ELLSWORTH — The annual holiday parade will take place on Saturday, Dec. 5, interim City Manager Glenn Moshier reminded councilors and the public at Monday’s City Council meeting, but with no crowds or parade walkers, and social distancing and masks required on floats and among parade watchers
“Before folks completely lose their mind[s], the concept behind the parade has been very well thought out among members of the Recreation Committee,” Moshier said. “We’ve put a great deal of effort into maintaining safety for this parade.” This includes a “heavy police presence” on Main Street before the parade begins.
The parade route has been lengthened to allow for social distancing among households. Line up will be at the Maine Coast Mall and at 11 a.m. vehicles will proceed down High Street, onto Main Street then up State Street to Knowlton Park.
In addition, a tree lighting will be held at S.K. Whiting Park at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 28, which is also Small Business Saturday, followed by Heart of Ellsworth activating the Main Street holiday lights. The tree lighting will be streamed virtually on the city’s Facebook page so that the public may participate.
“This won’t be the traditional tree lighting with folks gathering,” Moshier explained. “The numbers will be low enough that distance can be accomplished.”
The Wreaths Across America convoy is expected to arrive in Ellsworth at 9 a.m. on Dec. 13 but there, too, no crowds will be allowed to gather. Rather, there will be a “slow roll down High Street,” Moshier said, where people can “come out and show their support.”
A public comment emailed to Council Chairman Dale Hamilton expressed concerns about holding the parade given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, asking, “I’m a cancer patient. I get we want the holiday spirit, but at what cost?”
Hamilton said the Recreation Committee would comply with safety measures set by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Governor’s Office.
“If that can’t happen, it won’t happen,” he said. “We absolutely want to make sure the event stays within the defined parameters of the CDC and the state … At this time, we believe it will.”
Following the reading of public comments, Hamilton read a prepared statement about “the tone and tenor” of public discussion, based on emails received and conversations with community members.
“Our nation, state and community has endured a lot over the last eight months … We have witnessed resiliency, innovation, unity and heroism; however, we have also witnessed the worst that can be as human beings,” he said, adding further, “We don’t have to agree. In fact, a community is much stronger when we bring different perspectives to the table.”
In other business, city manager candidates are being interviewed this week and the vacant city planner position has been advertised, with nine applications received so far.
In action items, the council approved the following motions:
- To enter into a net energy billing and credit program agreement for the Mariaville Road solar project (unanimous).
- To purchase a boiler for Hancock County Technical Center for $89,800 from Honeywell using funds from capital and reserve accounts (unanimous).
- To contribute $2,000 to the Historical Society’s Museum in the Streets, 6-1 (Councilor Gene Lyons dissenting). In presenting the request, Moshier said the city was not recommending it, as it is already contributing roughly $3,600 by having public work employees install the 16 poles and plaques.
- To set the Branch Lake use sticker fee at $0 (unanimous).
- To accept bids from Greenfield Outdoor Fitness (approximately $78,000) and R.F. Jordan & Sons ($46,498) for an outdoor senior playground at Knowlton Park (unanimous).
- To provide a tax abatement to Maine Coast Medical Realty, from 2015 to 2018, in the amount of $10,000 per year (unanimous).
- The council also agreed, by consensus, to hold three public hearings on proposed changes to city ordinances to address noise complaints, fees for street vendors such as lobstermen selling on the street and how the city handles vacant and dangerous buildings, as set forth by Code Enforcement Officer Dwight Tilton.
Councilors also heard a request by David Burks and two of his grandsons to remove a tree hindering the American flag placed at Whiting Park so it can “fall freely,” as required by state regulations.
Councilor Marc Blanchette, who helped get the flag installed at the park eight years ago, agreed.
“I believe it’s time for that tree to go,” he said.
However, a comment emailed by state Rep. Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth) soon followed. After identifying herself as the daughter and granddaughter of veterans, she wrote: “I respectfully ask the council move the flagpole rather than remove the tree.”