2016-01-22 / Front Page

Board to weigh events policy

Main concern is the number of events that impact traffic
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Faced with an increasing number of public events in recent years, many of which requires closing roads or rerouting traffic, selectmen have decided to take a heavier hand in governing their operation.

The board addressed the issue at their Jan. 12 meeting and, although they have no indication what it should contain, directed Town Manager Barry Tibbetts to return to their Jan. 26 session with a policy in hand.

“We are getting more and more events. Particularly challenging are the road race events,” Tibbetts said. “It’s a great thing that a lot of people want to come to Kennebunk and hold events. The flip side of that is that these do end up impacting the community on different levels.”

According to Tibbetts, there were 43 special events last year. Of those, 18 were sponsored by the town, for things such as Winterfest, Harvestfest, Old Home Days (which is changing its name this year to Hometown Celebration) and the May Day Festival. The rest were sponsored by area nonprofits or, in an increasing trend, profit-driven businesses.

“I think some of these are really taking advantage of the town. That’s just my opinion,” board Chairman Kevin Donovan said. “I mean, trying to get through this town on a Saturday, even in West Kennebunk, is getting a little crazy at times.”

That’s because many of the events impact traffic. Of the 43 held last year, 18 required detours, while 17 of the 25 remaining events sent motorists on al- ternate routes.

“To have every weekend impacted just seems like a lot to me,” Tibbetts said, noting in particular the impact on Lower Village “My thought was, that’s a lot to ask of residents in that area.”

One Lower Village resident, Betsy Smith, came the closest to telling Tibbetts what should be in the new policy, saying some form of advance notice to neighborhood residents would be appreciated.

“There have been a number of Sunday mornings when an event volunteer has been standing in my driveway telling me I can’t leave for 40 minutes,” she said. “Some kind of notification would be a big help.”

Compounding the existing logistical concerns, Tibbetts said, two of the annual road races are asking to stage their events on the same weekend this year. Meanwhile, two new groups are lobbying for addition to the list.

Because of the success of the Portland Symphony Orchestra concert at the Waterhouse Center last summer, staged in celebration of the Senior Center’s 25th anniversary, the Kennebunk Festival Committee has formed a subgroup called “Music on Main Street” to raise funds for a return performance. July 28 has been targeted for that event, if it comes off.

The Festival Committee also is considering a June event in Parsons Field called a 1776 Re-enactment Camp. About 50 re-enacters would bivouac on the field from June 24-26, giving public demonstrations of revolutionary era military life, including marching drills and musket volleys, as well as a host of other educational events aimed at families and children.

However, festival committee cochair Nancy Galloway said her group is not yet decided on the 1776 event. In addition to asking the committee to provide water, wood (for bonfires) and porta-potties, the group also is asking for $1,000 to cover its costs for staging the demonstration.

“They want $1,000? They can go somewhere else, quite frankly,” Donovan said.

Faced with a rising tide of groups looking to make a profit using Kennebunk streets, most selectmen seemed just as incredulous at the prospect of paying one to come to town.

However, Galloway said a representative of the 1776 group will appear at a future selectmen’s meeting to explain more fully what they do, and why the $1,000 is needed.

Selectmen elected to hold off on approving with the PSO or 1776 event applications until after they review the policy Tibbetts will submit.

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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