The vote was close on funding $60,000 for the construction of a dirt, camp-style road for Bremen’s Hay Conservation and Recreation Area at a special town meeting July 2, but the measure passed 7 votes to 5.
The special town meeting warrant included several transfers of unexpended funds to reserve accounts and a new floodplain management ordinance, in addition to the funds for the Hay property.
The articles included on the warrant are normally included in Bremen’s annual town meeting, but were held over because the increase to the education budget was not yet finalized, Bremen Board of Selectmen Chair Wendy Pieh said.
The board has been working on a plan for the Hay property since shortly after voters approved its purchase in April 2013.
The 10-acre property, which is mostly field, runs from Route 32 – just north of the intersection with Turner Road – down to Broad Cove. The selectmen approved the construction of a small parking lot near the road in November 2013, and a mowed path provides pedestrian access down across the field.
Bremen voters approved $60,000 in December 2013 to be used as matching funds for a Department of Transportation Small Harbor Improvement Program grant to improve the Hay property.
Selectmen were considering a gravel drive, a parking area, and a stairway to access Broad Cove at the time, according to The Lincoln County News archives, but there was and still is some disagreement on how or whether to improve the property.
The matching funds have been sitting unexpended after the board discovered it could do a more simple project for less money, selectmen said. Doing a project without utilizing grant funds from the DOT also gives the town more control over the property, Selectman Boe Marsh said.
The DOT would have also required the town to build a much bigger road than the board felt was necessary, Marsh said.
The current iteration of the project would include the dirt, camp-style road with a “very unobtrusive” parking lot near Broad Cove, Marsh said.
The reason for pursuing a road rather than just keeping the current mowed path down to the shoreline is so it can provide access for everyone, including pregnant or handicapped people as well as clam diggers, Marsh said.
It was reported at the meeting that members of the public were pushing for the road project to happen soon, and others were pushing for it to not happen at all. It was also suggested that a handicapped-accessible trail be installed in lieu of the dirt road.
Virginia Betts, a member of the Bremen Conservation Commission, said she is on the fence regarding what should be done at the Hay property but does not feel all land should be made accessible to all people.
“I’m not able to climb El Capitan [in Yosemite National Park], and I’m not going to try, but it’s still beautiful,” she said.
Bennett Collins, another member of the conservation commission, cautioned against taking on a new project while another remains unfinished.
According to Collins, the town’s landing on Storer Road already provides multi-use access to the water and has not been maintained.
Pieh said she and Marsh will commit to bringing a plan for the property back to the town for approval before the funds are spent. Selectman Hank Nevins was unable to attend the meeting.
Voters approved transferring $30,000 from the town’s unexpended funds to both the fire truck reserve account and the bridges and roads reserve account.
Pieh said the funds for the bridges and roads reserve will likely go for the eventual replacement, or, if necessary, the repair of the Heath Road bridge.
The selectmen are hoping to apply next year for a grant to help fund the bridge’s replacement, Pieh said.
The fire truck reserve had about $127,000 in it before the vote, according to Town Clerk Kelly Clancy.
Fire Chief Fernald Poland said the department’s next fire truck due for replacement is the old Engine 4, a 4×4 pickup with a utility body that essentially serves as a forestry truck.
An additional $6,000 was approved for the fire department’s new equipment reserve account.
When the article asking to appropriate $110,000 from unexpended funds for the purpose of lowering taxes came up, Bremen resident Peter Goth questioned whether it was wise to utilize the funds rather than save them.
“$110,000, that’s a pretty nice savings account,” Goth said. “If everybody’s going to get $20, I don’t know.”
Even with the use of those funds, the town will still maintain a sufficient cushion, Pieh said.
The article was approved as written.
As many other Lincoln County towns have done in recent months, voters approved a new floodplain management ordinance.
The new ordinances must be adopted in order for towns to stay in compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program, program coordinator Sue Baker told The Lincoln County News in March.