Annual town meeting

Morrill residents vote to ban marijuana stores, clubs

By Kim Lincoln | Mar 20, 2017
Photo by: Kim Lincoln Residents vote during the March 18 annual town meeting in Morrill.

Morrill — Morrill residents passed an ordinance at the annual town meeting March 18 to prohibit marijuana establishments and social clubs within the town's boundaries.

About 50 people attended the meeting at Morrill Community Center, which lasted about 2 1/2 hours.

Residents elected Gary Sheldon as third selectman to take Keith Thompson's post, and re-elected Janie Smith as treasurer, Roger Rowlands as tax collector, Mindy Rowlands as town clerk and Patrick Scribner as fire chief.

In total, residents approved a $446,690 budget, which is up about $48,000 from the current year. The only change made to the budget as presented is residents voted to increase the fire chief's stipend by $1,000 to a total of $5,000 for the year. Taking county taxes ($115,523), and the projected school budget ($957,952) into account, residents can expect about a 5-percent overall increase for a total of approximately $1.33 million.

Two questions concerning recreational marijuana faced voters. One question, which was approved, was to prohibit retail stores and social clubs and the other, which was passed over, was to enact a moratorium for the same to allow the town to create its own ordinance.

The ban includes retail marijuana establishments, including stores, cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and social clubs. It does not address growing on one's own property for personal use and has nothing to do with medicinal use.

"Looking for a pulse from the town on how we proceed on this. We want to do what the town wants," Selectman Randall Place said.

The state already has issued a one-year moratorium prohibiting stores, social clubs and the like, until Feb. 9, 2018. Morrill's account manager Joyce Scott noted approval of a local moratorium — initially six months with a six-month extension if needed —  would give town officials only a month to create an ordinance before the state moratorium expires.

One resident said the only thing that would probably come to Morrill would be a commercial growing operation. He said the state will issue only a limited number of licenses and said he believes people interested in opening retail stores would go to larger cities like Bangor and Portland.

Another person disagreed, and said a friend lives in a small town in Colorado, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, and eight dispensaries have opened in that town alone. He said there has been an increase in operating under the influence and juvenile crime.

Townspeople also voted down a question asking to change the town clerk, tax collector and town treasurer positions to appointed rather than elected, with the stated belief it takes away the power of the community to choose people for the jobs.

Place said the question was put to voters after a training session where it came up that Morrill is one of the few towns left that elect these positions. He said there are no issues in town with electing the positions and the Board of Selectmen simply wanted townspeople to know it was an option.

Residents also voted to change the interest rate on unpaid taxes from 7 percent to 4 percent, with residents noting people who cannot afford to pay their taxes probably cannot afford to pay an extra 7 percent.

A fair amount of discussion was held on whether to fund $5,571 to nine nonprofits in Waldo County. An amendment to not provide funds to three agencies — Belfast Area Children's Center, New Hope for Women and The Game Loft — who did not send a representative to speak on their behalf, failed, and ultimately residents approved the funding requests with a vote of 22-18.

Various budgets approved were:

— $141,520 for general government accounts. Of that amount, $140,000 comes from revenue, not taxation.

— $51,060 for protection.

— $96,197 for public works.

— $41,600 for health and sanitation.

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Kim Lincoln
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The Camden Herald editor Kim Lincoln has worked for Courier Publications since 2003.

During her time with the company she has worked for each of the three newspapers, The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal.

When she is not in the newsroom, Kim likes to be outside, whether it be gardening, swimming, hiking or just enjoying the sunshine.

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