The Ellsworth City Council will have one newcomer, and possibly two, after voting wraps up early next month.
Four residents — Dale Hamilton, Gene Lyons, Bronson Platner and Edmund “Mike” Springer — have thrown their hats into the ring for two openings on the seven-member council. The winners will serve 3-year terms. Hamilton is the only incumbent among the four candidates, and he currently serves as the council’s chairman.
Councilor John Moore, who has held a seat on the council since 2003, has decided not to seek re-election.
Hamilton, 53, works as executive director of Community Health and Counseling Services. Lyons, 53, is an Army veteran who works for concrete supplier Owen J. Folsom, Inc. Platner, 74, is a former assistant district attorney who had his own law practice in Ellsworth for 30 years and is now retired. Springer, 51, works as a telecommunications technician for Consolidated Communications.
In response to a BDN questionnaire, all four men cited the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the city and, in particular, on the city’s finances, as a major challenge that Ellsworth is facing. Hamilton, Lyons and Springer each said the pandemic has been handled as well as can be, either by the city or the state.
Platner was the only candidate who was critical of the city’s response. He said the city should have applied for and received grant money for COVID-19 assistance sooner than it did, before the summer tourist season was underway, and that the city should have done more to help local restaurants add outdoor dining spaces.
Both Hamilton and Platner declined to answer when asked whether they belong to a political party, citing the council’s designation as a nonpartisan body, though the city’s public registered voter records show both men are Democrats. Lyons and Springer each said they are members of the Republican Party.
In addition to party affiliation, Hamilton and Platner both differ from Lyons and Springer on their positions on painting downtown crosswalks in rainbow colors in a sign of support for the LGBTQ community. Both said they support the concept, while the two Republican candidates said they are opposed to it.
Hamilton was among three council members, including Republicans John Phillips and Robert Miller, who voted in August in favor of a request from an Ellsworth High School student group to repaint the crosswalks. The proposal failed by a 3-3-1 vote, with Councilor Michelle Kaplan abstaining. Kaplan, who has two more years left in her council term, is running this year to also serve in the Legislature.
Lyons, who ran unsuccessfully for the City Council in 2016 and 2018, and Springer each said that allowing one group to repaint the crosswalks would open the door to other similar requests from other groups. Both said the crosswalks should be repainted with only reflective white paint.
All four candidates said they favor continued development in Ellsworth and said high-speed internet access should be expanded, both for businesses and residents. Hamilton, Platner and Springer all said the city should continue developing public walking trails in central Ellsworth, though Platner was the only one who said — without going into specifics — that more needs to be done to address vehicle traffic congestion in the summer.
They also said they support having the city maintain its basic emergency medical service license, which allows the fire department’s trained emergency medical technicians to respond to medical calls. The topic became an issue earlier this year when the city found out it was obligated to send its EMTs to such calls, though it is not licensed to transport patients.
Northern Light Health, which houses ambulances at the Ellsworth fire station at City Hall, is the only licensed ambulance service in Ellsworth but sometimes is out responding to other calls when medical calls come in. The City Council voted unanimously in August to maintain its basic EMS license and to continue having its EMTs respond to such calls, according to the Ellsworth American.
Correction: An earlier version of this story included inaccurate information about which councilors voted in support of painting downtown crosswalks in rainbow colors.