exactly, but it is getting a new coating on its concrete floor. At its July 14 meeting, the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen hired Industrial Concrete Services of Gorham to treat the station’s 6,000-square-foot bay area, at a cost of $27,555.

The award follows similar work done at the Washington Hose Fire Station and the Central Fire Station.

“We’ve had excellent results in extending the life of the floors,” Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said.

Only one other firm bid on the contract, DMT Industrial Floor Systems of Lewiston, which asked for $33,097.

Money to coat the station floor will come from $30,000 appropriated for the task as part of the FY 2015 budget, which rolled over to the current fiscal year.

Board OKs ambulance purchase

Kennebunk selectmen have agreed to buy a new ambulance, voting July 14 to spend $173,748 on a 2016 Type III Ford from Sugerloaf Ambulance of Wilton.

The price includes the $3,500 trade-in value of Rescue 4, purchased in 2006 from Kennebunkport for $7,500, which currently has 110,000 miles on the odometer.

The purchase will maintain a fleet of four ambulances in Kennebunk, a level of service deemed necessary by Fire Chief Jeffrey Rowe.

“There are days when three rigs are on the road quite frequently,” he said.

According to Rowe, of 3,500 rescue calls answered by Kennebunk last year, 373 (or, 10.6 percent) occurred when one ambulance was already out on a call, while 145 (4.1 percent) came in when two rescue units were in service.

“I think it’s money well spent,” said Kevin Donovan, chairman of the board of selectmen. “God forbid any of us need it in our own families.”

It also was pointed out that maintaining a fleet capable of answering any call simply makes good business sense. Town Finance Director Joel Downs said while it costs about $130,000 per year to run the rescue fleet of four ambulances, the trucks bring in nearly $850,000 in billing to insurance companies. June alone, he said, netted the town $77,000.

Of four bids submitted to supply the town with a new ambulance, one was lower than the Sugarloaf offer. Minuteman Fire & Rescue Apparatus of Walpole, Massachusetts submitted a bid of $173,597. However, Town Manager Barry Tibbetts pointed out that all three rescue units in the town fleet were supplied by Sugarloaf.

“We felt it made more sense to stay with the current supplier even though it’s $151 more, only because when we look at warranty and service items, when that person is coming down, it’s one vendor.”

The town also solicited bids for a 2016 Type I Freightliner ambulance.

“We had not put that in the budget, but we were very interested in seeing what that pricing would reveal,” Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said, noting that changes made by manufacturers, as they phase out the current models, may necessitate purchase of that type of vehicle in the future, even though Rowe called it “more truck than we need.”

Those bids ranged from $224,285 to $252,631.

Rowe said his department gets, on average, about 12 years of service from each new ambulance.

Invite made for Family Fun Day

One way to impress Kennebunk selectmen is to actually show up at one of their meetings, and that’s just what Barbara Weeman did July 14.

Not only that, but she brought some friends — nearly the entire delegation of the West Kennebunk Village Committee, which she chairs.

Weeman said the show of force was prompted by discussion among selectmen at their previous session, June 23, at which they debated the town’s many volunteer boards and committees.

At their June 23 meeting, selectmen briefly considered extending annual committee appointments for 60 days while deciding who should or should not receive their blessing for reappointment.

That plan dissolved, however, when town attorney Pat Dunn advised that the town charter only provides for three-year appointments.

Selectmen then approved a slate of reappointments, excluding only Alex Mendelsohn, who had previously served on the Conservation and Open Space Planning Committee. Mendelsohn maintains a web-based newsletter, PADESwatch, which is often critical of town action on environmental matters.

“I watched that meeting and I was a little disturbed,” Weeman said. “There was talk of not reappointing committee members. Our committee works very hard. I just wanted you to know that.”

Weeman then issued selectmen a personal invitation to attend West Kennebunk Family Fun Day Aug. 1. That annual event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., features a pancake breakfast, kids activities, pie and watermelon eating contests, adult fun races, crafters tables, an antique car show and a bean supper, among other events. Chief among the attraction is the 11 a.m. parade, which runs from Cummings’ Market to the Masonic Hall and features decorated bicycles and doll carriages.

