GORHAM — The Gorham Fire Department will receive a $29,866 grant to buy lifesaving extrication equipment, often called the “Jaws of Life,” from the nonprofit Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.

Fire Chief Phil Cloutier, who wrote the application, learned it is one of only 96 grants awarded in this latest nationwide funding round.

The equipment is designed to safely and efficiently remove drivers and passengers trapped in motor vehicles at serious accident sites, fulfilling a critical need within the department.

When town manager Denise Vallee announced the award at the Jan. 11 selectmen’s meeting, chairman Mike Waddell, and selectmen Judy LeBlanc and Adam White thanked the chief for his ongoing fundraising successes. In 2020, GPD was awarded both a $134,600 FEMA grant to buy multiple self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), also known as air packs, and a $10,000 grant for firefighters’ turnout gear from a community foundation supported by TC Energy, the corporation under which the Portland Natural Gas Transmission System now operates.

Presidential Range Riders president Brian Ruel, who had earlier submitted three route maps to the board showing updated access points and other tweaks to current snowmobile trails running through downtown and Main Street as far as east as the Information Booth, joined the Zoom meeting.

The board accepted the changes that had been worked out. Ruel said he now would work with Public Works Director “Buddy” Holmes to find places to place new signs so that they will not hamper the DPW’s snow-clearing and removal work.

Later in the meeting under the agenda’s Public Comment section, budget committee member Abby Evankow asked Waddell whether the just-approved route still allows snowmobiles to use town sidewalks. He replied that there would be less such usage than in previous years.

Evankow asked whether if the town were awarded monies for new sidewalks, they then would no longer be used for motorized travel. The selectmen have not taken that position, the chairman said.

She also noted she thought it “problematic” to have snowmobiles using school walking routes during the times young students are walking to and from school. “They are exposed to their fumes and forced to walk through puddles or to climb up onto snowbanks,” Evankow explained, adding that a key goal listed in the town’s new master plan is to create a “walkable” downtown.

Deidre Noreen asked whether taxpayers would pay for repairs to the road surface of Bellevue Place which, she alleged, was damaged by a nearby business, Northeast Snowmobile and ATV Rentals.

Vallee was directed to report back to the board on this issue.

The board voted unanimously to approve contracting with planning consultant Tara Bamford to help ensure that a new partnership formed between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey to create new maps of the Androscoggin River and its tributaries, including the Peabody River, Moose Brook and Moose River, would be more accurate than in the past. Dikes and causeways plus any structures associated with the Water and Sewer Department must be inspected and delineated, Waddell pointed out.

“This is very important to Gorham, including its downtown,” he said. This effort is particularly timely because FERC is already working to collect the data needed to consider relicensing a number of hydropower dams in the Valley, Waddell said.

He suggested that Bamford, who already works regularly for the Gorham Planning Board, could be paid using the $15,000 that would otherwise have been sought at the 2021 town meeting as an appropriation for the River Maintenance Capital Reserve Fund.

This effort to ensure that an accurate job will be completed by federal agencies put all board members “on the same page,” they noted.

The board agreed that unless a severe coronavirus spike takes place in the next several weeks, Gorham will hold the 2021 town meeting on its traditional second Tuesday in March — this year, March 9 — likely in the Gorham Middle High School gym, where COVID-19 “distancing” is possible.

Vallee reported that the town has received $3,169.71 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to cover COVID-19-related election costs in November 2020.

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