Voters approve funds to fix town's technical problemsResidents elect new selectman, RSU 20 director
Stockton Springs — In a town meeting that spanned 90 minutes Saturday, June 16, residents lent $18,000 worth of support to fix what one town official described as a "horrible" computer situation in the municipal offices.
During the meeting, which was held at the Stockton Springs Elementary School, voters disposed of 41 articles.
Residents approved applying $18,000 from the town fund balance to create a technology account that would cover the cost of upgrading computers for town employees. The vote to approve the funding followed an explanation that was included with the request, which came under Article 29.
"Our computer systems are horrible," stated the explanation within the article. "We can't communicate internally, employees do not have e-mail access at their desk. The current system is using software that is outdated and likely not properly licensed. Some of the operating systems will not be supported in 2013. The system is at least a decade behind systems used in other municipal offices. Much of the hardware is working on 'borrowed time.'"
One resident asked what the difference was between the request outlined in Article 29 and the monies voters approved spending earlier in the meeting under Article 20, which, among other expenses, added $1,000 to the Town Office equipment replacement account.
"This is above and beyond," said Town Manager Rich Couch.
Couch said the equipment replacement account typically covers items like new copy machines and "typewriters, for those of you who remember what they are."
Resident Bruce Suppes said as the chairman of the town harbor committee, he spends a fair amount of time in the Town Office and has seen firsthand the challenges that the current computer system often presents for Town Office staff.
"In order to run more efficiently, we really need to make the investment," he said.
After residents agreed to create the technology account, Selectman Sara Bradford smiled and offered a brief "thank you" before Moderator Stu Marcoon continued with the meeting.
Also during Saturday's meeting, residents approved proposed changes to the Site Plan Review and Harbor ordinances, but the alterations to the Site Plan Review Ordinance generated the bulk of the discussions.
Two residents voiced concerns that the vote on the proposed ordinance changes should be postponed because many of the voters present at the meeting had just received copies of the ordinance — including the new language — when the documents were distributed as Marcoon sought the preliminary motion on the article.
"I don't see how we can vote on this when it was just handed to us a few seconds ago," said one woman.
The second resident who spoke in favor of postponing the vote on the ordinance changes said she was unable to make the recent public hearings on the topic and that copies of the document were not available at the Town Office when she requested them.
Planning Board Chairman Ruth Lind addressed the residents' concerns.
"We had two public hearings and a total of five people showed up," said Lind.
Lind said the board intended to make copies of the ordinances available at the Town Office, but that was not possible "thanks to the town's computer system."
Lind outlined the changes proposed on the Site Plan Review Ordinance, which state public hearings are a must on any project that requires a site plan review and increases the time to give abutters notice of a proposed project from seven to 21 days. The new language also states notices of public hearings and/or site inspections must be posted at least once in the local newspaper, as well as at the Town Office, post office, on the town website and the local public access channel.
Lind noted other proposed changes include what she referred to as "good neighbor" factors, which include potential requirements for fencing, the planting of evergreens, or the addition of rocks or boulders to reduce visual impacts of a project. The new language also addressed lighting, noise, odors and hours of operation.
"These are conditions that may be imposed by the planning board if the application calls for it," said Lind.
Marcoon then called for a 10-minute recess so residents could review the proposed changes, after which Suppes stood and lent his support to the board's recommendations.
"The changes presented today protect us as homeowners," he said.
In other news, voters elected Wayne Kraeger to serve as the new selectman and Sharon Catus to a seat on the RSU 20 Board of Directors. Harry Patterson Jr. was re-elected as the fire chief, and residents took a few moments to thank Bradford for her nine years of serving on the Board of Selectmen.