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Originally published in Castine Patriot, December 12, 2013
CED needs paid help, say Castine employees and promotions volunteers

With the absence of former economic development consultant Susan Walsh, the Community and Economic Development Committee needs a paid point person to carry some of its load, according to town workers and volunteers working with local development and promotion efforts.

“We need a support person, a go-to person to help us,” said committee member Pat Bishop, who also serves on the CED Promotions Committee.

She and Promotions Committee member Sue Macdonald have worked around 20 hours weekly on Light Up Castine events and the Castinopoly game, which arrived on December 4, Bishop said.

“The bottom line is we need seven to eight people in a volunteer group to handle the events or we shouldn’t bother doing it,” said Bishop.

Holiday trees were delivered to Castine on December 3. The committee was depending on four Maine Maritime Academy students to help set up the trees along Main Street and other village locations, “but it just didn’t happen,” Macdonald said. Instead, town employees assisted.

Town Clerk Sue Macomber and Financial Officer Karen Motycka have been fielding calls on out-of-towners looking to order Castinopoly, and they handled the tree delivery.

“It fell on our shoulders,” said Macomber. “Karen and I didn’t get anything done yesterday but CED stuff.”

“The two girls in the office were forced to pick up the slack for the common good,” agreed Macdonald.

One candidate for a paid support position, Tim Koster, whom CED member Jane Irving put forth, submitted a proposal to handle economic development tasks like website and social media and video and photography for $26 per hour. Walsh had estimated a need for four paid hours per week during the offseason and eight during the summer for paid support. “I’m a little gun-shy,” said committee member Julie Van der Graaf. “I think $26 per hour is high…We’re hiring someone to do footwork and technical work.” She also said there should be a “vetting process,” as there was for Walsh when she was hired by the former Economic and Development Committee.

“They set a precedent; we shouldn’t break it,” said committee member Tony Politano.

The committee unanimously voted to offer the candidate four hours over the next week to highlight Light Up Castine events, under the direction of Van der Graaf, Bishop and Irving, at the rate requested by the candidate, and then review the process.

“This is a good try-and-buy,” said Politano.

Whoever is hired to perform support tasks will be paid from funds raised at town meeting. “There should be no conflict,” said Politano. “The money was not tied to the person, [but] to the economic development consultant.”

“The first step is we have to be committed to support the volunteers,” said Chairman Rick Armstrong. “Then you can build the volunteers again.”

Debbie Neve spoke from the audience. “I’m not aware, and I’m not sure the community-at-large is aware the CED needs volunteers…Being on a committee is a certain commitment to time. I don’t think you should hire someone who can do what can be done for free.”

In other business, Van der Graaf brought the committee up-to-date on marketing consultants interested in working with the committee. One is Barbara Whitten, who stepped down as CEO of Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The first step needed is branding and marketing, Van der Graaf said. The second step is creating a strategic plan.

“Our brand is coalescing what we have to sell. Then we come up with the messaging.” Work on the town website and using social media to publicize the brand is part of the first step, Van der Graaf said.

“Didn’t we just pay thousands of dollars for a new website?” asked Politano.

Bishop reminded the committee of the slogan adopted by the former economic development committee: Under the elms and by the Sea.

“We already did the branding,” she said.

“There’s been significant work and significant effort and we cannot press the reset button,” said Politano.

“We already have this figured out,” agreed Armstrong. “We just need to give [the marketing consultant] the information.”