WINTHROP — The Winthrop Sidewalk Art Festival will continue to be confined to sidewalks, if it happens at all this year.

The Town Council has turned down a request to close Main Street during the event in August. The owners of several downtown businesses said at the council meeting Monday that closing the street would be hard on their customers and people with disabilities.

Closing the street would improve safety and the atmosphere at the festival, potentially luring artists back in, said Shari Falcone, who helps organize the festival for the Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. She said competition, particularly from an art festival in Topsham the same weekend, has reduced the number of artists to about half of what it once was.

Falcone said Tuesday that the chamber’s executive committee will have to consider whether to put on the 26-year-old festival, but she personally would vote against it.

“It doesn’t make any money, and the town doesn’t seem to want it, so why go forward?” Falcone said.

The council voted 7-0 not to close Main Street.

Although Falcone pitched the art festival as a boon for local businesses, Subway sandwich shop owner Priscilla Milnes said the visitors at the festival would not be enough to make up for the lack of people driving through town if the street is closed.

“We get people who can drive in and park and leave,” Milnes said. “Nobody’s going to walk down the hill. I don’t know where they’re going to park or how far they’re going to walk.”

Milnes said she had talked with the owners of several other downtown businesses who didn’t like the idea, and Laurie Tompkins, owner of Becky’s Second Time Around consignment shop, also spoke at the meeting to oppose closing the street on behalf of her business and the new hair salon next door.

Councilors agreed that closing the street would cause inconvenience.

“Saturdays are when people shop,” Councilor Linda Caprara said. “That’s when they do their errands, go to the post office.”

Councilor Priscilla Jenkins encouraged the chamber to consider other locations in town for the art festival.

Councilors handled several other items of business on Monday:

• Town Manager Jeff Woolston presented a draft budget, which he compiled from department budget requests.

The draft budget is $5.8 million, down $155,035 or 2.6 percent from this year’s budget. The decrease is mostly a result of removing about $200,000 in undesignated funds that the council incorporated into the budget last year.

There are major reductions in the line items for paving mix, culvert work and police officer salaries, reflecting a police department with one fewer officer.

Woolston said that in order to make the municipal portion of the budget revenue-neutral, and based on current projections from the state budget, another $50,000 to $60,000 in cuts will need to be made.

“Those are the types of painful issues that the council’s going to take line by line,” Woolston said Tuesday.

Councilors will review the budget at workshops on Monday and April 15, with additional workshops to be scheduled if needed.

• Councilors voted to register the town’s slogan, “We play outside,” at the suggestion of resident and motel owner Andy Wess.

The slogan, developed as part of Winthrop’s Comprehensive Plan in 2010, appears on the town’s website, Woolston’s voicemail message and signs posted along roadways in the warmer months to encourage drivers to slow down.

South Portland created its own signs with similar wording last year, and Wess said that if someone else were to register the slogan first, Winthrop could be prevented from using it.

Wess brought paperwork to the meeting for town officials to register a service mark with the Maine secretary of state on an expedited basis. It costs $110, and the council voted unanimously to apply.

• A one-year liquor license to Sully’s Restaurant & Tavern was approved by councilors, but it’s conditional on whether there continue to be problems requiring Winthrop police to respond.

Police Chief Joseph Young said officers have responded to reports of three assaults and four disorderly conducts in the tavern in the past year, including one incident in which someone was illegally carrying a gun. Carrying a concealed weapon is prohibited in places where alcohol is served, and Young said he would send a letter to business owners reminding them to post a sign saying that no firearms are permitted.

Liquor licenses must be renewed every year. Town attorney Lee Bragg said councilors can revoke Sully’s license anytime in the next year if there is cause for it.

• The council also reviewed an overhaul of the 1916 agreement that created the Charles M. Bailey Public Library.

Bragg said the agreement does not cover the addition that’s planned now or any future additions, and some of its language has been difficult to interpret, such as the definition of the “support, care and maintenance” the town is required to fund.

Bragg, the councilors and the library trustees have worked to draft something in the spirit of the original agreement between Bailey and Winthrop citizens voting at Town Meeting. The agreement was ratified by the Legislature in 1917.

After the councilors approve a new agreement, it will be reviewed in Kennebec County Probate Court.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645
[email protected]

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