Kittery Council debates docks, residency rules, library policy

By Ralph Morang
July 30, 2014 2:00 AM

newsKITTERY, Maine — The Town Council approved additional funds Monday night for a float system at the Traip Academy launch ramp and dock located off Williams Avenue.

Originally, $20,000 was allocated for the project, but bidding came in at $31,010. Half the original funds came from a Small Harbor Improvement Program grant from the Maine Department of Transportation Quality Community Program.

Town Manager Nancy Colbert Puff reported that the DOT would split the difference of the increase with the town, so the council was asked to approve an additional $5,505 for the floats.

Councilor Charles Denault asked why the council was voting for more money, after approving $20,000. Council Chairman Jeff Thomson said that the bids came in high and the state and the Kittery Port Authority wanted to do the project even at the higher cost. The extra money was approved; it will come from a KPA account. The low bid was from Riverside and Pickering Marine.

In a related matter, Colbert Puff said she is working with the Port Authority to update the job description of harbormaster and to advertise the position. Former harbormaster Mike Blake resigned earlier this month.

Forrest Bell of FB Environmental Associates and Phyllis Ford of the Spruce Creek Association asked the council to approve an application for Phase IV of a Section 319 grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to continue to improve the water quality of Spruce Creek. The two-year grant is for $65,000 with a town match of $65,000 — $45,000 in in-kind services and $20,000 for water quality sampling for two years.

Bell said a Phase IV grant has not yet been funded, but said he had “a fair amount of confidence” it would be. With the grant, efforts would target on-the-ground construction with a “green streets” program and treating storm water runoff from streets and parking lots. Bell said the work in the first three phases set a high bar for other communities in water-quality work. Spruce Creek would continue to be monitored to be sure the work has a positive effect on water quality.

Spruce Creek is a tidal creek that runs from the Piscataqua River in Kittery Point up past the retail malls on Route 1 and into North Kittery; it is currently closed to shellfish harvesting. The Spruce Creek Association has been working for eight years to study the creek, with testing of suspected hot spots of bacteria contamination. To date, the town has contributed more than $300,000 for this work and has received more than $225,000 in state grants.

The council approved the grant application.

Councilor Frank Dennett asked the council to consider an amendment to the town charter to change a requirement that town employees live in Kittery. According to a memo to councilors, Dennett said three employees have been unable to be promoted to positions as “municipal officials” because they are not Maine residents, as required by state law. He said town voters have the power to bypass the state law with a charter amendment. The council, he said, would need to hold a public hearing on the issue, then include a proposed amendment on the November ballot. Thomson scheduled an Aug. 25 public hearing.

In other business

The council accepted the resignation of Jenny Wall from the Parks Commission and the resignation of Vern Gardner from the Comprehensive Plan Update Committee and the Board of Appeals.

Also, the Rice Public Library board has voted to exclude religious and political meetings from library property. Thomson said he was concerned about censorship at the library, noting that, for example, Maine’s senators may wish to visit constituents by meeting at the library. Dennett pointed out that the town gives the library $440,00 a year.

“Taxpayers may not want to give money to someone that wants to exclude them,” he said. Thomson said the policy needs clarification.