'Colorful' discussions by select board result in cruiser purchase
Camden — Camden Select Board members discussed a full agenda Tuesday, June 19, with items ranging from police cruiser and culvert bids to appointing boards and approving business licenses.
Purchase of a police cruiser generated little discussion aside from which color might be best suited to Camden. Police Chief Randy Gagne offered specifications of the vehicle, noting the 2012 Dodge Charger “is not [his] first choice" to replace “an aging Crown Victoria.” Gagne said when soliciting bids, he made every effort to save the town money, down to choosing a smaller engine to conserve fuel. While he considered other makes and models, Gagne said the Dodge offered the most for the money and is a well-known and suitable police vehicle.
Newly-elected Select Board Member Leonard Lookner said he is concerned about the image the vehicle projects.
“I hate the image of the Dodge Charger in Camden,” he said. “I think it's quite unfriendly.”
Lookner suggested the vehicle be white, a color he described as “understated. I think that's what our community is — understated.”
Gagne noted this is the first time he's consulted with officers who drive the police vehicles and the answer he received most often was a desire for a black and white cruiser. He said that combination of coloring makes it easier for police to stand out as more retired police cars become taxis, some keeping a similar coloring to police cruisers.
“Nobody else drives black and white cars,” Gagne said.
Select Board member John French agreed.
“I understand what you're saying about the looks of the car,” French said, directing his remarks to Lookner. “But black and white is the symbol of the American police car.”
Gagne noted he did not take into consideration the amount of a trade-in on the Crown Victoria because he did not like the prices he was quoted and said he felt the offers were too low. The select board approved a bid from Newcastle Chrysler for a little more than $23,000 for the cruiser.
Several other items breezed through the approval process, including $33,000 for culvert replacement on Belmont Avenue from George C. Hall and Sons; $4,893 for a riding lawn mower from Union Farm Equipment, the only respondent to a request for that particular bid; and a permit for a block party on Central Street in July.
When it came time to approve the continuing work of the Downtown Network Community Board, select board members took issue with the number of members, which is currently 17. Select Board member Jim Heard said a group of that size is too “unwieldy.” Community and Economic Development Action Committee — or CEDAC — member Peter Gross defended the group, noting they have been working together since last fall as a cohesive group.
Select Board member Don White agreed 17 members may be too large a membership but also expressed concern about the source of members, noted only in the selectmen's packets as members of CEDAC, the advisory board of the Downtown Business Group and the executive director of Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce or a designated representative. White said the select board does not have authority over any members aside from CEDAC and suggested a smaller group of seven to nine members would be more appropriate.
“I don't see the need for this committee to be appointed by the select board,” Gross said. “I'd like to see the combined effort continue. I don't think 17 is an unwieldy number.”
Town Manager Patricia Finnigan, who also has been working with the group, along with other town staff, said the group has been tasked with assisting the town in implementing the recently approved Downtown Master Plan.
“They're the people that did all the work,” she said. “This is to formalize the request.”
Select Board chairman Martin Cates said he has attended most meetings and observed a group working together toward a common goal.
“I love the idea you can take these groups and come to a consensus,” he said.
White then suggested, with the support of Lookner, the committee add residents that do not have a business interest to the group. He later withdrew the suggestion, saying it was confusing the issue, something former select board member Morgan Laidlaw agreed with.
“Let's not make this complicated,” he said.
Ultimately, the select board approved appointment of the existing members of the group, on the condition a report is provided to selectmen no later than Sept. 1 regarding the board's priorities. Selectmen also requested a list of board members' names be provided in the near future.
In other town business, a six-month work group was approved to explore developing mountain bike trails at Ragged Mountain; town officials including the town manager, road commissioner, harbormaster, health officer, assessor's agent, treasurer, tax collector, town clerk and all department heads were reappointed. Several businesses received liquor licenses, victualer licenses and lodging establishment licenses as well.