“That parade is definitely one of the most enjoyable,” board Chairman Kevin Donovan said, having clearly attended Fun Days in the past. “It’s small, but it’s definitely hometown New England.”

Revisiting roadwork is on the radar

In response to public criticism about the state of Kennebunk roads, Town Manager Barry Tibbetts has promised a plan, to be unveiled “sometime this fall.”

At the July 14 selectmen’s meeting, Sea Road resident Stephen Bowley asked the board to be more aggressive in budgeting for road repairs.

“I look at what we do yearly and I wonder when we will catch up, if ever,” he said.

Chairman Kevin Donovan said he had sought to make road repairs a priority when first elected, but his zeal was soon tempered by reality.

“When (Finance Director) Joel (Downs) informed me what the cost was going to be, I was more than taken aback,” he said, noting that some roads in town need to be rebuilt, not merely repaved. “I was really shocked as to what the hit would be on the mil rate. It would be substantial.”

According to Tibbetts, taking care of all roads in a single budget year would add “at least $1.25 to the mil rate,” which currently stands at $14.90 per $1,000 of assessed value. In other words, a single-season solution would add $312.50 to the annual tax bill of the median single-family home in Kennebunk, assessed at $250,000, for a total property tax bill of more than $4,037.

“We’re losing the roads quicker than we’re getting to them,” Donovan admitted, “but right now I really don’t have an answer to that. But are we aware of it? Yes, at least I am.”

Selectman Christopher Cluff repeated his call for a “strategic plan on roads,” which Tibbetts answered by noting that the town report on road conditions, last updated nearly a decade ago, is currently being revised using new software that will allow selectmen to not only prioritize which roads to repair first, but which sections of each road need the most immediate attention.

That list will be ready for selectmen to review in “late fall,” Tibbetts said, in advance of next year’s budget season.

Still, Bowley pushed for taking as big a bite out of the problem as possible.

“There are other things that can wait, roads are something that everybody in town uses,” he said. “Frankly, I think the way to pay for it is to give up a lot of other things.”

Town purchases pick-up truck

Kennebunk has purchased a new pick-up truck for the public works department over the objection of one board member, who stumped for a local vendor.

The town received two bids to supply a 2015 GMC Sierra 4x4, ¾ ton pick-up equipped with an 8.5-foot stainless steel plow. O’Conner GMC of Augusta offered $37,070, while Weirs Motor Sales of Kennebunk of Arundel bid $40,881.

Selectman Dan Boothby suggested the town would save money in the long run on repairs and maintenance if it went with the local dealer. However, Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said warranties made the vendor location moot.

Still, Boothby championed the higher bid, citing a selectboard policy that lets it accept higher bids from local vendors, provided a difference from the low bid of less than 10 percent.

“Weirs hires our residents,” he said. “They support our sports teams. They support our community. I think we should go local.”

Selectmen appeared unimpressed with Boothby’s plea, however, and voted 6-1 (with Boothby opposed) to accept the low bid.

Area residents invited to ‘feel the Bern’

It appears a July 6 rally in Portland for presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, which drew more than 7,500 people, was not a one-off event some might have supposed.

The independent U.S. Senator from Vermont is campaining for the Democratic Party nomination, and the newly established Kennebunk Campaign for Bernie Sanders has announced a second event, Wednesday, July 29.

Sanders will not appear at this rally in person, however. Instead, attendees will recieve a nationwide live video feed from Sanders’ campaign headquaters.

“We’re anticipating hosting 60 to 75 people at this event, but can accommodate more,” Kennebunk resident Alex Mendelsohn said. “Everyone is invited to watch Sanders’ presentation, and discuss his bid for the presidency.”

According to Mendelsohn and other event organizers, campaign plans will be discussed at the meeting “as the grassroots movement takes shape to nominate Bernie Sanders as a presidential candidate.”

The rally kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on July 29 — with the video feed scheduled to start at 7 p.m. — at the New School, 38 York St. (on Route 1) in Kennebunk.

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