Commissioners support scenic byway plan

Posted May 07, 2010, at 10:21 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Mirroring the comments made by selectmen in some of Washington County’s coastal communities, the county commissioners expressed concern Thursday about a proposed Down East Scenic Byway.

“We need to be very wary that we not give up any rights, sovereignty or the ability to make our own decisions,” Chairman Chris Gardner said.

But the commissioners also supported the project.

“Washington County has much benefited from outside investment,” Gardner said. “We don’t want to limit any funding that might come our way.”

The Washington County Council of Governments is spearheading the byway project, so far garnering the support of officials in Milbridge, Jonesport, Jonesboro, Whitneyville, East Machias, Whiting and Lubec.

Project leader Jeremy Gabrielson told the commissioners that the project is only in the concept stage but that designation as a scenic byway could qualify participating towns for grants and other funding to market the Down East area.

According to WCCOG documents, the designation as a state scenic byway would include portions of Route 1, Route 187, Route 191, Route 189 and Route 190.

The only other scenic byway in Washington County is the Blackwoods Scenic Byway, and its committee has given the Down East project its support.

Gabrielson said that communities can seek designation at both the state and national level but he has found great resistance to adopting the federal designation because it comes with some land use restrictions.

He said designation as a scenic byway is a way for communities to promote archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic areas along the route.

Gabrielson said he also has been talking with the Maine Department of Transportation and the designation would require approval from every town the road passes through.

Gabrielson said he would come back to the commissioners after he has spoken with each affected town and ask for a formal letter of support.

The commissioners also have set caucuses for budget advisory committee member elections.

“We are starting this process earlier than usual so we can keep the budget committee in the loop,” Gardner said.

The caucuses are held in each of the three districts within the county and are open to the public.

Only municipal officers, selectmen or their designees can be nominated for the budget advisory committee, according to County Manager Betsy Fitzgerald.

Nominations and voting will be taken at the meetings, which are scheduled as follows:

- 3:30 p.m. Thursday, June 3, commissioners’ office in the county courthouse, Machias.

- 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 10, Baileyville town office.

- 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, Columbia Falls town hall.

In other business Thursday, the commissioners:

- Hired three part-time corrections officers and three part-time emergency dispatchers.

- Accepted a 1995 Ford Mustang and a Saab 900s as part of a court criminal forfeiture.

- Agreed to hire two full-time emergency dispatchers who will begin work when the city of Calais shifts to regional dispatch services on July 1.

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