BETHEL — Selectboards from Bethel, Greenwood, Newry, and Woodstock met on Monday, August 9 to discuss four topics in detail in a collaborative effort rather than as separate communities. The four points of discussion were expanding broadband, rethinking solid waste, Bethel airport financial support, and housing for the medium income workforce. By collaborating, the goal was to save money and share resources.

Broadband speed testing has been done throughout the four towns, though the facilitator Mike Wilson, from Northern Forest Center, said it was not super accurate. He said that all roads in all towns have been checked, which includes the wires. The service report will be coming through shortly, in the latter part of August.

Town managers Loretta Powers, of Bethel, Kim Sparks, of Greenwood and Vern Maxfield, of Woodstock agreed to send out a speed test with the tax bills for each town to help make the service report more accurate. Amy Bernard, of Newry had already done this and found it helpful.  Once the town managers have an accurate service report, they can go to the state or federal for funding rather than invest in regional.

Turning to the waste issue, the problem, they agreed, is getting someone to work at the transfer station. The other discussion was around the only one central local transfer station. If there is only one, how can it be centralized to please all four towns? It is more cost efficient if all the towns work together, they agreed. It also has to measure up to the Bureau of Labor’s safety standards. There was talk of having two transfer stations, each open on opposite days, but Powers said  Castella, the waste management company, would have to look over that idea.

Selectwoman Michele Varuolo Cole of Bethel and the rest of the selectman board of Bethel requested financial support  for the Bethel airport. Bethel pays $100,000 to maintain the airport, and, according to Bethel, the benefits are reaped by all who use it, not just Bethel citizens. The Bethel selectman requested the three other towns donate $5,000 each to help maintain the airport. The airport goes beyond borders and benefits the region. There are 19 aircraft, and between January 2021 and April 2021, there were 683 departures and arrivals. The regional facilities have no borders, and it is infrastructural. The other town managers said they would bring the data back to their boards and they would look over the data.

Workforce housing was a hot topic. The majority said two things: many need to work here but can’t afford to live here [in Bethel], and everyone [from out-of-state] is buying up properties, leaving none for Mainers. Many selectman talked about landlords putting a year-lease on renting, and allowing no short-term renting for holiday tourists, but others thought the opposite.

One idea, brought up by a Bethel selectman, was to buy tiny houses and place them near Ethel Bisbee School. Bernard said to focus on getting in young families and what the towns needed to do to bring in young families. It was decided by all this was a multifaceted topic that would be discussed again.

The four towns agreed to meet again on the last Tuesday of August to continue the discussion of Broadband.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: