The Fairfield Town Council approved a variety of motions Wednesday, including funding for a broadband feasibility study, a grant for Mainely Handrails and the addition of a page about well water contamination in the town warrant mailer.

The council held a regular meeting Wednesday evening in a hybrid model — the town council, town manager and town clerk met in person and the room was broadcast over Zoom, and contributors and members of the public logged on via Zoom.

The council approved the use of $6,400 to be spent on the Somerset Economic Development Council’s broadband feasibility study. Half of the money will come from the Planning and Development Capital Reserve Account and the other half will come from the Franchise Fee Reserve Account.

The study encompasses the entire county and is partially funded by a state grant from the ConnectMaine Authority. However, the grant funds were not enough to cover the study for all areas, so the five larger towns, including Fairfield, have been asked to fund the study themselves.

The study will take 911 data about home locations in town, and then drive the roads to confirm those locations and add any that are missing. It will also gather information about how many residents currently have broadband and how many do not, as well as the locations of various types of cables in the area.

This information will then be used to calculate how much it would cost a broadband service provider to expand their coverage and how much it would cost for a new provider to come to the area. That information will then be shared with the town, the county and service providers.

“Our goal with this is to create consistent and fast internet for all the residents and businesses, and make it affordable,” said Christian Savage, executive director of the Somerset Economic Development Council.

In essence, the study will create foundational knowledge to encourage broadband expansion in Fairfield going forward.

At the end of the meeting, Councilor Stephanie Thibodeau said she had been opposed to the study initially, but that the presentation showed her how it will benefit the town.

“It really is something that I think is needed for the future of our town,” Thibodeau said. “It’s going to be money that is well invested.”

During the public comment phase of the meeting, Chairperson John Picchiotti read two emails that asked the council to send out a mailer to Fairfield residents to warn about the PFAS contamination in area wells.

Picchiotti pointed out that he felt that most residents were aware of the issue, and that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection contacted residents about testing as well. Council Secretary Peter Lawrence said that he felt it couldn’t hurt to alert people again.

Michelle Flewelling, town manager, said that the council could move to add a page about water testing to the mailer that will be sent out at the end of the month about the Town Meeting warrant.

After discussion, the council unanimously passed a motion to add a page to the mailer.

The council discussed and ultimately approved the leasing of three electric vehicles for town employees and the construction of two charging stations for electric vehicles.

The vehicles will be used by the Crossroads TV station director, a code enforcement officer and the police chief. The vehicles are Hyundai Konas. Through a rebate program from Hyundai and Efficiency Maine grants, the three-year leases for the vehicles will not cost the town any money.

The council then discussed construction of charging stations for electric vehicles. Flewelling presented three options for locations for the chargers, one at the police department that would only be used by municipal employees, and two that could also be used by the public at the community center and the town office.

Flewelling said that the two that are open to public use could bring in additional revenue over time, and would draw electric car drivers into downtown Fairfield.

“It is definitely a forward, future-thinking move to go with this, but I do think it is the way that it’s going, and I do think it’s a good opportunity to provide an economic development activity that could really help folks who want to come to our community,” Flewelling said.

The charger at the police department would cost $1,275 to build, the community center would be $15,543 and the town office would be $21,648. The police station location is less expensive because it has a single port, while the other two chargers have two ports to charge from.

Thibodeau expressed concerns about spending the money to commit to all three locations when this is a new initiative.

After much discussion, the council voted to approve two of the chargers, the one at the police station and one at the community center.

The council held a public hearing and then approved a grant for Mainely Handrails to purchase land at 25 West St. Mainely Handrails is a custom metal fabrication shop, and sells firepits, handrails, and provides services like plasma cutting, sandblasting and powder coating.

As part of the grant, Flewelling said, Mainely Handrails will be required to take on four positions within the next year.

The next town council meeting is scheduled for April 28.

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