Ellsworth Council takes heat at Monday evening’s meeting

ELLSWORTH — Several citizens addressed councilors with concerns both old and new on Monday evening.

Ellsworth Police Officer Jon Mahon admonished councilors for what he said was the city’s failure to respond in a timely fashion to his Freedom of Access Act request for a copy of the city manager’s contract.

Mahon said he filed the request three weeks ago and that it had not been acknowledged within the five days required under Maine law.

“Is waiting over three weeks for that document that you’ve seen a reasonable period of time?” Mahon asked councilors. (Under Maine law records must be made available within “a reasonable amount of time” or denied within five days.)

After the meeting, City Manager David Cole provided a screenshot of an email sent to Mahon on Sept. 21 by staff with a copy of Cole’s contract, the day after Mahon sent his request via the same email. Mahon said in an email on Tuesday that he had “checked every file on our home computer and it is not there.”

Cole said he was aware of the request but did not handle it himself. All emails and correspondence sent to staff at City Hall are public documents under state and federal law.

Mahon also said he felt his request had been shared inappropriately with city employees, who had asked him about it after the fact.

“I think this shows a serious lack of judgment,” Mahon said.

Residents Judy Blood and Rebecca Maddocks-Wilbur continued their efforts to persuade councilors to act to save the former Ticonic 4 Engine House, which Webber Energy purchased from the city in 2004.

The company obtained a demolition permit last month for two buildings on the site. Blood has appealed the issuance of the permit. The Board of Appeals will hear the case on Oct. 22.

Blood said Webber had offered the city $20,000 in 1986, an offer that was rejected because it was not market value and for “sentimental” reasons.

By 2004, officials had come around. Webber purchased the building for $5,000 after responding to a request for proposals put out by the city titled “Sale of Historic Municipal Buildings.”

Webber agreed to take care of the building as part of its successful proposal, Maddocks-Wilbur said, and any decisions about physical changes to the firehouse were required to be approved by the council.

Residents “decided a long time ago that it was important,” Maddocks-Wilbur said.

“Who is going to keep the history … to make sure that citizens don’t have to run out and try to prove what was signed to years ago?”

In other news, Julia Ventresco, a member of the Ellsworth Green Plan, reminded residents about an upcoming Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce panel discussion Thursday morning from 8 to 9:30 at City Hall.

The panel will present a draft of an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags in the city. Blue Hill and Belfast are among the municipalities that have enacted similar bans.

Janna Richards was unanimously approved as Ellsworth’s next economic development director. Richards will step down from her job as planner for Bar Harbor and begin work in Ellsworth Nov. 1.

In harbor and recreation-related news, the harbor generated nearly $29,000 in revenue for the city, said Councilor John Moore. “Which I think is the best ever.”

Ice eaters were installed to prevent water from freezing around the pylons, said Councilor Dale Hamilton. Hamilton also announced a donation from Storage Plus that was used to purchase a picnic table.

Facilities at Knowlton and Harbor parks have closed for the season. The Down East Family YMCA has offered to take care of the ice-skating rink this year for a fee of $3,000, said Councilor Gary Fortier.

Councilors approved a request on behalf of the city to apply for grant money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to create a senior fitness station at Knowlton Park “specifically designed with older adults in mind,” said Assistant City Planner Steve Fuller. No city tax dollars would be required for the project.

Friends in Action has worked on the grant application and secured funds, said Fuller, but only municipalities are allowed to apply for the grant. Equipment would include a wheelchair-accessible chest press, a two-person cross-country skiing station and Tai Chi spinners. Jo Cooper, executive director of Friends in Action, said the idea is to have the station be a “social” place.

The city has consulted with a landscape architect and engineer “with a view toward the whole park,” Fuller said.

Councilors thanked Steve Beathem and Bob Crosthwaite for their many years on the council. It was the last regular meeting for both men, neither of whom has chosen to seek re-election.

“I want thank them for … their guidance in the five-plus years I’ve been on the council,” said Chairman Marc Blanchette.

“They both served as mentors over the years,” said Moore. “They’ve been wonderful assets.”

Beathem thanked city staff, saying he has worked with seven managers, all of whom have had different styles, but that city staff has always been a constant.

Crosthwaite thanked “everybody for the help that you’ve been” and said he felt proud of his record of public service despite “having only been a U.S. citizen for 27 years.”

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Digital Media Strategist
Kate is the paper's Digital Media Strategist, responsible for all things social, and the occasional story too! She's a former reporter for the paper and can be reached at: [email protected]
Kate Cough

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