Residents agree to open talks with cable, internet providers
"Tired of it" and "frustrated" Belmont residents voted March 20 to overturn a long-standing rule barring talks between town officials and cable and internet providers.
Several residents spoke about the current internet provider — FairPoint — in unfavorable terms while at the same time expressing concern about any new company failing to provide service throughout the entire town.
All three current selectmen were re-elected with nominations from the floor. Sharon Reed-Hall will serve as first selectman and Robert Currier as second selectman. The position of third selectman was challenged but Dale Thorburn won out over newcomer Gene Newton, 20-8. Fire Chief Ron Harford II retained his position as well. Steve Hopkins was elected as the town's representative on the Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors, replacing Laura Newsom.
"It's only fair if they do come to town, they supply the whole town," one resident said.
Others were concerned about the wording of the warrant article limiting options because it expressly mentions Time Warner, but residents were assured that any cable or internet provider is now welcome to approach selectmen.
"The Select Board can say no," a resident said. "But any company can come talk to them."
The question of who will make any final decision regarding cable and internet service remains unclear. First Selectwoman Sharon Reed-Hall, who was re-elected earlier in the meeting, said she does not know if the board will decide on behalf of the town or if it might choose to hold public hearings on the matter.
As unanimously approved, the article reads: "To see if the Town will vote to allow cable and internet suppliers and or companies to provide service to the Town of Belmont (i.e., Time Warner)."
Another article that generated discussion was an addendum to the town warrant asking if residents would approve a moratorium on retail marijuana stores and social clubs. Code Enforcement Officer Bob Temple said the local moratorium will allow the Planning Board time to develop regulations as to where retail locations or social clubs could operate in Belmont. In the meantime, he said, "Nobody could come in and sell marijuana in town ... technically (without a moratorium or ordinance) they could sell it at Maritime." Any ordinance developed by the Planning Board also will address commercial-scale growing operations as well, Temple said, adding there will be a series of public hearings before the ordinance is brought to a vote.
"Every ordinance has to come back before the town," he said, adding it could be a special town meeting or during next year's annual town meeting. " ... It's not just we'll get this done tomorrow and vote in two weeks."
A resident attempted to amend the moratorium ordinance to force a vote at the 2018 town meeting but moderator Lee Woodward pointed out that ordinances cannot be changed and must be a "yes" or "no" vote only.
Another resident requested better notice of town meetings and said not everyone gets the newspaper or sees legal notices published there. Recently, she said, notices have not been posted at the fire station. Town officials also directed residents to Belmont's Facebook page for information, noting the phone number on the official town website is incorrect.
In other town business, residents increased funding by $1,000 for the fire department after a plea from Fire Chief Ron Harford II. He said state rules for hose testing have increased the cost. He noted volunteer numbers also have significantly decreased in recent years.
"We need members. We're failing, big time," Harford said, adding department member numbers have fallen from 20 to 12, with only eight regular responders. "We need manpower and personnel."
Town officials and residents briefly debated the merits of recycling, when the town is charged the same trash collection fee regardless of tonnage. Most residents said they feel strongly that recycling is the right thing to do but a friendly suggestion to change the collection schedule was shot down.
When it came to roads, residents said they hoped town officials would pay some attention to Back Belmont Road, which is badly in need of repairs.
"We have no concrete plans," Reed-Hall said, before being interrupted from the gallery by someone shouting, "What about asphalt?"
Reed-Hall continued and said funding is being set aside for roadwork but no specific areas have been chosen at this point.
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Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.
Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.
Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.
Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.
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