(from Maine Townsman, November 1998)

The 1998 MMA Annual Convention provided the setting to recognize communities for their good ideas and annual reports and to honor a municipal clerk who has spent the past 37 years in selfless service to a Maine town. The Great Idea Award recognizes municipalities for their creative, service delivery ideas and the Municipal Reports Competition recognizes them for their efforts to better communicate with citizens. The Ethel N. Kelley Memorial Award is an individual honor for long-term, dedicated service to a Maine municipality.


MMA President George Campbell recognized three communities as recipients of the Fourth Annual MMA Great Idea Awards during the Delegates Luncheon on October 14. MMA created these awards as a way to recognize and encourage municipal innovation and ingenuity.

Public Boat Landing

The 1998 Great Idea Award winner in the 1001 to 5000 population category was the Town of Sangerville.

Sometimes it’s not what you do, but how you do it that makes something special. That is the case with the Town of Sangerville’s entry in the Great Idea Award program. The Town needed a public boat landing on Manhanock Pond. It applied for and received construction funds through the Department of Conservation, got the necessary DEP permits and began construction in May. The town’s two-person public works department performed the work.

Unfortunately, grant funds rarely cover the entire cost of a project. In Sangerville’s case, the amount of gravel needed for the project exceeded the budget, and the town discovered that the cost of a 100-foot silt fence would be far more than anticipated. But, this didn’t stop the public works department.

With 100 feet of left over geotextile fabric and 25 styrofoam "noodles" that you often see kids swimming with, the public works crew improvised. The "noodles" were attached to the fabric and the fence was put in place with weights and poles. What would have cost over $1800 ended up costing $37.50.

In addition to using their "noodles" to save a great deal of money, the public works crew also came up with an ingenious way of installing the concrete planks which serve as the boat landing ramp. These planks are four to six feet long and weigh 600 to 1000 pounds each. This was a big challenge for two men to put in place. With some good planning and using an innovative technique, the crew used a front-end loader to "roll" the connected concrete planks right into the water in exactly the spot they were supposed to be.

The Town of Sangerville’s Public Works Department stepped outside the box. The crew came up with a better mousetrap – one that saved the town money, time and labor on its boat landing installation. According to Town Manager John Simko, the final product is a great success. Boaters used the ramp all summer to fish for Manhancock’s trophy small mouth bass.

Town Meeting Info Packets

The next Great Idea Award was presented to the Town of Topsham, in the over 5000 population category, for its "Post Town Meeting Information Packets"

Most towns have had to recycle or discard numerous copies of handouts left over after town meeting. As you know, it’s important to have enough copies of the Warrant and supplemental materials available. To run out at town meeting is not good. Thus, many municipal officials end up making more copies than are actually needed.

The Town of Topsham decided to reuse all the supplemental information handed out at town meeting for citizens and business owners who could not attend the town meeting. The town has compiled the supplemental handouts, budget information sheets and the warrant, as well as a listing the results of the town meeting with budget changes, in a completed town meeting package.

According to Topsham Town Manager, Kathryn Ruth, the results have been extremely beneficial. The town is able to reuse all the left over copies of town meeting materials rather than recycling boxes of paper. They are a terrific communications tool to update citizens who were unable to attend the meeting. Citizens like the idea of having a complete, easy to use, compilation of town meeting results and new residents of Topsham have a package of information to learn about the town and its local government. Town staff members also have a handy packet of information to use for reference and various town committees use the packets for comparison purposes as new proposals are put forward. The Town Manager uses the packages as handouts when speaking to community groups and students studying local government have used the information.

This is a simple, but effective communication tool that any town meeting community could use. It provides a complete report of Topsham’s town meeting and makes good use of information that might otherwise be recycled.

Municipal/School Cooperation

The Great Idea Awards Program allows the MMA President to bestow special recognition on an entry that he or she believes embodies the spirit of the award and/or represents an effort in an area which the President has particular interest.

The 1998 Great Idea Award President’s Choice Award went to the Town of Scarborough for its municipal/school information systems department.

The Town of Scarborough wanted to keep current with the use of computer technology in a cost-effective manner. The town council and the board of education had the vision to encourage a cooperative effort and create the Scarborough Information Systems Department.

The department combines the town and school staff of computer specialists into a single unit that can better serve the technology needs of the town, schools and public library. Both the town and schools now share administrative computing hardware, software, operating systems and networking capabilities. This consolidation of resources has resulted in enhanced performance and cost savings.

According to Steve Tewhey, the administrator of the Scarborough Information Systems Department, the town and school departments have avoided duplication of hardware, administrative software and support positions with the consolidation. In addition, the town and school agreed upon a basic suite of software applications that makes purchasing, support and training less expensive. The schools’ computer labs and instructors provide staff computer training to all municipal and school staff making great use of the facilities in a cost-effective manner. The availability of training and support has gone a long way to make staff more comfortable with the new technologies.

This great idea resulted from discussions between the town council and school board at collaborative workshops. It demonstrates the power of collaborative thinking. A simple consolidation of computer operations has served as a springboard for a number of innovative technology projects in Scarborough, not to mention the savings and improved services that have resulted.

The panel of judges for the Great Idea Awards is comprised of the MMA President and four MMA Affiliate Group Presidents. This year's judges included:

• Gilberte Mayo, President of the Maine Municipal Tax Collectors’ & Treasurers’ Association.

• Kathleen Montejo, President of the Town & City Clerks Association

• Tony Levesque, President of the Maine Community Development Association

• Jim Bennett, President of the Maine Town & City Management Association


Fifteen communities were judged winners in September of the Maine Municipal Association’s 1998 Municipal Reports Competition. The five communities that received the highest honor, Supreme Merit, were recognized and given their awards during the Delegates Luncheon at convention.

The competition recognizes three communities in five population categories. In the 0-499 category, Arrowsic placed first followed by Burlington and New Canada; the 500-999 category was won by Fayette with St. Agatha and Oqunquit placing second and third; Castine won highest honors in the 1,000-1,999 category followed by Ashland and Hancock; Rockport, a perennial top finisher in the competition, was followed by Union and Raymond in the 2,000-4,999 category; and Freeport led the highest population communities, 5,000 and over, with Presque Isle and Augusta finishing second and third.

This annual competition honors municipalities that are effectively using their annual reports to communicate with citizens. Judges for the competition look at a report’s editorial content and readability, the comprehensiveness and understandability of the financial reporting, and the overall design and layout. This year’s judges were Doug Rooks, editor of the Maine Times, Linda Smith, vice president with Key Bank, and Gary Nichols, Maine State Librarian.


Bar Harbor Town Clerk Jean Barker was the 1998 recipient of MMA's prestigious Ethel N. Kelley Memorial Award. The award was presented by MMA Past President Mary Sullivan of Bangor during the Annual Banquet on October 15 at this year's convention.

Mrs. Barker is the 13th recipient of the award which began in 1986. The award recognizes dedicated municipal officials who have served their community selflessly, compassionately, capably and for a long term.

Mrs. Barker completed her 37th year of municipal service in the Town of Bar Harbor on October 16, 1998.