As the annual town meeting in March draws closer, the Bristol Board of Selectmen continued its discussion regarding the Bristol Parks and Recreation Commission’s proposal of a $1 increase to the entrance fee at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park and the commission’s intent to hire a parks and recreation director.
The board discussed both topics during its meeting Wednesday, Jan. 18. Commissioners Clyde Pendleton Sr. and Sandra Lane and members of the Bristol Budget Committee were also in attendance.
During a selectmen’s meeting in December, Pendleton told the selectmen the commission wants to raise the entrance fee to the lighthouse by $1. The current entrance fee for visitors to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park is $2 for ages 12 and up. Pendleton said he did not know when the last increase took effect.
The fee change would not affect passes for Bristol residents. For unlimited access to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park and Pemaquid Beach Park, residents pay $8 for a new pass and $5 for annual renewals.
“The increase at the lighthouse will not affect any of the residents by any stretch of the imagination,” Pendleton said.
Based on the number of visitors to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park in 2016, the $1 increase is estimated to generate an additional $74,000 for the commission, which would be used to pay for the salary and benefits of a parks and recreation director, a position the commission plans to create, Pendleton said.
The director would run the day-to-day operations of the park, create and administer the commission’s budget, and serve as a liaison between the commission and the parks staff, the town, and the public.
The director would report to the commissioners. The position would be full-time from April 1 to Nov. 1 and part-time the rest of the year.
“We figured our budget with this increase in mind, and it will easily pay for that position and add more money to our operating fund to work on other things,” Pendleton said.
The commissioners have been taking steps to prepare for the possible addition of the position. Tom Mullin, an associate professor of parks, recreation, and ecotourism at Unity College, attended the commission’s meeting Jan. 3 to help the commissioners draft a job description.
The description will include some requirements of the job, including the ability to write grant applications. The director could also develop new afternoon and evening recreational activities and programs within the town, Pendleton said.
“As I explained to the budget committee and the selectmen, the only qualification to become a parks commissioner is to get 25 signatures. I don’t know too many places that will hire a person to run a $340,000 budget with 25 signatures,” Pendleton said. “The town voted us to run it the best way we can, and I feel by hiring this person, the parks can be run even better.”
The selectmen were split over whether voters should consider the creation of the position as a stand-alone warrant article during the annual town meeting.
“I just wonder if we’re clouding the issue and undermining them if we put in a competing article. We elected the parks commission to make that decision,” Chairman Chad Hanna said.
Selectman Paul Yates voiced concern about not asking the residents about the position.
“When we hired an administrator, we went through a process and asked the town if they were in favor of having an administrator,” Yates said. “I’m just trying to be consistent is all.”
The selectmen tabled the matter of whether to have a separate warrant article. In the event the selectmen decide to have a separate warrant article, Pendleton said the parks commission will “stand behind it 100 percent.”
“My feeling is, I don’t think it should go out for a vote. It’s not that we have anything to hide, but we don’t ask the town for their permission to shingle a roof or purchase a truck,” Pendleton said. “It’s up to the selectmen now, and we’ll support what they decide.”
In the event the selectmen opt for a separate warrant article and residents vote against it, Pendleton said the entrance fee at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park would probably still see a $1 increase.
“There is a lot that could be done with that extra money,” Pendleton said. “I think a lot more could be done if we had a director though too.”