October 13, 2011

Fort Williams fee draws opposition

Several residents are upset that consideration of the fees for the park is still before the council.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – About a half-dozen residents told the Town Council Wednesday they are frustrated that officials are still considering imposing fees at Fort Williams Park.

The council scheduled a public hearing Nov. 14 on whether to charge fees for tour buses and trolleys to enter the park.

Only one resident, Betty Crane, spoke in favor of the Fort Williams Advisory Commission's recommendation to charge a $40 entry fee for tour buses and $1,500 for season passes for trolleys.

The commission made the recommendation in response to a request from the Town Council to find ways for the park to generate more revenue.

According to the commission, three trolleys make regular runs from Portland to Fort Williams, and 784 tour buses visited the park last year. Based on those numbers, the fees would generate $35,860 a year.

The commission recommended not charging small buses or vans coming from camps, recreation programs or elderly-care facilities in the area.

"It's a good, fair plan," said Crane.

She said she sees no conflict between charging buses and trolleys, and letting cars enter for free.

Twice in the past five years, voters have rejected proposals to charge for parking at Fort Williams.

Several residents said Wednesday that those votes should have sent the council a clear message about their distaste for fees at the park.

"I think it's getting ridiculous that this keeps coming up," Bill Enman told the council.

Paul Brown said Fort Williams is set apart from other parks because there are no fees.

"We want that place to be free -- not a little bit free, not two-thirds free, but free," he said. "I want us to stay special."

The council also scheduled public hearings Nov. 14 on:

• A proposal to ban sales and use of fireworks, and possession of fireworks with the intent to sell or use them in town.

In June, the state Legislature passed a law legalizing sales, use and possession of fireworks in Maine. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, allows towns and cities to impose their own restrictions. Portland's City Council has already enacted a ban.

• An amendment to the town's Miscellaneous Offenses Ordinance that would add chickens and roosters to the list of animals -- along with horses, cows and goats -- that are prohibited from roaming in public places. Another proposed amendment would prohibit those animals from making noises that would disturb neighbors. Farms would be exempt, councilors said.

Also Wednesday, the Town Council approved adding a paid position to the rescue department, which now is staffed by 26 volunteers.

Starting Jan. 1, an emergency medical responder will be paid per diem to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, which will cost the town about $76,400. The shift could be filled by a different person every day.

Fire Chief Peter Gleeson requested the position because he said volunteers have become less consistent in responding to emergency calls, and the average time it takes an ambulance to reach a patient has been increasing.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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