Lincolnville Selectmen discussed a wide range of topics May 10, from selling a John Deere loader as a surplus item, to support for the idea of a Maine nonprofit power utility.

Town Administrator David Kinney reported that at a May 6 special town meeting, voters approved allowing the Board of Selectmen to sell surplus items. He asked Fire Chief Don Fullington III how this should be done. Fullington suggested selling the items — a John Deere loader with a mowing deck and an air tank refill system — by sealed bids.

Kinney raised the question of establishing a minimum bid, which led to questions from selectmen on the fair market value of the items.

Fullington said the trade-in value for the John Deere was $7,500 about a year ago, and it has only been used for about an hour since that time. He has also heard the town could get as much as $10,000 as a high price for it. He suggested selling it for around $6,500 "so as not to have it sit around." Board Vice Chairman Keryn Laite suggested $8,000 and Board Chairman Ladleah Dunn suggested $8,500.

Selectman Josh Gerritsen asked for a description of the John Deere and why it cost so much. Fullington said it is a John Deere 200 CX loader with mowing deck, diesel engine and four-wheel drive. "It’s like an overgrown lawn tractor," he said.

Dunn asked if the board should set a minimum price for the air compressor. Fullington thinks the town should take what it can get. The fire department was offered $3,000, but Fullington has another estimate that is less than half that price.

Kinney told the board it doesn’t have to lock into a minimum. If the board sets a minimum, then it is locked in. If the board does not set a minimum, it can reserve the right to reject all the bids if they come in too low, he said.

Board member Mike Ray suggested setting a minimum of $8,000 for the tractor. Board members agreed with that, and with setting no minimum for the compressor.

Kinney spoke about the finalization of documents to achieve a proposed land exchange with Coastal Mountains Land Trust. He described what was a "long arduous journey" of document preparation and legal review as coming to a close. He asked for a motion from selectmen to allow him to schedule a closing and execute a quit claim deed, conservation easement and any and all paperwork pertaining to the land exchange.

In July 2020, voters approved a land swap, with a 4.34-acre property on Penobscot Bay going to the town of Lincolnville in exchange for 68 acres of town-owned land along the Duck Trap River going to Coastal Mountains Land Trust. Coastal Mountains will place the acreage on the river in a conservation easement. The town will use the oceanfront property as a park.

Gerritsen proposed that the Board of Selectmen send a letter to the state legislators in support of an initiative to create a nonprofit consumer-owned power utility called Pine Tree Power Company. The intent is that the nonprofit utility would buy out Maine's privately owned power companies. Some of the benefits are that the utility would be owned by Mainers, "we would be able to choose the members that run the nonprofit, and we would have control over our destiny," he said.

Maine has one of the highest outage numbers in the country and pays quite a bit more for electricity than we would if it were consumer owned, Gerritsen said.

Selectman Jordan Barnett-Parker favors this. This is the best way to protect our grid and make sure prices do not spiral out of control, he said.

Laite, who said he believes he is on is board with this, asked how changing the ownership would change the power outage system.

The flexibility of not being profit-driven could allow prioritization of maintaining the lines at a higher level, Barnett-Parker said. This could result in less back-end costs for work dealing with power outages.

Ray is also onboard with the idea but was unclear about the board's authority to make a resolution on this.

The board has leeway to make resolutions, according to Kinney.

Dunn asked for more information on the mechanics of how a nonprofit power utility works. She asked Kinney to invite speakers who can provide more information for a discussion at the Board's May 24 meeting.

In another energy-related matter, Lincolnville has been invited to continue to participate in a clean energy discussion with a number of other towns. They were offered several dates and choose June 2.

Kinney updated selectmen in his administrator's report on paving and gravel road grading. He said contractors for paving and road grading work will be back in Lincolnville this week.

He has invited Patrick Adams with the Maine Department of Transportation to speak at the May 24 meeting about what is involved with building new sidewalks. At a prior meeting, a citizen urged the town to build a new sidewalk from the Lincolnville Central School to the Lincolnville Community Library so students could walk safely from the school to Lincolnville Center and the library.

In the packet for the May 24 Board of Selectmen meeting, Kinney will have information on the federal American Rescue Plan interim rules, which he has received. MMA should also have some guidance on this, he said.

He reported that floats are in the water at Breezemere Park.

At the same time, Kinney is already planning for winter. Lincolnville went out to bid on winter salt with other communities in the region. The low bidder is North East Salt Co., which the town has used for a number of years, he said. Board members unanimously approved the bid.

Gerritsen provided updates on his work with the Midcoast Internet Coalition. He, Barnett-Parker and Matt Siegel, a Coalition member from Camden, met with a Waldo County Broadband Coalition to exchange information and feedback. One point that came up was the possibility of obtaining federal funding through Waldo County.

The Midcoast Internet Coalition is currently working with Camden, Rockport, Rockland, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Thomaston, Gerritsen said. The larger towns are contributing $15,000 each towards a feasibility study and the smaller towns are contributing $5,000 each. Axiom will conduct the study.

Gerritsen said he would like Lincolnville to be part of Phase 1 of the Midcoast Internet feasibility study.

A number of towns have written to Knox County Commissioners urging them to use all federal American Rescue Plan money for broadband for the towns. Gerritsen thinks Lincolnville should ask Waldo County Commissioners for its share of the federal funds for broadband.

Kinney confirmed that federal funds going to the counties can be spent on a number of things, and broadband is one of them.

Dunn is interested in participating with Waldo County. She also has some concerns about Lincolnville's various roles that straddle both counties.

Ray spoke about contacting former members of Lincolnville's Broadband Committee as a step towards reconstituting the committee. Kinney mentioned the list of those who want to rejoin is needed as their original terms have expired.