Web exclusive, March 20, 2020
Blue Hill Town Meeting postponed, town hall closed
April 3 election, referendum voting may change
by Anne Berleant
Town Meeting, scheduled for April 4, has been postponed until April 25 because of coronavirus concerns after the Maine CDC issued guidelines for community-wide gatherings March 15 that include: “The cutoff threshold is at the discretion of community leadership based on the current circumstances the community is facing and the nature of the event.” It recommends canceling gatherings of more than 10 people for organizations that serve higher-risk populations.
The town office was closed to the public on Tuesday, March 17, one day after staff was wiping down doorknobs with disinfectant each time a person entered or left the building.
Selectmen met Monday, March 16, to specifically address the issue of Town Meeting in light of the coronavirus’ spread throughout the U.S. and Maine.
Elections and referendum voting may still take place on April 3, but with emergency legislation passed March 17, allowing referendum dates to be changed, Chairman of Selectmen Vaughn Leach said this may change.
Selectmen will hold their regular Wednesday meetings after the emergency legislation allows public meetings to be held through electronic, video or telephonic means, as long as members of the public can hear all participants. Information will be posted on the Town of Blue Hill Maine Facebook page, Town Administrator Shawna Ambrose said.
Town Clerk and Registrar of Voters Etta Perkins said voting by absentee ballots will be strongly encouraged if the referendum is held April 3. Voters may call the town office at 374-2281 to have absentee ballots mailed to them. Ballots must be returned by end of voting on April 3.
If the April 3 referendum date stands, Town Meeting will open that morning at 9:30 a.m. at town hall with the election of a moderator. Polls will open at 10 a.m. and close at 8 p.m., at which time Town Meeting will be adjourned until April 25 at 9 a.m. at Blue Hill Consolidated School. Town Meeting is legally able to be moved because the town warrant has not yet been posted.
“At this point, it doesn’t seem the town will be laid low by April 3,” Selectman Ellen Best said.
Ambrose, working from home after returning from international travel, said information will be posted on the town website (townofbluehillmaine.org) and the Town of Blue Hill Maine Facebook page, which went live March 16 for up-to-the-minute town information.
“At this point, people deserve to hear something from the town,” Ambrose said. The town is also encouraging people to call in for car and boat registrations, although the usual 2.5 percent fee will be charged for credit and debit card transactions.
Blue Hill Fire Chief Matt Dennison said Wednesday firefighter training and fire company meetings will be suspended, with firefighters responding to calls as usual. The firehouse is being sprayed down with disinfectant.
“If one-half of our fire department gets sick at once, we’re in a pickle,” Dennison said. He may lock the fire house “for the first time, ever” to keep the public from coming in to use the restrooms. “I hate to do it but it may come to that,” he said.
Any 911 calls will follow protocol, with dispatchers alerting fire department personnel if any extra precautions are needed for response calls. So far, calls have come in at a normal rate, he said. Regarding public reaction to the coronavirus, he said, “I think people are going to have to use the bare minimum of what they need right now.” As of Saturday, March 14, TradeWInds Market Place was rationing toilet paper and tissues to two rolls or boxes per customer.
In town business discussed at the Wednesday, March 11, meeting:
Selectmen approved an agreement with Maine Department of Transportation for the state agency to lay one-quarter inch of tar on a section of Pleasant Street after shimming up sunken areas;
Peninsula Ambulance Corps returned signed copies of a one-year lease for rented space in the fire house;
Residents on Kingdom Road with a kindergärtner complained that the school bus won’t pick up or drop off student at house because of road conditions. “It was a harsh email, but fair enough,” Selectman Jim Dow said. “We have this continuing issue of people moving to remote parts of town and wanting public services.”
The regular Wednesday, March 18, selectmen’s meeting was canceled. How subsequent selectmen’s meeting will be held is still to be determined.
“We’re in for a long haul,” Dow said.