"Tar sands," signs, dog park/hoops await Bethel voters
At their June 12 town meeting, Bethel voters will finally have their say on several issues that have been studied and debated for months.
Voters will consider a trio of articles relating to the long-debated proposal for a dog park on Davis Park land.
The Planning Board has approved the plan for a privately-funded park, but because of opposition selectmen agreed to put the issue to a town vote. During that same time frame, a petition was submitted asking for a town meeting vote on a basketball court to be built on the same site, should the park be rejected.
Selectmen, seeking to avoid an either/or choice, voted to instead establish a Recreational Facilities Committee to come up with an overall recreational facilities plan, including a dog park and a basketball court, and also seek town meeting approval for selectmen to accept donations to implement the committee’s recommendations.
However, at the request of basketball petitioners, the dog park and the basketball court questions will also appear individually on the warrant.
The committee article will be voted upon first, as Article 4. It asks for approval to accept donations to implement committee recommendations, including but not limited to a dog park at an approved location; a basketball court at an approved location; and other recreational facilities which may be possible at approved locations; under terms and conditions acceptable to the selectmen and when determined by selectmen to be in the best interest of the town.
Selectmen voted unanimously at their regular meeting Monday to recommend the article pass.
The specific dog park proposal for the Davis Park location will follow as Article 5, and the basketball court proposal for the Davis Park site, should the dog park be rejected, concludes the trio of articles as #6.
Selectmen voted unanimously to recommend against passage for Articles 5 and 6. Doar summarized the board’s intent in its recommendations: “Let the committee do its work.”
As a result of a citizen petition, a resolution approved at a special town meeting in January will be up for a revote.
The resolution opposes a potential reversal of the direction of oil flow through a Portland-Montreal Pipeline Co. pipeline that passes through Bethel as it carries crude oil to Montreal. Pipeline officials who attended the January meeting never got a chance to present their case before residents voted.
Resolution supporters worry PMPL might reverse the flow in order to carry diluted bitumen (dilbit for short, or “tar sands” as opponents call it) oil from Canada to Portland, and that the composition of that oil would increase the likelihood of a pipeline break or spill.
The resolution claims there are higher risks of oil spills from dilbit pipelines, and it expresses concern about local economic impacts should dilbit oil spill from a section of the PMPL pipeline that crosses the Androscoggin River. The document also asks for strict environmental impact reviews of pipelines proposed to carry dibit, and generally supported a shift toward cleaner fuels.
Pipeline officials say they currently do not have plans to reverse flow in the pipeline. But they have left open the possibility that might happen in the future and, citing a good safety record over the decades they have pumped traditional crude oil through the lines, say that if they do one day pump dilbit the risk of an accident will not increase.
The June 12 article asks if voters wish to rescind the resolution. Copies of the resolution will be available at the meeting.
Residents will also vote on a proposed new ordinance section that would reform roadside directional signs in Bethel.
The Committee on Sign Ordinance Reform, with the help of a consultant, proposed new standards and a town logo.
Under the plan three sign areas are defined: Highway Area, Village Area and Town Area. The plan proposes four complementary elements, which together with the logo are known as the “Bethel Sign and Information System,” The elements include: 1. Roadside directional signs that aid travelers in locating eligible business, nonprofit and governmental destinations and services; 2. Intra-community roadside directional signs that aid travelers in locating areas where groupings of eligible business, nonprofit and governmental services are clustered; 3. Public information kiosks that display town and regional information that highlights history, assets, a map, and listings of eligible destinations and services; 4.Gateway signs that welcome travelers to Bethel and provide information on seasonal events.
The committee recommends that the first two elements be given priority and be completed at the same time.
The town meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Crescent Park Elementary School.
June 11 referendum
The day before town meeting, residents will vote for town officials in a referendum at CPS. The ballot for the municipal election will be: for selectman, Don Bennett and Stan Howe (vote for two); for assessor, Stan Howe and David Luxton (vote for two); for SAD 44 director, Elaine Cross and Carol Everett (vote for two).