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Details kill move to erect Harpswell highway signs

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Details kill move to erect Harpswell highway signs

HARPSWELL — A bill sponsored by state Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, that aimed to raise the town's visibility with signs on Interstate 295, was tabled Wednesday and is likely to remain that way.

LD 712 would have had the Maine Department of Transportation erect signs on I-295 to direct travelers to Harpswell.

Gerzofsky said the Harpswell business community requested the bill because visitors often don't know how to find the town, or even know it exists. 

"People from away don't necessarily know where we are," Gerzofsky said.

Though the bill may be dead now, Maine Senate Democrats spokeswoman Erica Dodge said it has started a conversation about the greater issue.

"This has elevated the issue and its import to businesses and the community in Harpswell," Dodge said, "and it has allowed that conversation to go forward with MDOT."

The Joint Standing Committee on Transportation was scheduled to hold a work session Wednesday on the bill, but a communication breakdown resulted in a delay.

Dodge said even before a legislative aide forgot to notify Harpswell constituents about the bill's public hearing last week, which had no testimony, the committee knew MDOT had no jurisdiction for erecting signs on I-295.

That jurisdiction belongs to the federal government.

"We knew it would be tabled," Dodge said.

In the meantime, Dodge said Gerzofsky has been working with MDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt to identify areas where the department could legally place signs on roads near or adjoining I-295.

Gerzofsky said he will work with local officials for feedback on the issue.

"I'll sit down with selectmen and the town manager and see if those signs meet their needs," Gerzofsky said.

Susan Horowitz, co-owner of Ash Cover Pottery in Harpswell, said the issue is an important one for the town and its business community.

"When you're driving on the highway, it doesn't make any mention (of Harpswell)," Horowitz said. "All these signs are directing people away from us and Brunswick is the gatekeeper. It's the No. 1 thing I think we can do, which is to get people to find us, because my experience has been once people get here, they want to come back."

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.