GOULDSBORO — Voters will decide whether to authorize selectmen to spend $93,000 received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which can be put to use for such expenditures as bonuses for public, frontline employees and improving broadband internet service.
A special town meeting on the matter is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 20. The meeting will be held via Zoom and in person at the Prospect Harbor Women’s Club Building. No decision has been made yet on how best to spend the funds.
Interim Town Manager Eve Wilkinson says Gouldsboro originally was supposed to receive a total of $186,000 and she expects the town to receive another ARPA allocation early this year. COVID pandemic-related, the funding can be used for such purposes as hazard bonuses or “premium pay” for frontline municipal employees including first responders — police, firefighters and EMS personnel — and town office staff who have served the public throughout the ongoing pandemic. Broadband is another allowable use for the pandemic aid.
In light of the latter use, Wilkinson is asking local residents to answer an online survey about their internet access and its affordability and reliability. Questions vary widely from users’ upload and download speeds to the formation of a town-run broadband network. The link to the survey is posted at www.gouldsborotown.com.
Once the Select Board has been authorized to expend the funds, Wilkinson says selectmen will further discuss and decide the best allocation of the funds.
At the Select Board’s Jan. 13 meeting, Gouldsboro’s town office supervisor Anne Laine reported that she had conferred with Charybdis Computer Services owner Roy Gott about developing a three- to four-year plan to upgrade the town’s office’s 10 antiquated computers and software programs currently being used. She said the recommendation is to buy three new computers every year instead of having to replace them all at a greater cost in one fell swoop. That way, Laine said the process is ongoing and keeps pace with frequent technological advances.
In addition, Laine said Gott has agreed to head Gouldsboro’s Broadband Committee and explore how to provide consistent, more equitable internet service to townspeople who require it as an essential service in their daily lives.
Speaking of upgrades, selectmen are looking at devising a 10-year plan to upgrade Gouldsboro’s town roads, which total 26 miles. They are contemplating budgeting $300,000 per year in order to repave 2.6 miles annually. Currently, the cost of paving runs $100,000 per mile.
“We should be paving the roads every 10 years,” declared Selectman Bob Harmon, who supported raising more funds annually to make greater headway and have a decent roadway system for the local community and businesses to safely negotiate year-round. “I think it’s unacceptable [the status quo] for citizens.”
Corea resident Dwight Rodgers noted many of Gouldsboro’s roads were not constructed for the size of today’s snow-plow trucks. The Cranberry Point Road, Rodgers pointed out, was built largely on shear ledge. “You can’t just put hot top and expect it to last if what’s underneath is no good,” he said.
It also was pointed out that road rehabbing involves a lot of prep work including ditching, shoulder work and culvert repairs. That labor-intensive work does not always figure anymore in contractors’ paving bids.
The Select Board directed the town’s infrastructure superintendent, Jim McLean, to inventory the town roads and develop a plan to repair and repave them over a 10-year period. Selectmen and the town’s Budget Committee will both review it before making any related recommendations for the 2022-23 municipal budget.