Searsport officials approve reduced Town Office hoursTown to borrow $1.5 million through tax anticipation note to maintain cash flows
Searsport — The Searsport Board of Selectmen approved closing the Town Office at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but chose to keep the general assistance office hours the same.
Town Clerk Deborah Plourde said she tracked the number of transactions that were handled at the Town Office for about a week prior to the selectmen's March 18 meeting and found that were none after 4 p.m.
Selectman Dick Desmarais noted the town could move forward with the reduced hours and if there is an issue, the subject can be revisited in the future. Selectman Meredith Ares questioned if there were alternate hours for people who work during the day and are unable to get to the Town Office during the regular hours of operation.
Town Manager James Gillway explained the town does not offer alternate office hours, but pointed out that some services, such as re-registering a car, can be done online.
Discussion then turned towards also looking at reducing the number of hours the general assistance office is open. Gillway pointed out the position has changed “tremendously” since he handled the general assistance responsibilities.
It was also noted that the general assistance office is located in the Public Safety Building and therefore would not impact traffic at the town office.
After more brief discussion, the selectmen approved closing the Town Office at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and keeping the general assistance office hours the same by a vote of 5-0.
Tax Anticipation Note
The selectmen also approved borrowing $1.5 million in the form of a tax anticipation note to maintain the town's cash flow until tax revenue is received. Gillway told the selectmen Androscoggin Bank offered the lowest interest rates — 0.71 percent for a “lump sum” note and 0.79 for an “as needed” note.
Ares noted the amount the town was looking to borrow was $300,000 more than previous years and asked why there was an increase. Gillway said the increase was the result of a recommendation from the town's auditor, Fred Brewer, who suggested the town should borrow more money.
According to previously published reports, Brewer told selectmen at their March 4 meeting that tax collections were running behind where they had been in previous years. Searsport had collected around 88-percent of the property taxes it is due, while in previous years it had collected more than 90-percent at the same point in the year.
As a result, Brewer suggested increasing borrowing from $1.2 million to $1.5 million.
Selectmen approved borrowing $1.5 million through a tax anticipation note from Androscoggin Bank unanimously.
In other business:
Selectmen approved a liquor license for Anglers Restaurant.
Aaron Fethke was elected as the chairman of the selectmen; Dick Desmarais was elected vice chair and Deborah Plourde was elected as the secretary.
Officials also encouraged interested residents to fill out and submit an application to the town to serve on the withdrawal committee by the end of the month.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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