Hope's long list of goals falls short
No one who has attended a selectmen's meeting in any of the local towns could envy the job of these volunteers.
They are, in the main, concerned, dedicated citizens who want to serve their towns and maintain a desirable way of life for all at a reasonable cost. They are paid a token amount, which many boards selflessly return to their town. They work hard to inform themselves on issues of importance to their town, receive and report residents' concerns and advocate for those measures or policies they think will foster the common good.
And they have plenty to contend with, from residents who complain of actions supposedly taken in secret even as they refuse to come to the public selectmen's meetings to a state administration that has ruthlessly cut aid to both municipalities and schools, putting ever more pressure on local property taxes. Meanwhile, the costs for asphalt, winter road maintenance, health insurance and the many other goods and services towns must purchase only go up.
In the light of these challenges, the Hope Board of Selectmen deserves commendation for adopting a goal-setting process to identify and prioritize the issues it will address in the fiscal year just begun. It makes sense, when you are facing a bear of a task, to take it a bit at a time.
However, it seems that the Board has bitten off more than it will be able to chew. With a list of more than two dozen goals, the selectmen risk paralysis and loss of direction. Rather than taking on more than any board, meeting twice a month, can hope to accomplish even in two years, they would do better to go back and find the five or six most important items and work diligently on those. That way, come June next year, they can point to a number of major accomplishments.
But it is not just the overwhelming number of items on what, admittedly, is not yet a final list. It is also the nature of some of those items. Asking the fire chief to report when each of his vehicles will be due for an oil change and requiring the town administrator to check boxes regarding which of his several hats he was wearing for how many minutes on a given day suggests a lack of trust in the town's employees. Why not ask for a quarterly overview and report on items of major importance and let them get on with their jobs?
We do not question the selectmen's good intentions. And fortunately, the Board's list of goals is still a work in progress. There is time to make it shorter and more focused, so that the selectmen's desire to serve their fellow residents well can be realized.
Support local departments
Rockport Fire Department has a planned "toll booth" collection set for Friday, Aug. 8. This type of fundraiser has been used with great success in many other towns and we encourage both residents and visitors to support our local fire department by making a donation at the toll booth. It is not easy for small departments like Rockport — or Appleton, or Hope, or Lincolnville — to maintain expensive equipment and state-mandated training solely with municipal funds.
Several local departments have recently and in the past struggled with recruiting and retaining members and that turnover, too, adds cost and frustration. Rockport, in particular, has aggressively applied for and received numerous grants, but it still is not enough funding to encourage growth of the department.
And growth is needed. Camden's department boasts the largest staff of the five towns at three full-time employees. Rockport's chief is the sole full-time employee there. So what, you ask? When a call comes in for a large and devastating fire — as it has several times in recent months — most of our small departments must wait for volunteers to arrive before going to fight the fire. Which means, in some cases, a higher loss of property and precious minutes wasted.
None of us ever expect to need help from the fire department, but consider how terrible it would be if you called for help and there was nobody available who knew how to drive the fire truck or get water flowing through the hose, nobody willing to risk their own safety to save your belongings or pets, nobody to reassure you as you're trapped inside your car following a crash.
Even if your travels don't usually take you through the intersection of Routes 17 and 90, make the effort to go a little out of your way to support the department on Friday.