To the editor:
I am a member of the Main Street advisory group, however, I am writing this as a citizen and taxpayer and do not speak for the group.
Since the original ballot question was approved at a town meeting, a group of people, which now identifies itself as “the Wiscasset Taxpayers Alliance,” has been opposing the project. These same people stood outside the voting area holding signs asking for votes against the project.
A substantial amount of misinformation has been circulated that is designed to scare voters and shop owners into turning against the project. The latest example was a Facebook posting last month with a headline implying that the Maine Department of Transportation was lying to the town when it said it would pay for all of the work. The actual story did not contain any such information. Checking with the DOT verified that it is willing to pay for all of the amenities proposed with the exception of public restrooms. The Facebook posting was changed to reflect the actual story in the article approximately two days later.
Some of the improvements concern widening the sidewalk and improving the stairs on the walk. Wiscasset is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Not only can a person with a disability not navigate the sidewalks in the downtown area, the walks are hardly safe for a person who is not disabled. Improving this situation is estimated to cost approximately $400,000. This is a substantial expense that the town will not have to shoulder. If not done at this time, at some point in time, the town will have to correct this problem on its own by order of the government or via a lawsuit.
My hope is that in fixing some of these problems in the downtown area, we can encourage more businesses to invest there. Maybe we can have more of the residents of Wiscasset shop in their own town. At this time most of the customers are from away. I also hope that the current businesses would invest some money and time in the appearance of their buildings. A thumbnail description of the area now is “shabby.” The individual who has been financing an attorney to fight the DOT would have been wiser to use the funds to hire a roofer. Some time ago, the historic slate shingles were removed from the building. When we have strong winds or a heavy rain, his shingles are all over the sidewalk. Walking in the downtown area, you will notice wood rotting on sills that have not been painted in years. We have one so-called “historic” building that is close to imploding due to neglect over the years.
Removing the diagonal parking on Main Street will not only make driving through the area safer, but will make the area look a lot better than it does now. As to the claim that off-street parking will hurt the businesses on the street, how many of you go to a scenic town to shop and venture around expecting to find parking in front of a store? In Freeport, there are a few used for quick pickups and loading, which the committee had included in the plan for Wiscasset, but most parking is off-street. They are still in business.