Police & Fire

Greenville gearing up for next month’s total solar eclipse

GREENVILLE — The number of visitors won’t be known for sure until the day of the event as those coming to the Moosehead Lake Region for the  total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8 could total in the thousands or tens of thousands. Municipal, county, and state officials have been busy preparing for the high end as Greenville Town Manager Mike Roy explained to the select board during a meeting on March 6.

Around 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on April 8 the moon will be fully in front of the sun for a total solar eclipse, after leading up to the event starting at around 2 o’clock that day. Among the best viewing spaces in the country will be Piscataquis County and other parts of Maine to the north.

Roy said the latest planning meeting was held at the new municipal public safety building with representatives from the Greenville police and fire departments, the Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency, Northern Light CA Dean Hospital, Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office, Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Warden Service, and Maine Forest Service. “We heard about how each department is preparing for the eclipse and the proposed number of people that we are expecting up here,” he said, with the next session set for early next month.

“There’s a lot more information coming April 2,” the town manager said, mentioning portable toilet rental agreements are in place for the eclipse.

“It’s good to know that everybody’s on board with what could be coming,” Roy said. “Each department talked about staging areas, the new public safety building will be the incident command center and there will be people housed there for the weekend starting Friday I believe.”

Piscataquis County EMA will come and set everything up.

 “There’s a lot of hype out there, and part of that is fear of the unknown,” Select Chairperson Geno Murray said. “The good news is we have got some experienced emergency services folks and they know how to allocate resources needed.”

“I hope we don’t get saturated but if we do we need to manage it like anything else,” Murray added.

When asked Roy said in his opinion the region is well prepared a month in advance. “I think we are prepared, and I say think with caution that we don’t know what’s coming,” he said.

Roy said the FAA has issued an air traffic bulletin for Greenville and other airports in the eclipse path, saying for fuel tanks to all be topped off and to expect up to 150 aircraft flying in.

He said a call from an air service company said it plans to bring in several aircraft, with 8-10 people apiece, for an “eclipse tour” featuring a lobster dinner under the wings before the celestial event.

“There are different things you wouldn’t think about in different industries that think outside the box,” Roy said. “April is a slow time of year so why not capitalize on this event?”

“I just hope that all of our businesses are successful, particularly with the winter that we had,” Murray said. “I’m sure these guys are struggling and we definitely want them to benefit as much as possible.”

In other business, the select board heard from Planning Board Chairperson John Conteni about a fence ordinance it has been working on to hopefully be ready for the June 3 annual town meeting.

Contreni said the first draft was looked at earlier in the evening. “It’s basically built on the state of Maine ordinance statutes regarding fences,” he said.

“We can’t make it more lenient but we can make it more strict in certain areas,”  Contreni said, saying the document will go through a few iterations before being brought to the select board.

The chairperson said the planning board continues to work on LD 2003, “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions” signed by Gov. Janet Mills in April 2022.

“That requires us to provide for more dense housing,” Contreni said, with this needed to be in place for communities across the state.

Per guidance on the act from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, the law is designed to remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to housing production in Maine, while preserving local ability to create land use plans and protect sensitive environmental resources. Greenville has until July 1 to implement LD 2003.

The act guidance has sections relevant to municipalities, identifying amended sections of state law. Amendments include allowing for additional density for affordable housing developments in certain areas; generally requiring that municipalities allow between two and four housing units per lot where housing is permitted; requiring that municipalities allow accessory dwelling units to be located on the same lot as a single-family home under certain conditions; and requiring that the state establish statewide and regional housing production goals and set forth ways in which local governments can coordinate with that goal.

Conteni said the planning board and Code Enforcement Officer Ron Sarol are looking to decrease the minimum lot size from 10,000 square feet for a dwelling to 7,500 square feet. “That will enable us to increase the density of homes on property,” Contreni said. He said many homes in the historic portions of town are already on 7,500 square feet or less.

“Yesterday, Election Day, we had exactly 300 voters that voted here in the town office,” Roy said. “In 2020 (for the presidential primary) we had 510, so that 300 that voted yesterday is representative of 17 percent of registered voters.”

Town Clark Tammy Firman said 27 absentee ballots were taken out and 25 returned. “We usually have lots more than that,” she said.

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