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Originally published in The Weekly Packet, August 28, 2014
Brooklin eyes ways to improve high speed Internet
Lack of progress with FairPoint, say officials

by Rich Hewitt

Town officials may take a new tack in an effort to improve high speed Internet service in the town.

Frustrated with the lack of progress they have made with FairPoint Communications, the members of the board of selectmen considered creating a local committee to work with a different provider who might be more willing to bring the service to the town.

Selectman Deborah Brewster reported that, according to a newspaper article, the town of Rockport had spent $60,000 and worked with the Internet provider GWI to bring high-speed Internet to that town. Brewster indicated that local resident Molly Blake already had contacted GWI to see if they could provide cost figures to provide high speed Internet service in Brooklin, and the board members liked the idea of putting a little pressure on FairPoint.

“If FairPoint gets wind of it, we might be able to get a better deal,” Brewster said.

Brewster said she had been approached by a number of residents on Naskeag Point, including some summer residents, who were very interested in seeing high-speed Internet in town.

“They use it and they need it,” she said. “And that’s supported by that list of cottage industries in town.”

The board developed a list showing that there are at least 70 cottage businesses in town, many of which use the Internet for their businesses and would benefit from having high-speed service.

Albie Smith liked the idea of trying another Internet provider noting that the town’s efforts with FairPoint had “gotten us nowhere.”

“We could put together a subcommittee to see what we could do to get GWI to come to Brooklin and give us some figures,” he said.

Town Clerk GiGi Hardy suggested that any committee should include representatives from the different sections of town to ensure all interests are included in the discussion.

Brewster said she will be in touch with Blake to see if she has had a response from GWI and then the town could proceed from there.

The town is continuing to negotiate with Maine Coast Heritage Trust for an easement on town owned land on Harriman Point. The trust hopes to use a quarter of an acre of that parcel to provide parking for a larger parcel that it recently received as a bequest from the estate of the late Susan Drew. That property contains 138 acres and just under two miles of shoreline on Harriman Point.

Brewster noted that the town’s attorney had reviewed the initial draft of the easement and suggested that it include a detailed description of the specific parcel of land included in the easement. Board members said that would slow the process, but added that the detailed description was necessary before they could bring the matter to the town’s voters for approval.

The board also heard concerns from two residents about the future of the Brooklin General Store. Sharon Lendvai and Sylvia Kindig urged the board to take some action to ensure that the store, which is currently for sale, remained a viable part of the town. Lendvai said that in other towns in Maine, the town government had sought grants to help a general store remain in business.

Lendvai had helped to organize a “cash-mob” at the store earlier this summer. That effort resulted in the busiest day the store had seen all year, she said.

While the board members agreed that the store is a focal point for the town, the members were disinclined to get involved in the situation without more interest from the townspeople.

“This really should be a grassroots effort,” Brewster said. “We would want to see a groundswell of interest from people.”

Lendvai said the response to the cash mob was evidence of the support in town for the store, but Brewster said she thought that the proper route was for a committee of interested townspeople to get together and work to support the store—people who were willing to invest the time and effort it would take.

“I don’t think we can do it or should do it,” she said.

The board also urged people whose property may be affected by the new flood plain maps to visit the town office to review those maps. Although it does not appear that the redrawn flood risk maps will have a major effect on the town, individual property owners could still feel an impact if the zone their property is in has been re-designated as being in a high-risk zone. Those impacts could include higher flood insurance premiums and stiffer restrictions on building in those areas.