Rockport considers food sovereignty, auditor report, billing MCSW

By Daniel Dunkle | Jan 29, 2019

Rockport — Some residents would like to see a food sovereignty ordinance placed on the June town meeting warrant.

Marci Casas and Jesse Watson met with the Select Board Jan. 28 to promote the town opting in to allowing local farmers and residents to sell food items on a small scale without having their kitchens licensed by the state.

Currently, local farmers can sell produce without such licensing, but baked goods and some other products, such as dill pickles, cannot be sold legally, even in small neighbor-to-neighbor transactions. Watson said even brownies and cookies sold at local bake sales are technically in violation of the law.

Casas said farmers can sell sour pickles, but not dill pickles, which require boiling the vinegar.

State law allows for food sovereignty provisions, but towns are not forced to allow these sales. Each municipality must decide to opt in. Rockland, Hope and Appleton already have approved food sovereignty locally, and Camden, Islesboro and Lincolnville are all pursuing it, Casas said.

Selectmen asked the advocates what they would say to concerns about food safety. Casas pointed to recent national reports on e. coli outbreaks with lettuce, arguing those outbreaks were not seen in produce from local farmers. She and Watson said local residents could police themselves. In addition, they noted that this only affects small operations of people selling to neighbors or at farmers markets and farmstands. Sale of food items to restaurants and stores still would require licensed kitchens.

Selectman Jeffrey Hamilton said he wanted to make sure the town was not liable in any way, and wanted to consider how this might affect existing licensed businesses.

Chairman Ken McKinley said the next step is to send the proposal to the town attorney for review. Then it could come back to selectmen, and public hearings could be set. If selectmen decide not to pursue the ordinance, advocates could still mount a petition campaign to place the item on a town meeting warrant.

In other business, Selectman Mark Kelley pressed Town Manager Rick Bates for a time when he would have work done on job descriptions. Bates said he could not give an exact date for when those would be done.

Selectmen also asked when Town Clerk Linda Greenlaw would be caught up on the backlog of selectmen's meeting minutes. Greenlaw noted that the Town Office staff had been busy calling dog owners reminding them to get their licenses, and that there was a recent holiday.

Selectmen suggested that the minutes be less detailed, at least until caught up, including just the motions and voting results, rather than blow-by-blow descriptions of discussions.

Selectmen met with auditor Ron Smith, who gave the town an overall grade of B+.

The auditor had raised some concerns that Greenlaw was handling too many of the duties maintaining the general ledger and as related to cash receipts. Best practices call for more segregation of duties.

Selectmen approved an updated Internal Control Policy that addresses these issues.

Debra Hall provided a report to selectmen on Mid-Coast Solid Waste, noting that what the organization gives to the town in lieu of taxes is going down from $6,000 to $4,130 for 2019.

The Select Board voted unanimously to start billing MCSW for work that it does at the transfer station above and beyond what would normally be covered by taxes, including plowing, sanding, salting and having town public works employees provide repairs to equipment there.

The selectmen also discussed having public works employees keep more detailed records of the work they do at the transfer station.

The town lawyer will be asked to review this policy.

The selectmen appointed the following to the Library Building Committee: Denise Munger, Ann Filley, William Chapman and Richard Anderson. Doug Cole and McKinley will serve as selectmen reps on the committee, which will meet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in the Richardson Room.

Selectmen also noted that Laura Meservey, circulation and technical services librarian at the Rockport Public Library, was elected to the Maine State Cataloging Standards Committee, and said that was an honor for her.

Hall noted that multiple towns are in discussions about improved broadband in the future, and even raised the possibility of establishing a regional utility district at some point.

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