The Damariscotta Board of Selectmen heard from the public on Wednesday, Aug. 18 about how to spend approximately $227,000 in funding the town will receive through the federal American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus State and Local Recovery Funds program.
There are seven eligible expenditure categories where the funds can be used—public health, negative economic impacts, services to disproportionately impacted communities, premium pay, infrastructure, revenue replacement, and administrative.
Marilee Harris, president of Stepping Stone Housing, Inc., requested approximately 10% of the funds be allocated towards affordable housing in Damariscotta.
“Homelessness is an issue that doesn’t always get seen,” Harris said.
She said her organization will also be talking to the Lincoln County Commissioners about receiving an allocation of the estimated $6.7 million the county will receive from the federal coronavirus relief funds.
Harris said that the housing situation was “seriously affected” by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years ago her phone would ring about three times each month with people looking for affordable housing and lately, she gets about three calls each week.
Evan Goodkowsky, management intern for Damariscotta, presents an update on broadband infrastructure in town on Wednesday, Aug. 18. He requested that everyone in town take the Maine Broadband Coalition’s internet speed test to help the town in gathering information and winning grants. (Evan Houk photo)“Everyone who rents from us works, except for one 87-year-old lady,” Harris said. “They all have jobs.”
Harris said the money could be used to help pay for a new two-bedroom apartment on Biscay Road, a laundry facility there, or to go towards paying for utility hookups for a tiny house that was gifted to the organization.
Stepping Stone Housing, Inc. is an organization that provides housing to persons not making a living wage. Started in 2013, the group seeks to work with homeless individuals or those in need of adequate housing in Lincoln County.
Damariscotta resident Peter Hackmeister asked if funds can be used to renovate the Damariscotta Region Information Bureau building located at King Square, the sliver of land between Main and Vine streets.
Town Manager Matt Lutkus explained that the Damariscotta Region Chamber of Commerce had plans approved by the planning board for the renovation and expansion of the 17-by-17-foot building. The chamber plans to eventually relocate to the 1935 bureau building from its current headquarters at 67A Main St. in Newcastle and to create a job resource center there.
The town is in the process of acquiring the parcel of land from the Maine Department of Transportation and is waiting on an assessment of the property by the state.
“The idea is we would purchase the land and then lease it back to the chamber,” Lutkus said. “We’re in line waiting for an appraisal and it’s been, I would say probably 10, 11 months.”
Lutkus outlined the town staff recommendations for usage of the COVID-19 relief funds.
“From a staff standpoint, our request would be some of the dollars be used for improvements to the culvert on Schooner Road and Miles Street,” Lutkus said.
Some of the funds can be used for storm water improvements, which the reconstruction of the Miles Street causeway and improvements to the municipal parking lot could both qualify under.
“I’ll look into the suggestions that have been put forward tonight and see how they fit in and if they fit in to the criteria we’ve been given by the federal government,” Lutkus said.
Also on Wednesday, Evan Goodkowsky, management intern for Damariscotta, presented an update on the expansion of broadband infrastructure in town.
Goodkowsky urged everyone in attendance to take a broadband speed survey on the Maine Broadband Coalition’s website at mainebroadbandcoalition.org.
The website says that data gained from the speed test will “help your community in efforts to get grants and other support to improve broadband for your community.”
He also urged the selectmen to form a broadband committee as soon as possible to increase the likelihood that the town will receive grants for broadband.
During the presentation, Goodkowsky presented maps of the town showing where different internet service providers offer broadband. The two main internet service providers are Spectrum, and Tidewater Telecom Inc. of Nobleboro.
Spectrum is a cable company that uses coaxial cable for internet and television. Tidewater is an internet service provider that uses fiber optic cable for internet, which allows for faster broadband speeds.
He said that ideally, the town would want to expand broadband service using fiber optic cables for faster speeds. He said that cable internet is limited to download speeds of 35 megabits per second.
The state ideally wants to see broadband service perform at a “symmetrical” 100 megabits per second download and upload speed, which fiber optic cable can provide, Goodkowsky said.
Maine Booch Brewing
The selectmen also approved an entertainment and special event license for Maine Booch Brewing, a hard kombucha tasting room located at 85 Parking Lot Lane in the municipal parking lot.
Shea Quill, an employee of Maine Booch Brewing, said there are plans to have acoustic music on the back porch of the building that faces the harbor.
Maine Booch is currently open 5-9 p.m. on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Quill said the tasting room plans to open on Saturdays, as well, and to host live acoustic entertainment.