EASTPORT, Maine — Good news far outweighed bad news when Eastport councilors met Monday night.
Town Manager John Southern provided the startling information that with tax bills sent out only a few weeks ago, 98 percent — or $2.6 million — of the taxes have been collected.
“That is incredible,” Southern said.
He also said that many departments are right on target with their expenses, even though they may appear to have spent more than two months’ worth of their budgets. Some departments are more expense-heavy during the summer months, such as the Police Department, he explained, and they balance it out in the winter.
The bad news, however, is that state revenue continues to fall. In 2009, Eastport budgeted $182,000 in state revenue sharing funds, but received only $144,000.
“We used to get 100 percent or 90 percent of what was budgeted and that continues to drop,” he said. “Last year we were at 71 percent, a significant reduction.”
The good news continued with Southern’s announcement that a town-owned apartment house on Washington Street has been sold for $30,500 and now will be renovated as four apartments.
Southern said the city also should know by the end of the month whether Ocean Renewable Power Co. is approved for a $1.5 million Department of Economic and Community Development Grant. This grant would be used to purchase a former mill owned by the town so that it could be used to create parts for hydroturbines.
“The whole goal is to turn these buildings that have been costing us money into buildings that make us money,” council Chairman Robert Peacock said.
Another bit of good news was that the Police Department’s calls for service in August dropped to 43 from 97 in 2009. Southern said speed patrols have been stepped up and there were no problems at the recent Salmon and Pirate festivals.
He also reported that the public works crew will be understaffed with just two people going into the winter snowplowing season, and therefore additional help will be hired.
There was some bad news about the Eastport Wastewater Treatment Plant, where excessive heat in August caused the buildup of solids that violated the city’s Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit.
Southern said the city is working with DEP officials on a management plan and already 30 tons of solids have been removed from the system.
“We got a lot of complaints about the smell, but it couldn’t be helped,” he said. September has brought cooler temperatures that should help with the management of the system, Southern said, and odor control chemicals have been purchased to spray on the lagoons.
In other business, the council set a public hearing on a proposed dog feces ordinance for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12.
A workshop on a possible expanded archery season to help with the island’s unmanageable deer population was set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12.
A special council meeting was set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, to meet with Husson College officials to work out details of The Boat School lease with the city.
The council also approved, in theory, the placement in the sea wall area of a bronze mermaid by Eastport sculptor Dick Klyver. Klyver said he would present drawings and plans to the Eastport Historic Review Board before returning to the council. Klyver said he originally planned to have nine sculptures in a city garden by the sea but has been unable to raise the necessary funds. An investor has stepped forward, he said, to support the mermaid.
“This is becoming an arts center, and we should have some public art,” Klyver said.
When asked by a resident about the red metal sculptures, called locally “the fruit loops,” that were removed from a downtown parking area to make way for a garden, Southern said they were missing. He said the sculptures, some as large as 10 feet tall, were stored behind the public works garage while awaiting restoration, and the theft has been reported to the police.
Southern also reminded residents that nomination papers are due by Sept. 17 for one three-year council seat, two three-year school board seats, and one four-year seat on the Port Authority.