Harpswell to gauge support for spending on boat launches, CATV

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HARPSWELL — Selectmen are hoping to take the town’s pulse on the construction of a boat launch at Mitchell Field at the annual Town Meeting in March.

They’re also looking to bring Harpswell Community Television into the digital age with $82,500 worth of new equipment.

While no spending on the boat launch will be authorized at this year’s Town Meeting, voters may be able to express an opinion on whether to move ahead with the proposal.

The most recent cost estimate, $290,000, would create a turn-around, ramp and second lane on the existing causeway, so that boaters could wait while the ramp is occupied. It would also include a separate 4-foot-wide pedestrian walkway, paving improvements, and a large amount of fill and rock to keep the launch from washing away.

But questions remain as to whether the launch will be open to the general public or limited to Harpswell residents and their guests. Selectmen are hoping to get a sense of which option voters would prefer before applying for grants that may require the launch to be available to everyone.

If residents want to keep the launch for residents only, there is an option to take out a loan and construct it without the help of outside grants, according to Treasurer Marguerite Kelley.

But first, the Board of Selectmen wants to know if residents want a boat launch at Mitchell Field at all.

Selectmen are also hoping to make some improvements to existing boat launches, including Graveyard Point and Lookout Point on Harpswell Neck and Holbrook’s Wharf in Cundy’s Harbor. Those expenses, $31,000, will nearly triple what the town spent last year on town landings.

Deputy Town Administrator Terri Sawyer said that normally the town spends $7,500 on routine maintenance, but specific improvements to each site are bumping up that cost in 2012.

About half of next year’s spending will be on Graveyard Point, which was the topic of several meetings and site visits over the past year. While the Town Lands Committee recommended a $100,000 overhaul of the site, removing a retaining wall and widening the boat ramp, the board balked at spending that much money.

Harpswell Community TV

While flipping through TV channels, it’s always easy to tell which channel belongs to Harpswell Community TV by the quality of the video. Grainy and blurry, the TV station’s equipment is seriously outdated, said David Chipman, vice chairman of the station’s board of directors.

But that could change if voters authorize spending $82,500 on high-definition editing equipment, cameras and other technology.

About $60,000 of that cost would be reimbursed over the next 10 years through a contract with Comcast that pays the town $6,000 annually. The result will be clearer video.

“We’re trying to move into the modern world here,” Chipman said.

The annual Town Meeting is March 10 at 9 a.m. at Harpswell Community School.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.