ROCKLAND — The Rockland City Council voted unanimously Aug. 9 to join the Midcoast Internet Coalition with a goal of creating a regional, municipal-run internet provider.

Rockland joins Camden, Rockport and Thomaston with other municipalities also considering joining the group.

Councilor Ben Dorr said joining the Coalition will not impact property taxes. He said funding for the project is expected to come from grants and other sources of revenues. The Coalition requested money from Knox County from the $7.7 million in federal money that the county received as part of the American Rescue Plan.

Knox County said it will begin considering requests this fall on how to use the money.

Dorr said the fiber for the internet service is an infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks. Universal access to reliable, affordable internet is important for businesses and citizens, he said.

At the Council’s Aug. 2 meeting, Coalition Chair Debra Hall of Rockport encouraged Rockland to join. A feasibility study on creating a regional utility is expected by early September.

In August 2015, a report from Tilson Technologies on behalf of Rockland, Rockport and Owls Head estimated the cost of extending universal broadband service to those communities at $18.6 million. The consultant also estimated a major increase in economic activity for the communities — projected at $170 million over 10 years.

The communities took no action on that report.

Other actions

The City Council also voted on a variety of other matters at the Aug. 9 meeting.

The Council voted to approve a 10-year lease with the Sail, Power & Steam Museum for the 880-square-foot former Sea Scout building at Snow Marine Park. The rent will total $3,280 a year.

Mayor Ed Glaser pointed out that the museum will be spending about $30,000 on the building including re-siding the structure, new windows and other renovations. The building will have public restrooms during the summer.

The former Sea Scout building was moved to Snow Marine Park in April 1983 from its location near where Ferry Terminal Park is now located. The city acquired the building 20 years earlier from a former lumber company.

  • The Council also voted unanimously to add Juneteenth as an official city holiday.

Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf said recognizing this holiday was about civil rights and voiced strong support for the measure. Juneteenth falls on June 19, and marks when black slaves were freed in the U.S.

  • The Council also gave preliminary approval to rezone the lot where 579 Main St. is located (United Home Furniture) from a waterfront 3 zone to a waterfront 4. The change would allow retail operations on the property. United Home Furniture is grandfathered since it has been in operation for more than 40 years and existed prior to the creation of the zone.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said the owner requested the change.

  • The Council also approved a policy for remote participation at Council meetings. The policy allows councilors, city officials and the public to participate remotely, such as via Zoom, even if the meeting is being physically held at City Hall.

The city purchased several large video screens that will be placed in the Council room. The city manager said the installation of the screens is delayed due to a supply chain disruption for the brackets for the screens. He said he expects the screens will be in placed in September.

  • The Council also gave the city manager authorization to enter into a three-year agreement with Hyundai Motor Company to lease two Hyundai electric cars. The costs of the lease will be covered by rebates from Efficiency Maine.

The Council also accepted a $50 donation from David Wagg of Winter Park, Fla. for the Parks and Recreation Department. The city manager pointed out that Wagg applied for the job of director of the department. He made the donation after another candidate was hired for the post.

The Rockland City Council gave preliminary approval Aug. 9 for a zone change at 579 Main St. where United Home Furniture is located. Stephen Betts