The Belgrade summer residents meeting was held over Zoom on Thursday. Image from video

More than a dozen town officials addressed the community Thursday during the annual Belgrade summer residents meeting, providing updates on all parts of municipal affairs. But it was the final topic — a houseboat ordinance — that drew the most discussion.

Belgrade Town Manager Anthony Wilson brought up the conversation on houseboats. The Belgrade Board of Selectpersons considered drafting an ordinance for houseboats last year, and an idea for an ordinance was floated around.

“It is a major concern,” resident Steve Smith said. “It’s not only a privacy concern — people don’t want them parked on their shoreline — but it’s also a water quality concern.”

The definition of a houseboat is unclear. Is it simply a boat where a person can sleep? Or is it a full apartment?

“I agree with Steve,” resident Michael Everly wrote in a response. “Sounds like a terrible idea to allow houseboats or even overnight stays on the water.”

The town of Belgrade’s moorings committee is exploring this issue as a “preventative measure,” Wilson said. There’s concern over septic and other types of pollution from houseboats. Any ordinance would be voted on by selectpersons. The board and Wilson encouraged summer residents to share what they feel is right for the town of Belgrade, even if they can’t vote in the municipality.

Belgrade’s 3,189 year-round population typically doubles in the summer, Wilson said. More than 30 participants tuned in via Zoom, and a handful viewed on Facebook.

Selectpersons Kathleen Wall, Ernie Merckens and Dan Newman joined the meeting.

Wilson opened the meeting with remarks highlighting the town’s summer business, virtual participation in town government and response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re weathering the current storm nicely because of what I think is a very strong financial position for the town,” Wilson said.

Laura Rose Day, president and chief executive officer of 7 Lakes Alliance, addressed residents with an overall positive report. The conservation organization notified residents of a “significant” algae bloom in North Pond, which is now over. The water in North Pond empties into Great Pond. Milfoil concerns on Belgrade Stream also arose.

“Even though the bloom is over, we’re still doing some limited and significant toxicity testing,” Day said.

Lily Schubert, Belgrade’s recreation director, described a successful but limited summer camp for elementary school-aged children. There were no positive COVID-19 cases at the camp. There is also an after school program beginning Monday.

Megan Aube, of the Belgrade Public Library, spoke about several initiatives, including the library’s three-part series on race relations. The library is now open to the public with limited hours.

Fire Chief Dan MacKenzie said the fire department still wants to build a new fire station on Depot Road in the near future, perhaps in three to five years. The department is greatly cautious following coronavirus protocols. MacKenzie said the department often screens before responding to a call to “make sure to know just what type of gear to put on.”

The towns of Belgrade and Rome are also hiring a new firefighter to be stationed in Belgrade.

“The big reason for this is a big drop in volunteers. It’s less and less people involved,” MacKenzie said. “Probably mid-September would be our goal to get somebody on board.”

Ken Scheno, transfer station director, said there was “quite a bit of a backup” at the recycling center due to social distancing protocols. The town is hosting a paper shredding event Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

“This summer we’ve really seen a number of people who are summer residents or who are here as short-term members who have really made tremendous contributions with us,” Day said. “I think it’s a great point that summer residents are really incredibly important.”

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