State working with Harpswell to erect road signs

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HARPSWELL — Failed legislation has led state officials to work with the town on erecting new signs to address an old question: where’s Harpswell?

Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, Rep. Jeremy Saxton, D-Harpswell, and Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt met with the Board of Selectmen on March 29 to propose new signs on major roads leading to the town.

The proposal will create at least nine new or modified signs that will direct motorists to the town. Most of the signs will refer to Harpswell as a whole instead of one of the town’s islands or the mainland, as some signs do now.

Gerzofsky pointed out that there is already one new sign in Brunswick at the corner of Maine and Pleasant streets that points to Harpswell.

“I think we’re going to get a much bigger bang out of the dollar – certainly a much bigger bang out of the issue of getting more signs up in the area,” Gerzofsky said, referring to a bill tabled last week that would have erected signs on Interstate 295.

“There is a lot of disappointment in the business community that this does not seem to be moving forward,” Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said.

Gerzofsky had sponsored the legislation following requests from the business community and local officials, but it died when state officials determined that MDOT doesn’t have the jurisdiction to add signs on interstate highways.

For that reason, Gerzofsky said, the bill will be “unceremoniously killed” this week.

Bernhardt explained that interstate highways must meet national specifications that include restrictions on size, how far apart they are from each other and which towns can have signs erected.

For the most part, Bernhardt said most interstate highway signs are reserved for towns that are immediately connected, which disqualifies Harpswell.

Gail Kass, who does marketing for the Harpswell Business Association, asked Bernhardt to consider the town’s unique location when ruling on whether it qualifies for signs.

“We are in a unique geographical location and I think we could be an exception to your ruling, because it’s based on your judgement,” Kass said.

Gerzofsky said anything with similar language to the tabled bill cannot be introduced until the Legislature’s 127th session.

“I think we’ve done pretty well here in getting these signs,” Gerzofsky said. “I think they put us in a better place than we were and I don’t mind trying to continue to get more, to get better, to get bigger, to do anything you’d like us to do. I’m here for the long haul.”

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