News Feature

Isle au Haut
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 3, 2014
Isle au Haut voters say yes to harbormaster, no to pay-per-bag garbage

Swearing in at the Isle au Haut town meeting

Moderator Ted Hoskins swears in Town Clerk Sue MacDonald at Isle au Haut town meeting in Maine on March 31, 2014.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

There’s more in the app

Town Clerk Sue MacDonald banged the gavel at 8:42 a.m. on March 31 and town meeting began. First order of business was electing long-time moderator Ted Hoskins. Seventy-one articles and six hours later, plus a scallop stew lunch cooked by tax collector Lisa Turner, and MacDonald was reading back the minutes. Then, the meeting adjourned, with voters passing an approximately $315,000 municipal and $222,688 school budget.

The only substantive change voters approved was creating the position of harbormaster, with the understanding that the town may have to train someone to fill it.

“We wanted to find out if the town wanted to go down that route,” said Second Selectman Dan MacDonald. “The selectmen felt the harbor seems to be getting awful full.”

Currently, boat owners place moorings wherever they choose. A harbormaster would assign moorings in locations that don’t conflict with any barging operations, and prohibit overnight anchoring in areas restricted by the Coast Guard.

“My primary concern is the haphazard layout of moorings,” said Bill Stevens, (newly re-elected as road commissioner). Also, if a mooring is not registered with the Coast Guard, then its owner is liable for damages if a boat runs into it, he noted. “If you don’t believe me, you might ask Andy Gove in Stonington.”

Approving compensation for a harbormaster proved difficult, “when you don’t know what it’s going to entail,” said Jason Barter.

“I see him easing into this position,” said Stevens. “It might take two or three years to get the snarl untangled.”

Voters approved $1,500 toward moving ahead in filling the harbormaster position and gave selectmen authority to hire a suitable candidate.

Making a change to the garbage collection system did not win approval, however. An article asking whether residents wanted to change to a pay-per-bag system never made it to vote although it resulted in a discussion on the issues facing getting garbage and trash off island. Currently, each household is allowed one clear plastic bag of garbage for pick-up at no cost.

“Making it easy and making it free is important. It makes people use it who wouldn’t otherwise use it…and keeps our island clean,” one resident said.

Items that aren’t picked up by the town, such as empty paint cans and old batteries and bicycles, could be disposed of in a rented dumpster, another suggested. That idea will be followed up for next year’s town meeting.

An article raising $45,000 for Isle au Haut Boat Service operations was approved although board secretary/treasurer Bill Chamberlin came away with a request that the winter schedule be changed to “4:15-at-the-earliest” for its afternoon Stonington trip. Currently, it’s a “bump-and-run,” said Paula Greatorex, based on whatever time the boat comes in. The schedule reads 4 p.m., but “rarely do they leave before 4:15 p.m.”

The motion passed, with the understanding that it’s the boat company’s decision.

“It’s always up to the captain,” noted Hoskins.

Voters also approved $30,000 for the General Store after a bit of grumbling. This is the third year that the town has granted funding to the island store.

“I was surprised to see that as a warrant [article],” said Kendra Chubbuck.

Another resident asked how the $30,000 subsidy in 2013 was spent.

A new point-of-sale software system was installed, with new computers to run it on, said board member Steve Calvert. That totaled about $8,000, plus labor costs, and “not all of [the $30,000] has been used.” The store has been “profitable for the year so far,” he added.

“Do we see this going on as a subsidy?” asked Bill Stevens. “I’d like to see it go down to zero.” He said he supported a subsidy for the fuel system as an “essential service to the island,” but not for a “for-profit enterprise.”

The vote following the discussion was unanimous in funding the 2014 subsidy.

Prior to the town articles, voters approved a $222,688 school budget. The $30,229 or 15.5 percent increase was due to special education and off-island transportation costs and needed maintenance to the school, said Superintendent Mark Jenkins.

Plus, he explained, not only is state funding decreasing, but its model doesn’t favor small, coastal towns.

“There’s two major factors working against coastal communities,” he said. “State funding is based on two things: property valuation and enrollment.”

All town positions were filled by incumbents except for the second and third tax assessors, which saw Bill Stevens and Kendra Chubbuck elected, and a two-year term on the Colwell Ramp Waterfront Access Board, which was filled by Jason Barter. Sue MacDonald was re-elected to a three-year school board term. After the adjournment, several people remarked on the civility of the meeting.

In terms of actual voting, there were “no surprises,” said First Selectman Landon DeWitt. “The outcomes were what I expected.”

Swearing in at the Isle au Haut town meeting

Moderator Ted Hoskins swears in Town Clerk Sue MacDonald at Isle au Haut town meeting in Maine on March 31, 2014.

Photo by Anne Berleant
Isle au Haut holds its 2014 town meeting

Isle au Haut School Superintendent Mark Jenkins explains the school budget at Isle au Haut town meeting in Maine on March 31, 2014.

Photo by Anne Berleant