Task force asks for broader economic impact study
The economic analysis of St. Andrews Hospital changes may be limited to the direct effects of job losses and emergency department closure, regional planners told the hospital task force at a meeting at the Boothbay Fire House on October 17. Task force members and Senator Chris Johnson urged the commission to address as many of the economic questions as possible and where necessary to make projections.
Mary Ellen Barnes said the commission has engaged Prof. Todd Gabe of the University of Maine to assist with their economic analysis. In a telephone call on Friday, Dr. Gabe said other potential effects of the hospital closure, such as effects on tourism and property values, could be estimated but it would entail a larger study than currently envisioned.
Commission Chair Dick McLean said during Wednesday’s meeting, “The experts in the area are cautioning us that the broader the scope, the fuzzier data gets. The Planning Commission is going to be cautious moving into this. We don’t want to put out questionable data.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, the Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission heard from both task force and Lincoln County Healthcare representatives, in the second meeting where the two sides shared the table and agenda. Each group presented its relevant history followed by an exchange of questions and answers that exceeded the time originally allotted by the commission.
Planner Bob Faunce said he thought desired upgrades to River Road were unlikely due to their high costs and other Maine DOT priorities. He said it would probably be easier to persuade DOT to increase Route 27’s priority for plowing, so ambulances are less likely to be deterred by snowstorms.
In an email after the meeting, Edgecomb Selectman and Task Force member Stuart Smith said, “I have been in communication with Peter Coughlan of DOT and it is possible for River Rd to get an upgraded classification and therefore, a higher priority for improvements and upgrades I will be putting together a three town conference with Boothbay, Edgecomb, and Newcastle sometime in the near future.”
At the task force meeting on October 23, Barnes said she would hold a workshop in the following week with task force members to talk more about plans for the economic study.
Town Manager Jim Chaousis said that the towns would probably not get the “magic economic impact study” they wanted because of time constraints.
Sue Mello can be reached at 844-4629 or firstname.lastname@example.org