2017-10-20 / Community

News Briefs

FIRE STARTER — Many people are aware of Dig Safe, and how to check for utility lines before digging a hole (Hint: Call 8-1- 1). Perhaps there also should be a number for Drill Safe?

According to Fire Chief Jeffrey Rowe, a morning fire in a four-unit condominium on Wood Pond Lane that flooded the downtown area with billowing black smoke, Oct. 3, was started when a contractor installing shutters drilled through the outside wall of a garage located between two of the units, and hit the back of an electric circuit breaker panel located inside the building.

The resulting fire sparked by the 200-amp service quickly spread to the roof of one of the adjacent condo units, but Kennebunk firefighters, aided by peers from Arundel and Wells, made a “good stop,” that prevented the entire building from becoming engulfed.

Firefighters from Kennebunkport and York moved up to provide station coverage in town while the other units were on scene. No residents of the building where home when the fires started and there were no reported injuries. The building was insured, Rowe said.

APPOINTMENTS — Selectmen have appointed Bow Street resident Kathleen Denton to one of two vacant seats on the West Kennebunk Village Committee.

Retired from a career in outside sales, Denton has a history of volunteerism, having previously worked the community Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas tree lighting and Family Fun Day, although this is her first formal appointment to a town committee. Her term runs through June 2020.

Also, a spot has opened up on the town’s ad hoc skate park committee as selectmen have accepted the resignation of Simon James. No reason for the resignation was given.

TAX HELP — In the first years since Kennebunk’s property tax assistance ordinance was approved by voters, the town received 23 applications for aid, approving 13, for $1,490 in property tax relief given, in amounts ranging from $64.25 to $185.25.

To qualify for the aid, applicants must be age 62 or older, have their primary residence in Kennebunk and be registered for the homestead property tax exemptions and must have applied and qualified for a state property tax fairness credit refund.

Kennebunk currently has $24,372 set aside for the property tax relief fund, including funds carried forward from a previous program that existed before state ended its previous property tax “circuit breaker” program in 2013, inadvertently outlawing similar municipal programs in place at the time.

According to General Assistance Administrator Karen Winton, the town also continued to add $5,000 to the program each year it was not available, until the re-alignment with state law was enacted.

“I look forward to working with [the town committee on aging] to increase our efforts to spread the word about this program and hope to have a lot more applicants next year,” Winton said. “ I am taking any and all ideas, and any and all help for promoting this program. I hear a lot from seniors who are struggling just to stay in this town. While this may not be a lot of money, every little bit helps.”

DONATIONS — Kennebunk selectmen accepted a $150 donation from the Parsons Beach Association, given to the town’s fire and rescue department.

FEMA FEEDBACK — Town Engineer Chris Osterreider said he plans to make a “detailed presentation” at the next selectmen’s meeting, Oct. 24, with a recommendation on whether or not the town should join a multi-town appeal new flood maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Those changes can have a significant impact on flood insurance rates paid by many town residents, although the exact number affected is still unclear, as is the question of just how far off, if at all, the FEMA modeling may be.

“This has taken significant time [to review]. It is extremely complex,” he said. “What is concerning to me is how people are making conclusions we are not ready to reach.”

A number of residents have urged selectmen to join the appeal in recent weeks. If the town down go in, the first phase of the appeal, in which Ransom Consulting Engineers of Portland would create its own predictions on the extent of flooding from a so-called “100 year storm “ is expected to cost about $35,000, down to as low as $23,300 if more towns join in the fight. However, to then have Ransom create specific modeling for Kennebunk as part of an actual appeal could cost an additional $20,000 to $48,000. Selectmen need to reach a decision on how to proceed before a 90-day comment period opens later this year, which is the window during which an appeal may be filed.

Osterreider signaled that his final recommendation will likely be to join the appeal, calling the cost, “probably appropriate.” Also he only has concern about “maybe three or four” of the 14 zones listed by FEMA, Osterreider said it is hard for any one town to go it along and joining the wider appeal is “the cost of admission” for addressing any potential errors in the flood maps.

“The cost of creating a new model is over $200,000. So, one guy is not going to do it,” he said.

SEA WALL SECURE — Osterreider also reported on recent emergency repair work done to the sea wall at Middle Beach, saying “everything is holding in place.” However, that is not the end of the story.

“I anticipate there is going to be some level of project that we are going to be bringing forward this winter,” he said. “This is a priority thing where we will be going to determine costs.”

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has deemed the remedial work done acceptable to remain in place for 18 months, without a formal review.

“Even if we were to determine what we’ve done so far is the final solution — I don’t, but if we were — we would still be required to at least file a formal permit application in six months,” Osterreider said. “We can’t just sit and pretend this didn’t happen. They’re aware of it. There are some situations there.”

Osterreider predicted that a new sidewalk will be built to replace the one damaged by the repair work “before the end of the year.”

NEW LIGHTS — Selectman Shiloh Schulte, in relaying his experience witnessing a near miss car accident at the intersection by the library, asked about installing pedestrian signal lights.

Town Manager Mike Pardue said Town Engineer Chris Osterreider already “is looking at the pricing of those” and a request may come to selectmen as part of the annual budget process this coming spring, for installation next summer.

Pardue said such signals would go “at several other locations in town” as well.

POTHOLE POTPOURRI — Selectman Ed Karytko has asked that the town created some sort of online app for reporting potholes in local roads.

Town Manager Mike Pardue said Portland has just such an online system and that Public Services Director Eric Labelle, having come to Kennebunk from that office, “is familiar with that.”

“He has some insight that he will be able to share with us on that. He is looking into it,” Pardue said.

BUDGET BLUES — Selectboard chairman Dick Morin cautioned his peers, along with members of the public to be aware of upcoming budget needs, predicting a time will come when cut will have to be made.

“As we start dipping into the well, so to speak, we need to think long and hard,” he said, pointing to costs on the horizon including “millions of dollars” in road repairs, implementation of new rules for regulating retail marijuana sales, the three Mousam River dams and a $2.6 million overhaul of the public services and recycling center on Sea Road and “a fire truck or two that needs to be considered.” “At some point down the road, the police department and the fire department are going to outgrow their facilities,” Morin said. “The land trust has already alerted us they are going to come looking for some funds. FEMA has got to have a piece of the action, and repair to the sea wall — we don’t yet know what the cost of that is going to be.

“All of that is off the radar. They’re not on the [regular budget] plan. We need to consider all of that as we approach the coming budget season, because there is going to be a point in time where something is going to cave. Something will have to give. I don’t mind taking a few hours in the back for making that statement, but it will.” “Thank you for that bleak news, but you’re absolutely right,” Town Manager Mike Pardue said.

HARVEST PARADE — Kennebunk’s Harvest Parade, approved by selectmen earlier this year for Oct. 13, was rescheduled at the request of organizers to start instead at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21.

The parade route also has undergone some slight revision, and will now start on Park Street, then commence along Dane and Main streets, ultimately ending on Water Street.

Compiled by Duke Harrington. He can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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