Big community projects continue into new year for Bath
BATH — The City of Ships enjoyed some key accomplishments in 2012, and more are in the making for 2013.
Faced with an uncertain future, the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark moved into its new home, the former National Guard Armory on Old Brunswick Road, in July.
The dilapidated condition of the Skatepark's former building, the old YMCA on Summer Street, led to its demolition at the beginning of the year, after the Skatepark closed on Dec. 4, 2011.
Several City Council meetings in 2011 were packed with community members as the fate of that building, and of the Skatepark, were discussed.
"It's been very successful," City Manager Bill Giroux said last week. "There are a lot of kids using it."
The city also finished renovations at Waterfront Park, which included a new pier and new walkways around the area.
Upgrades to Congress Avenue, which included a new multi-use trail and repaving of the road, were also completed. As a result, part of the street was reconfigured, and parking was made safer, Giroux said. The improvements stretched from Route 1 to the "Five Corners" intersection.
Bath's last 19th century waterfront freight shed, recently given new life by the Bath Freight Shed Alliance, has been the construction site of the Virginia, a replica of a historic pinnace built not far away at the Popham colony in 1607-1608.
The Commercial Street building is also now home to the Bath Winter Farmers Market, which runs Saturdays through April from 9 a.m. to noon.
A Kickstarter website campaign to rewire and winterize the building was launched Feb. 22 with a goal of moving the market by Nov. 1; the campaign gained 237 backers and reached its $18,000 goal by March 31, according to the website. Students from the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center completed the building's electrical work.
Wiebke Theodore, who founded the Bath Freight Shed Alliance with husband Steven Theodore as a means of making the shed a resource for the community, earned Bath's Community Spirit Award in October for her work. The Community Project Award went to the alliance, which includes arts groups, the Bath Farmers Market, Maine's First Ship, Regional School Unit 1, the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and Main Street Bath.
The alliance's next major undertaking will be restoration of the shed's exterior, which would compliment a sidewalk project along Commercial Street planned for next summer. The sidewalk project being paid for primarily with funding from the Maine Department of Transportation.
A referendum on a new school funding formula will go before Bath residents and their fellow members of Regional School Unit 1 – Arrowsic, Phippsburg, West Bath and Woolwich – sometime next year. The RSU 1 Board of Directors approved a per-student assessment model Dec. 17, which would go into effect for the next fiscal year.
The review was triggered by concerns over the RSU 1 board's unanimous vote April 23 to change the cost-sharing formula for the current fiscal 2013 budget, so that a law that created the school district would apply to its entire local tax calculation.
Meanwhile, West Bath is suing RSU 1 to recover $1.9 million the town believes it overpaid in the first four years of the school district’s existence.
The lawuit filed in October claims RSU 1 owes West Bath $1.9 million, plus interest. RSU 1's attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the case, and a hearing to consider the matter is to be held Jan. 8, 2013.
Bath is also looking to start its own municipal budget planning process in the coming months. Giroux noted that building a spending plan in economically challenging times continues to be a challenge.
"We've got to keep our expenses down going forward, and try to minimize any tax increases," he said.