Wiscasset selectmen

Schoonerfest loses try at town funds, will try again

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 8:00am

    When is 2-1 a losing vote? When Wiscasset’s selectboard of five has two members abstaining. Member Pam Dunning explained Tuesday night, July 6, the vote to propose Schoonerfest aid at a special town meeting lost, because three members would have had to say yes.

    Dunning was the dissenter, Kim Andersson and Dusty Jones the yes votes; and Chair Sarah Whitfield, who serves on Wiscasset Creative Alliance’s board, and Terry Heller, on Schoonerfest’s steering committee, abstained due to those ties.

    Selectmen discussed revisiting the idea and asked Peter Wells, who spoke for Schoonerfest, to keep them up to date on fundraising. Wells said getting any town funding after the inaugural, Aug. 18-22 event would be OK. Asked via email later if he planned to ask again for funds, Wells responded: “Yes, since the money is already in the celebration fund we plan on requesting ... some of it.”

    Town Manager Dennis Simmons said $8,687 is left in the celebrations account for the budget year that ended June 30. He said Maine Municipal Association did not say funds could not go to Schoonerfest, but he said voters approve the account each year expecting it to fund the town’s traditions. “I think you can find some very unhappy voters if you start heading down this path.”

    Dunning said she has heard from a lot of townspeople not happy with the idea of Schoonerfest receiving leftover funds she said could instead offset taxes.

    Selectman Kim Andersson said she wished Schoonerfest had asked at budget time, so the board could have asked voters. Now it is like when she has to write a check for activities her children have already committed to, she said.

    “I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Andersson said of the event. “I just wish we had asked the (townspeople) to pony up the money ... It’s not my money to spend.”

    When pandemic restrictions were in place, it was uncertain the event could be held, Wells said. The budget has gone from “basically nothing” to close to $25,000, about half of which has been raised, he said. Bands, the schooners sailing in, food trucks, a triathlon and more are planned.

    “It’s going to happen no matter what, so don’t worry about it.” Wells said he had been going to ask for $12,000, but due to two “substantial” donations, he was not proposing how much the town give.

    The town is already giving, via the increased demand the event will place on police, fire and public works services, Dunning said. David Pope of Schoonerfest’s music subcommittee spoke of Damariscotta Pumpkinfest’s growth since its start. “We’re hoping, we get this thing off the ground and running, in years to come it’s going to ... really uplift the town. It’s going to put us back on the map.”

    Also July 6, the board told Simmons to negotiate with Machinery Service of Wiscasset, the lone, $298,500 bidder for a series of generators for pump stations; the negotiations will involve the number of generators, selectmen said. Funding stands at $175,000, Simmons said. “We’re going to have to settle for buying what we can with what we have, and trying again next year,” he said. 

    The board named John Merry Jr. a water district trustee; approved First Congregational Church of Wiscasset’s use of the common for Summerfest July 24 and Merrymeeting Adult Education’s use of Scout Hall in exchange for advertising; Water Street Kitchen & Bar’s liquor license renewal and a temporary business license for Costigan Forest at 262 Bath Road; and accepted with regret Judy Flanagan’s and David Sawyer’s resignations from the cemetery committee. “If we don’t approve, do they have to stay on,” Whitfield asking, laughing.

    The board made Whitfield its liaison to the committee. Dunning, who volunteered June 15, has other commitments when it meets, Whitfield explained.

    Resident Blaine Soule praised Police Chief Larry Hesseltine’s recent handling of an arrest where the suspect got away and was arrested again in Richmond. Hesseltine was trying to treat the man like a human being, Soule said. He added, he has worked in law enforcement and wishes he was about 25 years younger, because he would be honored to work for Hesseltine.