Brooks residents discuss recycling, interest on late property tax payments at town meeting
BROOKS — About 50 Brooks residents passed 47 articles of the the town warrant at their town meeting, with most of the discussion focused on recycling and a proposed amendment to waive the 7 percent interest charge for property tax payers who make monthly payments.
Moderator Walter Whitcomb opened the meeting shortly after 1 p.m., March 15, at the Morse Memorial School.
The town discussed the selectmen's recommendation to withdraw from the Unity Recycling Center Agreement. Selectman Mike Switzer said “There are two ongoing issues with Unity Recycling. One is that we are looking at single-stream recycling, the second is that in 2018 our contract with PERC is up, so we're looking for ways for us to still get our trash done.”
Selectman Arthur Butler said the selectmen have looked into contracting with DM&J, and doing that would save the town $4,500 per year. DM&J would charge a monthly fee to pick up the recycling and transfer it to Winterport, where they would compact it and send it to a facility in southern Maine which is automated. The fee would be $90 per ton.
Resident Lelita Magnussen and others raised the concern that this would lead to having to hire more recycling employees in the future.
Bill Errickson, the town representative to the Unity Recycling Center, said “The Unity Recycling Center is doing a little restructuring. We had a full-time manager who is no longer employed there; that has become a part-time position. That represents about a 20- to 25-percent reduction in costs. We investigated single-stream as a whole center and having all the nine member towns switch that, and with a center we get a sales credit back each year for recyclables sold. However I think what the selectmen are proposing is ultimately going to be a lower cost. The current reduction with the proposed changes will reduce the budget by about $2,000 while what the selectmen are proposing would be a savings of $5,000. This includes the services of single-stream where people don't have to sort their recycles. There is less labor involved because the sorting is all done by machines. That's where that saving comes from.”
Butler explained the process for withdrawing from the agreement. He said the town is tied in to its agreement with Unity Recycling Center until the end of this year. “We had to send them a letter of intention to get out in December and then it has to be voted on by town meeting," he said. "Then 45 days later we have to give them the results of the vote, and then they won't let us out until the following December.”
Butler added, “Back when [we entered the agreement] it was the best deal going at the time. Now things have changed, everything is going single stream.”
The selectmen said they inquired with DM&J because it is what Monroe uses and that town is happy with their service. Howard Whitcomb said he would like the town to bring this up to a bid and look into other single-stream facilities in the state.
The town voted “yes” to withdraw from the Unity Recycling Center Agreement.
An amendment was proposed to Article 39 which would charge 7-percent interest on tax payments received after Oct. 1, 2014. Ray Quimby proposed an amendment that people who pay their taxes in monthly installments would not be subject to the interest.
“There would be two benefits to this,” Quimby said, “One, if a property owner wants to budget their taxes and pay on a monthly basis it gives them incentive to do that, and two, if property owners do this it levels the cash flow for the town. People would be paying throughout the course of the year.”
The proposed amendment read, “except those property owners who pay regular monthly installments based on the previous year's taxes, effective Feb. 1, 2015.”
Town Clerk Jane McLaughlin said the system would need to account for people who can not make their monthly payments. “In other towns, they have tax clubs and payment books. If you miss two consecutive payments, then you have to pay interest. It is a little more complicated than this amendment.”
A resident suggested there would have to be a written contract between the town and the tax payer who makes monthly payments.
Another resident said if a person were to use this method, they should be paid up by October anyway. “If I get my tax bill in October, I divide that by 12, and make payments starting in Nov., then you pay it up by October and there's no interest.”
The amendment did not pass, but the original article authorizing the 7-percent fee for late tax payments did.
Recreation Department study
Article 40 authorized the selectmen to explore the formation of a Recreation Department. Frank Champa explained the purpose of the article. “This came out of the Brooks Booster Club. Our insurance doesn't allow us to have groups that are not under our umbrella use the facilities without them having insurance themselves,” he said. “So the idea was if the town had a recreation department that they could go through, whether it be the soccer league or the little league, they could go under the town's umbrella insurance, and would not have to themselves buy insurance to use this gymnasium or the Brooks field or anything like that.”
The town approved all of the articles in the warrant as written, except for two articles which were amended to correct typos.
The election of town officials was held at the start of the meeting. Dave Ahearn was elected selectman, assessor and overseer of the poor with seven votes, Roscoe Kenney was elected road commissioner with 14 votes, and Jeff Archer was elected fire chief with 18 votes. Arthur Butler was elected to the position of addressing officer with 24 votes, while Susan Champa received 20 votes for that position. Peter Baldwin was elected Cemetery Trust Fund committee member with eight votes. Three planning board members were elected in separate votes for each seat: Pat Donovan received a majority with 25 votes, Paula Miron received a majority with 29 votes, and Steve Littlefield received a majority with 25 votes. Ronanne Haigh was also nominated, receiving 16 votes in the final vote.