Feds probe piping plover death at Pine Point in Scarborough

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SCARBOROUGH — Additional restrictions on dogs on town beaches will be considered by the Town Council Ordinance Committee Aug. 21, in part because of a federal probe into the July 15 death of a piping plover at Pine Point.

With the possibility of a federal fine for town culpability in the July 15 incident at Pine Point Beach, the Ordinance Committee of Councilors Richard Sullivan, James Benedict and Kate St. Clair gathered preliminary input Tuesday on how to protect the endangered species while still allowing dogs on the beach.

Because the piping plover chick was killed around 7 a.m. by an unleashed dog, Town Manager Tom Hall said an agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has requested video and notes from 2004 council deliberations on the dog ordinance.

“It seems quite clear the federal government is taking this seriously,” Hall said.

The town faces a minimum $25,000 fine for violations of the Endangered Species Act, although Hall said he is uncertain how the investigation will play out. He is confident it will be wrapped up quickly.

“It is almost like U.S. Fish and Wildlife is mandating we do something,” Sullivan said after about 30 minutes of comments from residents and visitors who said dogs should be allowed to remain on beaches as an integral part of life in town.

Sullivan, Benedict and St. Clair all said they oppose completely banning dogs on beaches, but more restrictive leash laws and reduced times when dogs can be on “voice control” are ordinance amendments to be considered.

“The voice control is my biggest issue with the entire thing,” St. Clair said. “I have seen very few dogs that can be voice controlled the way they need to be.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

Revised school budget goes to Scarborough voters on Aug. 13

SCARBOROUGH — With Town Council Chairman Ron Ahlquist and Councilor Jessica Holbrook absent, councilors Wednesday approved amendments to the municipal and school budgets stemming from the passage of the state biennial budget in June.

The education funding amendments now go to an Aug. 13 public referendum at Town Hall.

Voter approval is needed to accept an additional $788,000 in state Department of Education General Purpose Aid, with $520,000 of the increased funding allocated to pay pension obligations previously funded by the state.

On the municipal side, councilors approved increasing anticipated excise tax revenues by $350,000 to $4.2 million, which will more than offset a $326,000 reduction in state revenue sharing of income and sales taxes.

The remaining $267,000 of increased education subsidy will be used to reduce the needed tax commitment for the fiscal year. It is estimated the added money will lead to a tax rate of $14.80 per $1,000 of assessed value, a 9 percent increase from the fiscal year 2013 rate of $13,80, but 8 cents less than anticipated when the school and municipal budgets were passed.

— David Harry

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.