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Recreation, downtown, communications top Council goals

By Stephen Betts | Jan 14, 2021
Photo by: Stephen Betts Rockland City Councilors met Jan. 13 to discuss goals for 2021.

Rockland — The future of recreation services, making downtown more pedestrian friendly and improving communications with the public were the top goals listed by Rockland City Councilors during the Jan. 13 meeting.

Recreation was cited by all five councilors as one of their top goals for 2021.

The City Council has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, Jan. 20, to discuss the recreation center and are seeking input from the public. The meeting will be online, starting at 5:30 p.m.

Councilor Ben Dorr said this was an opportunity to have a lot of fun.

"We can dream big," Dorr said.

Councilor Sarah Austin, who served on the Parks and Recreation Committee, said this was the time to come up with plans for not only the Flanagan Community Center, but recreation services in general, since the recreation center is closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Mayor Ed Glaser and Councilor Nate Davis also cited the need to focus on recreation services.

The Penobscot Bay YMCA announced Dec. 8 that it would end its contract with the city as of Dec. 31.

"We were impressed with the Committee’s thorough recommendations and we wish the City the absolute best in their move to restructure their recreation department. Our Y is facing an extremely challenging financial year and we plan to depart FCC (Flanagan Center) Dec. 30 as previously agreed," YMCA Executive Director Melissa Bellew said in an email statement Dec. 8.

The YMCA had been operating the city's recreation program since Oct. 1, 2015. The proposal was initially met with opposition and skepticism by many residents who wanted to continue with Rockland operating its own department.

The Council voted in June 2018 to renew the contract for another two years, which was met by widespread support and praise from the community for the non-profit organization based in Rockport.

Downtown

City Councilors were also in agreement that a decision needed to be made concerning downtown and how to make it more pedestrian friendly.

The City Council has scheduled an online meeting for Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the downtown and seek public input on any possible redesign.

"We don't know if this summer will be a dramatic improvement over last year," Dorr said about the impact from COVID-19 restrictions.

In the summer of 2020, the city allowed downtown businesses to use sidewalks and adjacent parking spaces. The Council closed Main Street for two weekend evenings before it decided to reduce that section of the street to one lane, to allow businesses more room to conduct business outside.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said he expects the city will need to two to three meetings before getting approval from the Maine Department of Transportation by Memorial Day.

Dorr said he also would like the city renew its discussion about metered parking downtown.

The Council had a presentation on metered parking in March 2020 just before the pandemic struck.

Dorr said metered parking would be at the top of his list, and would bring in revenues. Councilor Sarah Austin also voiced support for looking at metered parking.

Dorr said he also would like to look at making Oak Street pedestrian only, as was done for part of the past summer.

Communications

Councilors agreed improved communications with the public and the city's boards and commissions was a priority.

Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf suggested the city receive reports from all committees at the councilor's regular monthly meeting. She said the Council must show respect and listen to its committees. She said that has not been the case in the past, with the harbor management commission, comprehensive planning commission and currently with the Planning Board.

Councilor Nate Davis agreed communications with the public needed to improve.

Other goals voiced from Davis were focusing on affordable housing, with a specific eye on the possibilities with the McLain School as well as the non-attached dwelling units. He also called for looking at regional cooperation on services, completing plans for development on Camden Street and Tillson Avenue, reviewing the public safety department and climate goals.

The City Council will discuss unattached dwelling units, also at the Jan. 27 meeting.

Public Services Director Kathy Bourque Parker urged councilors to focus on the impact that sea level rise will have on the community.

Councilors also listed improved broadband communications as a goal.

MacLellan-Ruf called for completing the harbor trail along Atlantic and Mechanic streets, and to complete the path by the "bridge to nowhere" near Lermond's Cove. MacLellan-Ruf said the city should also work with property owners on improving the view corridor on Ocean Street. The city also needs a transition plan for the police department administration.

Councilor Austin said completing the comprehensive plan was important. She also said a focus on improving sidewalks and communications with local legislators to advocate for Rockland's needs were goals she supported.

Mayor Ed Glaser said a review of cell tower regulations to protect the community was needed. He also said a review of the police department was needed, and in future years, the Council could look at other departments.

The mayor also said the city needs to focus on the harbor and determine what it wants to do with cruise ships that want to come to Rockland Harbor.

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Comments (7)
Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Jan 15, 2021 13:01

City council would do well to follow Lincolnville town government by putting town business info on the city's website as a communication tool. (See Village Soup article. BTW, our city's website needs updates...)

-Phyllis Merriam



Posted by: James York | Jan 15, 2021 08:33

I am not sure why this boogie man about 'a more pedestrian friendly' downtown comes from; there are nice wide sidewalks on both sides of the street that have been rebuild over the years, and several crosswalks... maybe a traffic cop would be helpful at Tilson intersection for a few hours...?  But the 1 lane debacle last summer made it less safe for motorist and pedestrian alike, as with such slow flow of traffic people took the liberty to walk out where they pleased.  Nevermind, that even during a 'off pandemic tourist season' traffic was routinely backed up.  Lets keep the Jersey barriers out of our main thoroughfare and keep our Main St usable for residents year round.  Why is there never any focus on our neighborhoods being pedestrian friendly?  Try pushing a stroller down some of these side walks that are in disrepair, How about the safety of keeping strollers and dog walkers out of our roads in our neighborhoods.



Posted by: DALE HAYWARD | Jan 14, 2021 15:28

One more observation: Nothing is said about lower taxes, period.



Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Jan 14, 2021 10:58

Oh one more observation

when brought up by well informed woman (on what committee?) name Kathy:  "Sea level rising a concern due to climate change,"  that was NOT considered a priority for this agenda list. What do you think citizens of Rockland?



Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Jan 14, 2021 10:55

fascinating for me to observe the meeting last night. Not one of them had on their list of 5 priorities for the agenda of goas to be discussed and completed not one said "resolve cell tower issue somehow someway." I was shocked by this neglect of concern....... guess it's not important to any of them? Seems Louise had some concern about cell tower issue and planning board, but until the end was not on her list either. am surprised at that.

signed

a positive idealist, forever.



Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Jan 14, 2021 07:25

They're dusting off the barriers already in the middle of winter .... and you can count on the 'harbor trail to nowhere' getting top billing for at least the next 3 years. I remember when I laughed at the blue line painted up through town a couple of decades ago because tourists couldn't find their way because the gulls were eating their bread crumb trail so they needed a painted line to find their way. Now I look at it as a bargain. Surely there must be some paint left over from the barrier project.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jan 14, 2021 06:37

My opinion, put the Harbor Trail on hold.  That should not be a priority right now.   Of course, the one way Main Street is a big one and I believe that the City Council should asks the tax payers and businesses along Main Street their opinion on how they felt about the one way Main Street last summer.  "Making Main Street more pedestrian friendly"?  I will have to contact our councilors on this one.   Recreation is also important and I encourage tax payers to contact the City Councilors with ideas.  With COVID, this is especially hard.  If you have an idea, contact a City Councilor.  They are here to listen to us.  We just have to put it out there.



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