GOULDSBORO — All of the town’s 31 employees, whether they work full time, part time or occasionally, will receive “premium pay” bonuses in recognition of performing their jobs during the deadliest pandemic in American history.
The one-time payments totaling $27,450 in bonuses will be paid out of the $91,938.55 received so far from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The town is due to get another equivalent amount in COVID relief funding.
At a Jan. 20 special town meeting, voters unanimously authorized selectmen to spend the $91,938.55 received thus far in ARPA funding. After that meeting, which lasted several minutes without questions or comments, selectmen chose one of three premium-pay plans presented by interim Town Manager Eve Wilkinson. Their choices were to spend either a total of $21,000, $27,450 or $35,000 to reward employees for their past and continuing efforts. In a 5-0 vote, they chose to disburse a total of $27,450.
Under the chosen plan, Gouldsboro’s full-time staffers will each receive $1,500 while the part-timers each will be paid $750. Occasional employees will get $350.
At a selectmen’s meeting earlier this winter, Fire Chief Tate McLean suggested that some of the town’s ARPA funding be used to recognize all the municipal employees. He was pleased with the decision to expend the $26,050 on bonuses. Earlier this week, McLean said he was heartened by their move to “take care of town employees — and with a financial reward. A lot of them spend money out of their own pocket for fuel and [it also recognizes] their time away from their families. They put themselves at risk of bringing COVID home.”
Besides funding the bonuses, selectmen also are planning to spend some of the ARPA money on improving broadband service in town. At the Jan. 20 meeting, Office Manager Ann Laine reported on the town’s newly formed Broadband Committee’s initiative to provide high-speed internet throughout town and across the Schoodic Peninsula. On Jan. 13, she said the fledgling committee held its first peninsula-wide meeting at Schoodic Institute’s Moore Auditorium. John Dougherty of Bangor-based Mission Broadband, who has been hired by Hancock County to coordinate spending of its $10.6 million in ARPA funding, Regional School Unit 24 Board member and Charybdis Computer Services owner Roy Gott, Winter Harbor business owner Sandy Fortin, Eve Wilkinson and Gouldsboro Infrastructure Superintendent Jim McLean were among the nine people attending both in person and via Zoom. Laine said Mission Broadband was instrumental in setting up the related survey at gouldsborotown.com. She said the survey’s responses will provide a baseline of what year-round and seasonal residents currently rely on for internet service, how fast or sluggish are uploads and downloads and other issues.
In other business, selectmen voted 5-0 to match the $1,500 in citizen donations to purchase a drone, which is a flying robot, for town use at an estimated cost of $2,400.
Jim McLean made the case that the device would be useful for locating beaver dams in streams, viewing malfunctioning septic fields and other time-consuming fieldwork. He said the device would be valuable as well to other departments.
Selectmen also opted to continue holding their public meetings in the town office’s conference room rather than the more spacious Prospect Harbor Women’s Club. They noted that the latter space’s acoustics are poor for following the proceedings in person and via Zoom. Some residents have expressed concern about the conference room having poor ventilation and being too small for social distancing.
“It costs a lot of money to heat the place,” Select Board Chairman Dana Rice added. “I understand people’s concerns. Unless we are expecting a big meeting, I would prefer to meet in the town office.”