Voters shore up ordinances, elect officials in continued planning efforts
Morrill — Residents took just under three hours to dispose of a 41-article warrant at the annual town meeting Saturday, March 15, some of which was aimed at continuing the town's work to establishing an active planning board and updating ordinances that will serve as a guide for the board.
At last year's town meeting, articles seeking to elect members of the Planning Board and alternates for that body failed to produce any willing participants, leaving selectmen asking residents in the audience to consider taking on the job themselves or forwarding contact information for those who may be interested in serving to the Town Office. At that time, selectmen explained the board met a few times a year to oversee any larger projects that may come to town, like subdivisions, but would also be needed to help update ordinances and draft a comprehensive plan.
At this year's meeting, voters made relatively quick work of filling the Planning Board seats, mostly with a slate of candidates consisting of those who stepped up to serve since last year's town meeting.
Article 11 sought between three and five members to carry out staggered three-year terms on the board, and Town Account Manager Joyce Scott listed the current membership, which included Tricia Hogan (with term ending in 2016), Jean Dube (2015) and Diana Herbert (2017). Scott had acted as the board chairperson over the last year as the board began work on the comprehensive plan, a task that she said was getting quite daunting.
"We need another person so that I can step down," said Scott.
In addition, Scott said another standing board member, Robert Thomas, wished to step down as well but he expressed a willingness to serve as an alternate during the meeting.
After some discussion, voters opted to keep Hogan, Dube, Herbert on the board and elected newcomers James Miller and Maria Scott to the board. Acting on Article 12, residents elected Thomas to serve as the alternate. While Joyce Scott was nominated for the position, she rescinded her acceptance of the nomination and instead agreed to serve as a resource to the board as it completes the comprehensive plan.
Article 26 sought voter approval on 11 updated ordinances, all of which voters adopted. Residents agreed to re-adopt the ordinance dealing with cell phone towers, a new version of the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance that includes and updated map from the state, a Flood Plain Management Ordinance, which will allow the town to apply for disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a Building Ordinance that was updated to meet new state requirements, Subdivision and Site Plan Review Ordinances, two ordinances dealing with fire and electrical codes, a revised Cemetery Ordinance including a section on cremation practices and Planning and Appeals Board Ordinances, which legally establish those boards in town.
Article 13 asked voters to allow selectmen to enter a contract with Licensed Assessor Jim Murphy for a cost of $5,736 for 12 days, or one day per month.
A resident in town asked why the town pays such a relatively high amount for those services, and Selectman Randy Place said Murphy gives the town a lot for the money.
"He does a lot of the computer work," said Place.
Joyce Scott said Murphy prepares several reports for the state each year, and he regularly handles property tax-related questions from town officials and residents.
"Can we reduce the number of days?" asked another resident.
Selectman Thomas Flacke said the laws governing Murphy's profession change annually, and the work has become increasingly complicated in recent years. Property tax inequities around Cross Pond, said Flacke, took about two years to change and that was with Murphy's assistance.
"It's not simple anymore," said Flacke.
Residents eventually voted to move the question and then approved the article to allow selectmen the right to work with Murphy for another year.
In town elections, residents re-elected incumbent Selectman Keith Thompson, returned Janie Smith to the treasurer's post and kept Roger Rowlands on board as the tax collector. Voters also chose to keep Pat Scribner serving as fire chief.
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Tanya has been a general news reporter in Waldo County since 1997.
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